The alkaline diet seems to be the latest fad among health gurus, but is there any truth to it? This diet claims that eating foods which are more alkaline are better for you and your body produces too much acid on the typical American diet, leading to numerous health problems. The diet restricts foods such as dairy and meat, sweets, most grains and a few nuts, and encourages consumption of more of fruits and veggies, most nuts, and legumes. I will take you through the basics of pH balance and weigh some pros and cons of this diet.
pH is the measure of hydrogen ion concentration in a solution. An acid is a substance that releases hydrogen ions, and a base tends to accept hydrogen ions. Various parts of the body have different pH levels. Stomach acid has a pH of about two, and your skin has a pH of five. Blood pH must maintain a strict pH level between 7.35 and 7.45, and intracellular fluids are slightly alkaline. A blood pH even a little out of this range, from either 6.8 on the acidic end, to 8, more basic, can lead to death.
A healthy body is designed to maintain its acid-base balance. It does this a few ways. Bicarbonate and carbonic acid in body fluids act as buffers. The lungs help control carbonic acid concentration by raising or lowering respiratory rate. The kidneys control bicarbonate by either releasing it or excreting it. This is why urine pH will change; it is a result of the kidneys doing their job to regulate pH. Ever used a pH test strip for your pee? pH levels in urine will fluctuate with what you eat, but this is normal. So testing urine pH tells you whether your food was a little acidic or basic, but not much else. It is not an indication of health or pH of your other body fluids. Diet cannot have a significant impact on the pH of your body.
pH levels can be out of balance as the result of some diseases such as kidney disease or lung problems, in which case the body’s ability to regulate pH is impaired. It can also get out of balance when the body is overwhelmed beyond its ability to keep things in balance, such as in the case or severe fluid loss due to vomiting, diarrhea, serious injury, or ingestion of certain poisons.
The alkaline diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables and cutting out sugar and processed foods, which is probably the reasoning for people feeling better on the diet. These are good steps to take for anyone who is trying to eat healthier. Fruits and vegetables are a great sources of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, and most Americans don’t get enough. But the diet unnecessarily restricts certain food groups; a good diet is a balanced diet, with foods from a variety of sources. Any benefits to the diet are because of cutting out unhealthy sugars and processed foods, and not because diets affect pH.
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Krauss’ Food and the Nutrition Care Process