Hi, I’m Dr. Connie.

We are having great weather here in Georgia. It is finally feeling like spring is in the air.  This is great, except the pollen has gotten me in a funk lately.  

My younger son is extremely allergic to pollen.

Recently I purchased the Navage, which is a netty pot that provides a gentle, battery powered suction meant to cleanse your nasal passage to treat allergic symptoms, like nasal congestion.  

I’ll provide you with an update on how it’s working for my son and I in a few weeks.

On a different note, I’ve been getting lots of questions lately about health and alkalinity.  From alkalizing water to alkaline diet, I felt it’s worth a mention on my blog today.

Just a bit of my story: as many of you know, I’ve struggled with my health at times due to Lupus flare ups. Because I’ve been on a mission to heal my body, I’ve researched and applied everything that may help my body get stronger so that it can defeat Lupus.  

I’ve personally applied the alkaline concepts to my life, including the use of an alkaline water filtration for my home and eating alkaline promoting foods and supplements.

I’ve seen many assumptive writings by various bloggers on this topic without proper regard to research.

So for today, I wanted to balance scientific evidence with health relevance on this topic.

BACKGROUND

All life depends on optimal pH levels within and around living organisms and cells.

Human life requires a narrow pH range, in our serum, of about 7.35-7.45 to survive.  This is a slightly alkaline range on the pH scale of 0-14.  [1]

Unfortunately the pH of our oceans have dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 due to industrialization and increasing CO2 deposits.  [1,2]  This is bad news for our ocean life and can lead to deaths of coral reefs.  [3]

Ultimately, a trickle down effect causes this event to affect the soil where our vegetables are grown, depleting the mineral content of the foods that we eat.  This is important because these minerals are used in the body as a buffer and help maintain that narrow, optimal pH range.

The ideal pH of our soil is a range between 6-7.  Acidic soils below 6 may have reduced calcium and magnesium. On the other hand, soil with a pH above 7 may result in a depletion of iron, manganese, copper, and zinc.  [4]

When we observe the pH and net acidic load in our diet, there has been a significant change from the hunter- gatherer civilizations to the present.  [5]

With the Agricultural Revolution occurring within the last 10,000 years, and more recently the Industrial Revolution occurring within the last 200 years, we’ve seen a decrease in potassium (K) as compared to sodium (Na), and an increase in chloride as compared to bicarbonate in our diet.

Potassium and bicarbonate are two alkalizing minerals that are used in the pH buffering system.

This change means that the ratio of potassium to sodium has reversed. The K:Na ratio was previously 10:1, and now with our current diet, the ratio is 1:3.  [7]

It is proven that our diets today contain poor amounts of magnesium, potassium, and fiber, and high amounts of saturated fat, simple sugars, sodium, and chloride. This is in comparison to the Paleolithic Age.

What does this mean? It places us at risk for metabolic acidosis. [8]

You see, with aging, our kidneys gradually lose the ability to regulate acid-alkaline balance.  There’s very little change in our blood chemistry, however, significant changes in our urine can be noted.  

Our urinary levels of magnesium tend to decrease, while calcium, uric acid, and phosphate levels increase.  This results in increased risk for kidney stones.  [10]

The Role of pH in Our Cells and Organs

pH levels widely vary throughout the body.  For example, stomach acid has a pH of 1.35- 3.5 to aid in digestion and protect against microbial organisms.

But just outside the stomach, the pH is quite alkaline to prevent injury to our stomach lining.

Our skin is also very acidic, with a pH of 4-6.5, to provide a protective barrier against bacteria.  

Our urine has a variable pH that can go from acidic to alkaline, depending on the balance of the internal environment.

Chronic Acidosis and Bone Disease

It’s important to note that an alkaline diet releases calcium in the form of phosphates and carbonates, which allows our body to maintain a healthy pH range.  [7]

So when you eat an acidic diet, our bodies balance the pH by pulling calcium from our bones to neutralize our blood.  This calcium loss over time is what causes bone loss, ultimately leading to osteoporosis.  

You can lose up to 480 grams of calcium in over 20 years, which is almost half of the skeletal mass.  [21]

If the bone minerals wasted in the urine are not supplemented back into our diet, osteoporosis can result.

You also need vitamin D to allow for proper calcium, magnesium, and phosphate absorption.  [24]

Unfortunately, most populations are generally deficient in vitamin D.  [25]

Protein rich diets can cause bone loss, due to high acidity, if not buffered by proper alkalizing vitamins and minerals.  [37]  It’s also important to remember that adequate protein is necessary for prevention of osteoporosis and muscle loss.  

Eat a diet high in vegetables and some fruits to alkalize your body, rather than decreasing your protein intake.  [38]

Alkaline Diet and Muscle

As we age, we lose muscle.  A three year study which looked at diets rich in potassium, fruits and veggies, and a reduced amount of acidic foods, including processed foods, sugar, and carbonated beverages, resulted in improved muscle mass in older men and women.  [39]

Alkaline Diet and Back Pain

I’m happy to note that chronic low back pain can be improved with alkalizing foods and supplementation of such vitamins and minerals [47].  

Supplementation increases magnesium found inside the cells and allows for proper enzyme function, which activates vitamin D.

This process indirectly has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body, which ultimately leads to decreased back pain. [49]

Summary

Our bodies have an inherent ability to balance the pH of blood.  We have both acidic and alkaline substances in our bodies that help to keep a fine balance.  Research does validate the benefits of an alkaline diet:

  1. A good K:Na ratio, in which potassium is greater than sodium, helps to maintain bone health, reduce muscle loss, and mitigate other chronic diseases, such as hypertension and strokes. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to improve your K:Na ratio.
  2. An increase in intracellular magnesium, which is required for the function of many enzyme systems, is another added benefit of the alkaline diet.

