The Alkalinity Myth

One of the current fads in natural health is an obsessive fixation on keeping the body’s fluids alkaline. Proponents of achieving Litmus paper - alkaline mythextreme alkalinity claim it improves health in dramatic ways. Some even claim an extremely alkaline pH will reverse disease. These extreme claims are not 100% accurate. The scientific truth about alkalinity needs to be shared.

Most people who live the “alkaline lifestyle” do indeed have health improvements. Their health progress is not, however, due to having an internal alkaline pH. I discuss that in more detail later in this post.

Let’s chat a little bit about the pH scale. The pH scale is a scale that rates whether a substance is acidic or basic. The scale ranges from 0 (highly basic) to 14 (highly acidic). Seven is considered neutral.

Here are important facts to consider related to alkalinity and acidity:

  • The pH of different body systems, fluids and tissues varies greatly and changes constantly. For example, the stomach’s pH is very acidic because our digestive enzymes require acidity to function correctly. Blood is almost neutral, while urine and saliva should be slightly acidic. To assume a body is out of balance by solely measuring the pH of one body fluid is inaccurate and deceptive. The foods we eat affect our urine’s pH but do not affect our blood’s pH. It is therefore inaccurate to assume a person’s body tissues or blood are acidic simply because his or her urine is.
  • The pH of blood is ideally 7.35-7.45, which is essentially neutral. The body considers the pH of blood to be so important it will do anything necessary to stabilize it. Blood acidity is usually caused by physiological imbalances such as renal failure, breathing challenges, diabetes, etc., not the food we eat. If the blood’s pH becomes overly acidic, the body’s most common method of alkalizing it is via the kidneys. The premise that acidic blood is alkalized by pulling minerals from the bones is absolutely false and was proven false by scientific studies. Although eating foods which are considered acidic does increase the excretion of calcium in the urine, that calcium comes from the kidneys not from the bones. The kidneys play the most important role in maintaining the blood’s pH. 
  • Cancer can indeed grow in an alkaline environment. One of the most common reasons used to support the alkaline lifestyle is that is prevents cancer. The truth is that cancer can grow in an alkaline environment. Most cancer studies are actually done in environments that are alkaline because the cancer cells respond favorably to it. Tumors grow better in an acidic environment, but that is because they create their own acids in which they thrive. The premise that cancer will not grow in an alkaline environment is patently false. Cancer prevention hinges on many different factors, not solely on maintaining an alkaline pH.
  • Drinking “alkaline” water is pointless because the stomach’s acidic environment immediately makes the water acidic. Please do not spend money on water touted as being “highly alkaline.” I know many people claim alkaline water has miraculous healing potential, but that simply is not true. Belief has a strong effect on health, so those who believe alkaline water is beneficial may experience a placebo effect.
  • Excessive alkalinity can actually be as damaging than excessive acidity. People with extremely alkaline body systems often experience digestive disturbances, frequent urinary tract infections and other health challenges. Once they stop their extreme eating style and the consumption of alkalizing supplements, these challenges disappear.

The foods we eat may positively impact our body’s health. The most healthful choice we can make is to eat in a way that is clean, void of chemicals and which ensures the highest level of nutrition. I know many people claim an alkaline eating style reverses disease. The truth is that changing to an alkaline eating style creates many physiological changes that improve the body’s environment and may enable the body to reverse damage. An alkaline eating style typically increases a person’s consumption of vegetables and fruit while decreasing the person’s consumption of processed foods, grains, dairy and chemical additives. These changes can all have a beneficial effect on health, regardless of what the person’s internal pH is.

I therefore believe the benefits claimed to be gained by following a strictly alkaline eating style have more to do with the nutritional and detoxifying results gained by eating a clean, whole food diet than from increasing alkalinity. Many people following an alkaline eating style continue having acidic readings of their saliva and urine but experience health benefits in spite of that. The truth is that moderation is always the best path. Extremes in any eating style have the potential to lead to problems.

I”d like to hear your opinion. What do you think about alkalinity?

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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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9 Responses to The Alkalinity Myth

  1. Awesome info as always! Thank you for the eye opening golden nuggets

  2. Awesome read as always. Thank you! Lots of eye opening golden nuggets here

  3. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been reading about body PH and trying to sort through fact and fiction. This helps; thank you!

  4. […] of Urine and Saliva: Ideal pH is NOT alkaline. Read The Alkalinity Myth for more […]

  5. Robbie Wood says:

    Wow, this article was so revealing for me. I have been guilty of feeding into the Alkaline lifestyle. Trying to help myself in healing that leads to so many different protocols. I really loved reading about drinking the alkaline water. Of course it is going to turn acidic as soon as it hits the stomach!!
    Thank you for ALL you do……
    In HIs Grace….

  6. Leslie says:

    Pamela, thanks so much for this article, you explain pH so clearly and thoroughly! Last year my chiropractor got on a kick about the relationship between body pH and cancer. As an RN, it just didn’t quite ring right with me but I didn’t have the time at that time to brush up on my physio so wasn’t sure how to refute the alkalinity claims except to mention how an average body has defense mechanisms for keeping pH in balance. Thanks again!!

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