The concept of an alkaline diet has been around for many years.
Fundamentally, it suggests that we increase the consumption of alkalizing foods and reduce the consumption of acidifying foods.
There are many charts and sites on the web saying basically the same.
Alkaline and Mainstream Health
So why hasn’t the alkaline diet theory become mainstream?
My own theory is that any ‘diet’ is only as good as:
(a) its promoter and
(b) its ease of following.
And frankly, an alkaline diet isn’t easy to follow. Think ‘Popeye’ and you get a general idea!
My partner Cassie and I have been researching the alkaline diet theory for almost two decades.
We’ve read and followed every website, book, diet, and strategy we could find.
I can say that at age 72, I’m very healthy and those two decades – one in which I saw many of my old friends aging rapidly – has seen a less age-related change in me than any of the friends I know. So in one sense, it has worked- for me at least!
I need to be very honest here.
I don’t follow the alkaline diet conscientiously. In those two decades I have also closely observed hundreds of people attempting the alkaline diet, and I have yet to see one who can honestly say he or she adheres to it. In those nineteen years, I did eat fruit, (acid in the form of fructose) bread (acid in the form of carbohydrates) and yes, some pasture-fed meat (acid in the form of protein).
So although I can point to my alkaline diet as a contributing factor to my present wellbeing, a skilled debater could equally argue that I am well because of the fruit, the bread, and the meat… oh yes, I forgot the wine and coffee!
There is another important factor which I will expand on later. In those 19 years, I have constantly consumed alkaline ionized antioxidant water. It’s my firm belief that the antioxidant effect of this water may have been the deciding factor in how I have ‘slow aged’- when my old friends have not.
My partner Cassie has seen her health improve greatly over the ten years on our version of the ‘alkaline diet’ and alkaline ionized water, but she never reached perfect health. She was been plagued with recurrent Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) since I knew her, and candida albicans rears its ugly, painful hydra-head every time she lost ground with her struggle with IBS. In her efforts towards health, she became an amazing researcher and has tried almost everything to heal her stomach and lower bowel permanently.
She would have long periods of relative health, usually coinciding with close control over her diet, then stress, or a breakout with me on a special occasion would send her back again into pain, constipation and more.
In the last six years, she has improved greatly. (I’ll discuss why later.)
So we can say that our alkaline diet – the foods we ate that are alkalinizing – helped us ‘clean up’ the foods we chose, but can we say it gave us radiant health? No, we can’t.
In my profession as an alkaline consultant, I saw many, many cases like ours, and with the maturity, one only gains from hard experience, slowly gave up on the idea that one health regimen works for everyone.
I particularly remember Sandra, a qualified nutritionist, who came to us when we conducted our own trial of the effect of alkaline ionized water on people with arthritis, gout or rheumatism. Sandra had been plagued with pain in her arms and joints. She had strictly followed the alkaline diet to no avail. She enrolled in our trial out of utter desperation.
30 days later, drinking alkaline ionized water daily, she said her symptoms of pain had gone. (Here’s a video of her discussing it at AlkaWay).
This was not an isolated case. I saw dozens of different reactions to the alkaline diet, which finally made me accept that everyone is an individual with complex and varied reasons for ill health, so to say that any modality will fix them was.. well.. in my case.. amateurish enthusiasm. Of course, I saw many, many amazing health changes that I believe was the water, but I’m simply more careful about what I attribute healing to these days.
The Alkaline Diet Explained
Before we give up on the alkaline diet, let’s do a quick recap, because many people have real misconceptions about it.
Our body needs reserves of both acids and alkalis. Acids come in the form of the vast majority of foods and are almost completely burned up during metabolism to give us energy. Alkalis are in some foods in very minute amounts, as the inorganic minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium (some others to a lesser degree).
Here is where people get confused. We are not trying to eat more alkaline foods than acid foods (foods containing, on balance, more of one than the other).
We are attempting to do two things:
- Reduce our intake of acid-producing foods – simply because most of us don’t need so much and because what we don’t metabolize turns into metabolic acid and is stored in the body.
- Increase the intake of foods that, after metabolism, leave us with more alkaline minerals to support our alkaline buffer in our blood and to repair and regenerate our skeleton.
The Lemon Alkaline Method
The classic example every alkaline diet advocate refers to is the lemon. Stick a pH test probe into a lemon and you’ll see it is strongly acidic. But drink lemon juice (also highly acidic) and your body will burn up the acids in energy creation but leave the alkaline minerals in what some people call ‘alkaline ash’. This net alkaline residue forms the basis of your body’s bodybuilding, anti-inflammation program, immunity and much, much more.
