The alkaline diet

Life depends a lot on appropriate pH levels in living organisms and cells. Human life requires tightly controlled pH levels in the serum, at about 7.4 (a slightly alkaline range of 7.35 to 7.45) for survival.

As a comparison in the past hundred years with increasing industrialization, the pH of the Ocean has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 because of increasing CO2 deposition. This is harming the life in the Ocean and may lead to the collapse of the coral reefs. Even the pH of the soil, in which plants are grown, has a considerable influence on the mineral content of the food that we eat (as minerals are used as buffers to maintain pH). When it comes to the pH levels and net acid load in the diet, there has been a considerable change from the hunter civilization to the present with the agricultural revolution and more so with industrialization, there has been a decrease in potassium compared to sodium and an increase in chloride compared to bicarbonate found in a diet. The ratio of potassium to sodium has reversed, earlier it was at 10:1 ratio, whereas the modern diet has a ratio of 1:3. It is generally accepted, that because of agriculture, today, humans have a poor diet in magnesium, potassium as well as fiber, and rich in saturated fat such as simple-sugars, chloride, and sodium as compared to the pre-agricultural period. This results in a diet that may induce metabolic acidosis, which is mismatched to the genetically determined nutritional requirements. With aging on a modern diet, there is a gradual loss of renal acid-base regulatory function, and as a result, there is an increase in diet-induced metabolic acidosis. A low carbohydrate and high protein diet with its increased acid-load, results in very little change in blood chemistry and pH, but it results in many changes such as urinary chemistry, urinary magnesium levels, urinary citrate, and pH are decreased, urinary calcium, and associated uric acid and phosphate are increased, all of these results in an increased risk for kidney stones.

Role of pH in various cells, organs, and membranes

The pH levels in our body may vary a lot from one area to another, with the highest acidity levels in the stomach to aid digestion and protect against microbial organisms. But even in the stomach, the layer just outside the epithelium is very slim to prevent mucosal injury. It has been suggested that a decrease in gastric lining secretion of bicarbonate and a reduction in the alkaline/ acid secretion in patients may play a significant role in duodenal ulcers.

 Chronic acidosis and bone disease.

Calcium, with phosphate and carbonate, represents a large reservoir of the base in our body. To respond to an acid load such as a modern diet, these salts are released into the systematic circulation to bring about pH homeostasis. It has been estimated, that the quantity of calcium lost in the urine with modern diet over time could be as high as almost 480 grams over 20 years or almost half the skeleton mass of calcium. However, to measure osteoporosis, urinary losses of calcium are not directly used.

Alkaline diet and muscle

As we age, this loss of muscle mass which may predispose us to fall and have fractures. A 3-year study looking at a diet rich potassium, such as fruits and vegetables which reduced acid load, resulted in the prevention of muscle mass in older men and women. Conditions such as chronic renal failure, which results in chronic metabolic acidosis, results in an accelerated breakdown in skeletal muscle. Correction of acidosis may preserve muscle mass and conditions where muscle wasting is common, such as diabetic ketosis, trauma, chronic obstructive lung disease, and renal failure.

 Alkaline diet and back pain

There is some evidence that chronic lower back pain improves with the supplementation of alkaline minerals. With supplements, there was a slight but significant increase in blood pH levels and intracellular magnesium. Ensuring, that there is enough intracellular magnesium, allows for the proper function of enzyme systems, which allows for the activation of vitamin D.

 Conclusion

An alkaline diet results in more alkaline urine and may affect reduced calcium in the urine. However, as seen in some recent reports, this may not reflect total calcium balance because of other buffers such as phosphate.

There is no substantial evidence that this improves bone health protects from osteoporosis. However alkaline diet may result in several health benefits as outlined below: –

  1. Increase fruit and vegetable in an alkaline diet would improve the K/Na ratio reduce muscle wasting
  2. The resultant increase in growth hormone which an alkaline diet may improve many outcomes from cardiovascular health
  3. An increase in intracellular magnesium which is required for the function of many enzyme systems is another added benefit of the alkaline diet it’s good for muscle, growth hormone, and interaction with vitamin D
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