The Alkaline Diet-Risks or Benefits?
One thing we can always count on in America is that, if the Atkins, Zone, South Beach, Cabbage Soup, Blood Type, Volumetrics, and/or Gluten-Free Diet haven’t worked for you….you will shortly be bombarded by the next big craze, which is probably right around the corner. The new diet book will hit the shelves and be on the top of the best seller list and the diets “acceptable” foods will replace the current, unsuccessful diet craze products in your supermarkets grocery aisle! As a dietitian and a consumer, I truly believe that anytime you are told to limit entire food groups, or restrict nutrients, such as calories, carbohydrates and/or fat grams to extremely low levels, there is something just not right with the dietary plan. More importantly, when choosing a dietary plan, the one thing I always tell my friends, family and/or patients, make sure to ask yourself…”is this something that I can and WILL continue for life?” Whatever dietary plan you choose to follow, to be successful, you must make gradual, life changes. In addition to this, you had better be satisfied with it! If not, you are setting yourself up for failure, right from the beginning. This week I want to focus on a particular dietary plan that may just have some great benefits for chronic kidney disease patients. It’s not so much about eliminating foods from your daily diet, but instead, its focus is on what foods to include to produce optimal results.
The Theory behind the Alkaline Diet?
Our pH is the measure of exactly how acidic or alkaline we are. A pH of 0 is completely acidic, and a pH of 14 completely alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral.
You don’t just have one pH level. For example, the stomach has a pH ranging from 1.35-3.5. It must be acidic to aid in digestion. However, blood must always be slightly alkaline, with a pH of 7.35 to 7.45.
The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance to improve overall health. But the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet.
For instance, your diet may affect the pH level of your urine. But what you eat does not determine your blood’s pH level.
What’s in the Alkaline Diet?
The alkaline diet is mostly vegetarian. It’s the same diet we may recommend to patients with chronic kidney disease, who have not initiated dialysis. In addition to vegetables and some fresh fruit, alkaline promoting foods include soy products and some nuts, grains and legumes. The alkaline diet discourages eating acid-producing foods, which include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, processed foods, white sugar, white flour and caffeine. In all honesty, it’s pretty much a healthy way of life! If you saw a dietitian, they would probably recommend this way of eating anyways. It’s a great way of eating!
A fairly complete listing of foods and their pH level can be found below.
Diets that include a lot (over-abundance) of animal protein can lower urine pH and raise the risk for kidney stones. Eating a diet rich in vegetable, as with an alkaline diet, can raise urine pH (not blood pH) and the theory is, may lower the risk for kidney stones. Researchers have speculated that an alkaline diet might slow bone loss and muscle waste, increase growth hormone and possibly make certain chronic diseases less likely to develop. However, none of this has been proven.
Because there is no evidence that diet can significantly change blood pH, a highly irregular blood pH is usually a sign of a much larger issue-not a dietary problem. People with kidney disease or medical issues should always consult their physician before beginning any dietary program. . If not planned properly, the alkaline diet could potentially over-restrict protein and calcium. But, it is also true that on average, Americans consume way too much protein. In fact, usually much more than we actually need.
As I’ve said in previous posts, it DOES all come down to balance. Vegetarians and/or alkaline diet followers CAN be completely healthy in their diet as long as they make sure to get adequate essentials into their diet. In other words: plan, plan, plan! I always encourage patients that very best indicator if a diet is working for you, is your blood test results. Know your nutrition lab results, what they mean, and how to adjust your dietary intake to maintain optimal results.
Information or materials posted on this blog are intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, medical opinion, diagnosis or treatment. Any information posted on this blog is not a substitute for patient specific medical information or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare team or dietitian for a more complete dietary plan and recommendations.