I originally designed our own alkaline food chart as a wall chart. It’s still available in this form, but we realized that if people get serious they need more. That’s why we began stocking The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide. It’s very popular, but as I mentioned, I am yet to see many people really strictly adhering to it. Like every diet, it’s great on paper and reduces in possible effect the more we ‘cheat’.
(For a more detailed description from a real lemon juice lover, click here.)
Imminent death sometimes works.
If there is one thing I have learned about diets, it’s that unless faced with imminent death, everyone cheats. Most will deny they are cheating to your face, which, after some probing, I realized was caused by the actual unconsciousness of binge eating. Diet scientists are already aware of this and many a clinical trial is flawed to the core by cheating participants who lie.
In June 2010, Cassie was once again affected by candida. She had done the diets, tried every probiotic yet invented.. she had even spent a very large sum at the famous Centre for digestive diseases in Sydney where she had a healthy faecal matter with its own new internal microbia introduced to her cleansed bowel.
Radical, yes, but it does work for many people. However, $5000 later it had no effect on her.
I mention this only to let you see that she was very, very determined to get well. One day she came across a site called Healing Naturally by Bee. Bee is a 80+ year old lady who had suffered for many years just as Cassie had. Like Cassie, she had embarked on a search for answers.
What she discovered attracts over a million visits per month and she advocates what seems to be a very ‘non-alkaline’ diet that challenges the whole diet industry.
Unnatural Carbohydrate Intake
Bee believes that candida is a natural response to an unnatural diet, namely carbohydrates.
The body, says Bee, had to use what it had to try to maintain a healthy balance against the massive excesses of carbohydrates in the modern diet. In its infinite wisdom, it lets candida lose on the carbohydrates, gobbling and chomping away, and of course, breeding up in the process.
Stop consuming carbohydrates, says Bee, and you will eventually return candida to its correct balance in the body.
And what do carbohydrates include?
Bread. Most fruit. Even some vegetables, especially root vegetables. Wine. Beer, all grains and anything made with grains. Sugar.
The Elephant in the Room
The item no-one needs reminding about is sugar.
Sugar, fructose, galactose, maltose, glucose.. they are all sugar, and there are lots more on the list. Carbohydrates from the shortlist above also break down in the body to sugar. Sugar is also acid. It’s the ‘daddy’ of all acids. Powerful and potent, it invades us and changes some very basic and important functions of the body.
So if you are serious about an alkaline diet, let’s see how serious you are by reducing everything from that list above to as close to zero as possible.
If you do, you’ll be massively changing the balance of acids and alkalis in your body, not by increasing the spinach or kale you eat, but by adjusting at the other end; at the acid end of the seesaw.
America the Fat.
Open almost any textbook on diet and you’ll see advice to balance your intake between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with the added advice to reduce fats as much as possible. Carbs, we are told, are an ideal source of long-term energy release with no ill effects. Yet let’s take a quick look at the biggest carbohydrate eaters on the planet: USA.
America’s diet is killing them. They have epidemic diabetes, epidemic obesity, cancer, underwritten by an almost manic hunger that is never satisfied. Low fat is the biggest failure in dietary history – as again, seen in America.
Fats, of course, are lipids, and lipids are acids. Fats are the bad kids on the block, and everyone ‘knows’ that they are bad. So what could fats tell us if allowed to speak for themselves?
Perhaps they would say:
- I am the most efficient energy source you consume.
- I am your heart’s primary food.
- I am what every cell wall in your body consists of.
- I regulate your hormonal system.
- I can make you feel full without eating massive amounts of carbohydrates.
- I raise your good cholesterol level.
Of course, in the family of bad kids on the block, there really are some baddies. All polyunsaturated oils are taken away from their natural source, certain mono-unsaturated oils as sold in your supermarket, like Canola, and yes, there are more.
The good kids on the fat block include all animal fat, butter, uncooked olive oil, and coconut oil.
“What!?” I hear you cry. Animal fat? Yes, animal fat.
A simple truth about weight reduction.
We can get everything we need for energy from the good fats. They convert to energy more cleanly, (less processing and stress on the liver, less strain on the gallbladder) they convert more fully, they only convert to sugars when needed, and.. wonder of wonders, they satisfy your hunger in a way carbohydrates will never do, which makes them better weight reduction participants than all carbohydrates and sugars.
So.. why do we all believe that fats are bad?
There’s a huge backstory here and no-one explains it better than Gary Taube, scientist, and writer of Good Calories, Bad Calories.
Gary has singlehandedly dismembered accepted research on fats and carbohydrates.
He has challenged flawed, paid papers that have been presented to us as truth with the help of corporate America (Big Food) and if you check his blog you’ll see what happens to people with the courage to challenge the dominant paradigm.
There are dietary evangelists in increasing numbers, all with the same message.
