Understanding the Alkaline Diet

Misconception #1

Diet has no impact on systemic pH balance.


Indeed, through the processes of everyday living the body creates an enormous amount of acid. The vast majority of this is automatically buffered, neutralized, and excreted. It is also true that a high accumulation of acid is not compatible with life. Thus physicians often say something to the effect of, “Don’t worry about pH balance because the body effortlessly deals with any excess acids. If this were not true, you would already be dead.”


What your doctor is missing is the fact that a small, yet important, amount of acid can accumulate from dietary imbalance. This acid is called “metabolic acid” as it results from the body’s metabolism and the metabolism of food in particular. When longstanding and chronic, even low-grade metabolic acidosis jeopardizes health.


Misconception #2

You can detect the acid-forming effect of a food by its taste.


You cannot necessarily detect if a food will be acid forming by its taste. The critical variable is not how a food tastes, but its impact once it has been metabolized. Does it ultimately add bicarbonate, which is alkalizing, to the system?


Or does the food item add free hydrogen to the system making it acid forming? Lemons and limes, for example, taste very acidic due to their citric acid content. Once metabolized, however, this citric acid is converted into bicarbonate and water. Thus lemons and limes are alkalizing. On the other hand, cranberries (hippuric acid) and rhubarb (oxalic acid) taste acidic and they maintain their acidic qualities even after being metabolized. They contribute free hydrogen to the system and are acid forming.


Misconception #3

Acid-forming foods are bad for you.


Not all acid-forming foods are bad for you. The key issue in pH balance is the balance. We need both alkaline-forming foods and acid-forming foods in our diet. While we might not need acid-forming refined sugar or processed grains, we do need protein, and all proteins, whether they be in vegetable form or animal form, are acid forming. Equally, certain nuts (such as Brazil nuts or pecans) are acid forming, yet they are wholesome foods. And while most vegetables alkalize, some such as chard or peas are acid forming. Yet these are also fine foods. The issue is balance and overall the balance should favor alkaline-forming foods (60 to 80% of diet).


Misconception #4

Urine pH is constant throughout the day.

It is true that the blood pH must be stable for the human system to survive. The healthy range of arterial blood is 7.35 to 7.45.


The pH of other fluids such as urine and saliva can vary throughout the day. The kidney is the major organ that buffers and excretes metabolic acids and the pH of the urine goes up and down according to the food we eat, exercise, stress, and other variables. However, the kidney cannot excrete a urine that is below 4.5 in pH. Such a low pH would burn the delicate kidney tissues. Another interesting point is that if you eat a highly acidic meal, the body often will show an alkaline urine a few hours later. This does not indicate a good systemic pH balance, but rather is the effect of the pancreas producing high amounts of alkalizing digestive compounds in response to the acid-forming foods ingested.


The most valuable time for measuring acid load through a pH reading is with the first-morning urine after 6 hours of sleep.


Misconception #5

Meat and other flesh foods are acid forming and thus not good for you.


All protein is acid forming, whether it’s from fish, beef, turkey, or any other flesh food, or even from vegetables. The intake of protein, however, is absolutely essential for human life. It is not only good for you, but it is vital for health. In the United States the recommended daily protein intake for adult females is some 50 grams per day and 63 grams per day for adult males.  And remember, it is only protein taken in excess of 50–60 grams a day that is acid forming.


If you habitually consume a diet that is higher than 60 grams of protein a day, be sure to consume enough alkalizing vegetable foods and enough alkalizing supplements to compensate for this additional acid load. Use the first-morning urine test as a way to assess your personal acid load.