Cut out carbohydrates as much as humanly possible. Substitute fats. Stay on the diet, eat your greens and see the effect.
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that a fat-loaded diet actually substitutes one form of acids (lipids) for the other (sugars). But because carbohydrates are the antagonist, the cause of so much illness including but far beyond diabetes and candida, and because there is no denying that we need acids to convert to energy, our choice between the two forms of acids is a critical one. By switching from carbohydrates to fats, we ‘clean up’ our acids and burn them far more efficiently. And now we can support our acid/alkaline balance as we had planned to, with dark leafy greens, green drinks, and alkaline ionized water.
My Cognitive Dissonance.
The problem I had in accepting that fats were the good kids on the block was centered on my acceptance of the dominant paradigm – a stunning example of cognitive dissonance. I’ve written in some detail about the campaign by Monsanto in the US to stop the consumption of dairy and coconut oils. It’s stunning to learn that such a huge change from saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats was a cleverly managed PR exercise with millions and millions of dollars as the reward for participating companies.
But… it’s even harder to actually give up the fear that their campaign has instilled in us through repetition over the years.
On her website, Bee counsels that the only way back to health from candida overgrowth is total abstinence from carbohydrates. It’s fascinating to watch correspondents on her bulletin board attempt to bargain with her, using every possible reason to keep hold of their ‘little treats’. I have observed for many years that sugar is seriously addictive, and so it’s common to hear dieters on her site talk about detox, or the serious mental blockages they see in themselves as they begin to ‘clean up’.
Bee says that you need to be on her diet for a month for every year you have been sick. She stresses over and over that although she calls it Bee’s Candida Diet, it is actually a diet for everyone.
Bee’s site carries many, many stories of radical health improvements. What she doesn’t offer is scientific proof, but as mentioned before, Gary Taubes’ book fulfills this area more than adequately. I will offer one recent scientific study of mice that gives you an idea of what we are talking about here.
Rats Prove the Theory.
At the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, scientists implanted various strains of mice with human tumor cells or with mouse tumor cells and assigned them to one of two diets.
The first diet, a typical Western diet, contained about 55% carbohydrate, 23% protein, and 22% fat. The second contained 15% carbohydrate, 58% protein, and 26% fat.
They found that the tumour cells grew consistently slower on the second diet.
Mice that were genetically predisposed to breast cancer were fed the same diets. Almost half of them on the Western diet developed breast cancer within their first year of life while none on the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet did. See it here.
Only one mouse on the Western diet reached a normal life span (approximately 2 years), with 70% of them dying from cancer.
Only 30% of those on the low-carbohydrate diet developed cancer and more than half these mice reached or exceeded their normal lifespan.
For those of you interested, Dr. Jay Wortman has also worked with indigenous populations using similar principles and has even made a video of it. He also has a blog that documents his own progress but also some of the resistance he finds to his newfound knowledge.
I was lucky.
Living with Cassie, who worked very hard to remain strictly carbohydrate-free, I supported her and she did the same for me. She had more negative symptoms, to begin with, I didn’t, but I was very surprised to see the one health challenge I have – Benign hyperplasia of the Prostate – improve dramatically over six months of the diet. (I didn’t heal but I got another 8 years of relatively stress-free life before opting for an op.
Cassie also experienced better and better ‘gut’ health. We continued to drink our alkaline water and continued to eat our dark leafy greens. We have saved lots of money and angst by giving up local carb-crazy restaurants, choosing to cook wonderful and simple home meals.
We both experienced an almost magical increase in the enjoyment of the food we ate, combined with satiety – being ‘full’ on less food.
Prostate cancer is, as we all know, far too common in men of my age, so one wonders why, when a study of mice bred for prostate cancer showed a slowing in tumor growth, a followup human study was not begun.
Perhaps it was because getting a man of my age to drop his ‘little pleasures’ just seemed too hard.
Denial is not just in Egypt
In line with my earlier observations, our close friends who had had long-term health problems saw how well we were doing and asked what had happened. We passed on the diet, they began it, began to get well, and when we moved overseas, they(in our absence) gave in to carbohydrate temptation. One is now suffering from CFS, another is undergoing another soul-searching rationalization for her ill health, and the other, as always, lies about her ‘treats’ and at the same time complains that diets don’t work.
I can’t judge them. Our alkaline keto/paleo diet seems difficult when we look at it from our toxic carbohydrate-addicted mind, but once we began, supported by our alkaline staples, a whole new way of looking at food emerged.
We loved our food because we really, really tasted it! I would burst out in rapture at a mouthful. Cassie would moan in ecstasy over a simple dish. All of my hungry ghost tendencies just disappeared and I got off the acid train.
Because I have now experienced how good it can be, I feel I am looking from a new mind/body vantage point, and absolutely understand why my friends can’t seem to stay on the diet. We are all addicted to carbohydrates! Sugar hair-triggers the insulin response in our blood because we never stop snacking on a ‘little something sweet’. Our adrenals wear out, shrieking with panic as yet another massive dose of acidic sugar floods our system like a dump truck in our driveway.
And yet, like the drug addict, we rationalize it away as our ‘right to choose’, or ‘what keeps me stress-free’ or ‘that’s just how it is, what can I do?’
Desperate Cancer Patients
Some attempts have been made to study humans on low carbohydrates.
Here’s a link to a crazy German study of totally desperate cancer patients. The only people allowed to be enrolled were those people who had completely run out of options; virtually at deaths’ door. They also used some suspect ‘bad kid on the block’ oils including hempseed and linseed as fat sources, plus soy protein as well as animal protein. In short, the study is so mixed up one wonders what they would achieve or how they would interpret those results.
The good news is that for five patients who were able to endure three months of carbohydrate-free eating, the results were positive: the patients stayed alive, their physical condition stabilized or improved and their tumors slowed or stopped growing, or shrunk.
This ‘new alkaline diet’ isn’t really new.
We still advocate all of the good greens, but we do NOT advocate more than a minimum of fructose-laden fruit. The big change is from carbohydrates to fats. Our greens and our alkaline water support our good fats as they re-energize the body and heal our sugar-drug habit. We drink natural alkaline ionized water because we have learned that many of our alkaline foods actually bind essential calcium, thus making it eaten but unavailable. Alkaline ionized water gives us those essential alkaline minerals plus an abundance of antioxidants in the form of free hydrogen, supporting our body’s regeneration, immunity, and self-healing.
There is ample documented scientific evidence in the form of peer-reviewed studies that show the beneficial effect of drinking alkaline water. So we cover all bases with the new ‘Acid and Alkaline Diet’- good acids in the form of good fats, good alkalinity in the form of dark greens and alkaline water.
But what about protein?
Doesn’t protein up to the levels of uric acid, and isn’t uric acid the cause – or one of the causes – of gout? Gary Taubes had to drop a chapter from his book ‘Good Protein Bad Protein’ because of the size of his work, and he recently released this missing chapter here. To quote (in part):
“Because uric acid itself is a breakdown product of protein compounds known as purines – the building blocks of amino acids – and because purines are at their highest concentration in meat, it has been assumed for the past 130-odd years that the primary dietary means of elevating uric acid levels in the blood, and so causing first hyperuricemia and then gout, is an excess of meat consumption.
The actual evidence, however, has always been less-than-compelling: Just as low cholesterol diets have only a trivial effect on serum cholesterol levels, for instance, and low-salt diets have a clinically insignificant effect on blood pressure, low-purine diets have a negligible effect on uric acid levels. A nearly vegetarian diet, for instance, is likely to drop serum uric acid levels by 10% to 15% compared to a typical American diet, but that’s rarely sufficient to return high uric acid levels to normality, and there is little evidence that such diets reliably reduce the incidence of gouty attacks in those afflicted. (4) Thus, purine-free diets are no longer prescribed for the treatment of gout, as the gout specialist Irving Fox noted in 1984, “because of their ineffectiveness” and their “minor influence” on uric acid levels. (5)
Moreover, the incident of gout in vegetarians, or mostly vegetarians, has always been significant and “much higher than is generally assumed.” (One mid-century estimate, for instance, put the incidence of gout in India among “largely vegetarians and teetotalers” at 7%.)(6) Finally, there’s the repeated observation that eating more protein increases the excretion of uric acid from the kidney and, by doing so, decreases the level of uric acid in the blood. (7) This implies that the meat-gout hypothesis is at best debatable; the high protein content of meats should be beneficial, even if the purines are not.”
So it appears that protein in the form of meat may not be the problem we as alkaline diet advocates thought it was. A former 14-year vegetarian, I now eat more meat, along with a large supplement of coconut oil which reversed my early-onset Alzheimers’ symptoms. Having said that, I eat less meat per meal than I may have done earlier in my life because, simply, I’m not as hungry as I was on a carbohydrate-dominant diet.
Judging by past experience, I expect strong resistance to the idea that we can be healthier eating meat, fat and dark greens than a balanced carbohydrate diet. I’m not interested in arguing it out because I have done the work and with Cassie’s help, satisfied myself that this new paradigm is a radical new method of dietary acid/alkaline balance, rather than the original concept of swinging to alkaline away from acids.
Yes, I agree that the most morally correct diet is Vegan. But I have learned that all people are not equal in dietary needs.
Written By Ian Blair Hamilton
AlkaWay/Ion life Founder