When considering an alkaline diet, please make sure that all your vegetables and fruits are organic, to minimize toxicity.  

References

  1. Waugh A, Grant A. Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness. 10th edition. Philadelphia, Pa, USA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2007.
  2. University, Birmingham oAa. Oceans reveal further impacts of climate change. ScienceDaily, 2010.
  3. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, et al. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science. 2007;318(5857):1737–1742. [PubMed]
  4. Dam-ampai SO J, Nilnond C. Effect of cattle manure and dolomite on soil properties and plant growth in acid upland soils. Songklanakarin Journal of Science and Technologh. 2005;27(supplement 3):727–737.
  5. Ströhle A, Hahn A, Sebastian A. Estimation of the diet-dependent net acid load in 229 worldwide historically studied hunter-gatherer societies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010;91(2):406–412.[PubMed]
  6. Sebastian A, Frassetto LA, Sellmeyer DE, Merriam RL, Morris RC., Jr. Estimation of the net acid load of the diet of ancestral preagricultural Homo sapiens and their hominid ancestors. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;76(6):1308–1316. [PubMed]
  7. Frassetto L, Morris, Jr. R.C. RC, Jr., Sellmeyer DE, Todd K, Sebastian A. Diet, evolution and aging—the pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet. European Journal of Nutrition. 2001;40(5):200–213. [PubMed]
  8. Konner M, Boyd Eaton S. Paleolithic nutrition: twenty-five years later. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2010;25(6):594–602. [PubMed]
  9. Lindeman RD, Goldman R. Anatomic and physiologic age changes in the kidney. Experimental Gerontology. 1986;21(4-5):379–406. [PubMed]
  10. Reddy ST, Wang CY, Sakhaee K, Brinkley L, Pak CY. Effect of low-carbohydrate high-protein diets on acid-base balance, stone-forming propensity, and calcium metabolism. American Journal of Kidney Diseases. 2002;40(2):265–274. [PubMed]
  11. Malov YS, Kulikov AN. Bicarbonate deficiency and duodenal ulcer. Terapevticheskii Arkhiv. 1998;70(2):28–32. [PubMed]
  12. Ohman H, Vahlquist A. In vivo studies concerning a pH gradient in human stratum corneum and upper epidermis. Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 1994;74(5):375–379. [PubMed]
  13. Ferris DG, Francis SL, Dickman ED, Miler-Miles K, Waller JL, McClendon N. Variability of vaginal pH determination by patients and clinicians. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2006;19(4):368–373. [PubMed]
  14. Remer T, Manz F. Estimation of the renal net acid excretion by adults consuming diets containing variable amounts of protein. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1994;59(6):1356–1361. [PubMed]
  15. Remer T. Influence of diet on acid-base balance. Seminars in Dialysis. 2000;13(4):221–226. [PubMed]
  16. Fenton TR, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Lyon AW, Brown JP, Hanley DA. Low urine pH and acid excretion do not predict bone fractures or the loss of bone mineral density: a prospective cohort study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2010;11, article 88 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  17. Boelsma E, van de Vijver LPL, Goldbohm RA, Klöpping-Ketelaars IAA, Hendriks HFJ, Roza L. Human skin condition and its associations with nutrient concentrations in serum and diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;77(2):348–355. [PubMed]
  18. Ince BA, Anderson EJ, Neer RM. Lowering dietary protein to U.S. recommended dietary allowance levels reduces urinary calcium excretion and bone resorption in young women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2004;89(8):3801–3807. [PubMed]
  19. Boron WF. Regulation of intracellular pH. Advances in Physiology Education. 2004;28:160–179.[PubMed]
  20. Remer T, Manz F. Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 1995;95(7):791–797. [PubMed]
  21. Fenton TR, Eliasziw M, Lyon AW, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Meta-analysis of the quantity of calcium excretion associated with the net acid excretion of the modern diet under the acid-ash diet hypothesis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;88(4):1159–1166. [PubMed]
  22. Sebastian A, Morris RC., Jr. Improved mineral balance and skeletal metabolism in postmenopausal women treated with potassium bicarbonate. New England Journal of Medicine. 1994;331(4):p. 279.[PubMed]
  23. Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Palermo NJ, Castaneda-Sceppa C, Rasmussen HM, Dallal GE. Treatment with potassium bicarbonate lowers calcium excretion and bone resorption in older men and women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2009;94(1):96–102. [PMC free article][PubMed]
  24. Heaney RP, Dowell MS, Hale CA, Bendich A. Calcium absorption varies within the reference range for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2003;22(2):142–146.[PubMed]
  25. Schwalfenberg GK, Genuis SJ, Hiltz MN. Addressing vitamin D deficiency in Canada: a public health innovation whose time has come. Public Health. 2010;124(6):350–359. [PubMed]
  26. Lu KC, Lin SH, Yu FC, Chyr SH, Shieh SD. Influence of metabolic acidosis on serum 1,25(OH)2D3 levels in chronic renal failure. Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism. 1995;21(6):398–402. [PubMed]
  27. Fenton TR, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Phosphate decreases urine calcium and increases calcium balance: a meta-analysis of the osteoporosis acid-ash diet hypothesis. Nutrition Journal. 2009;8, article 41 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  28. Hulley SB, Vogel JM, Donaldson CL, Bayers JH, Friedman RJ, Rosen SN. The effect of supplemental oral phosphate on the bone mineral changes during prolonged bed rest. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1971;50(12):2506–2518. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  29. Fenton TR, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Tough SC, Hanley DA. Meta-analysis of the effect of the acid-ash hypothesis of osteoporosis on calcium balance. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 2009;24(11):1835–1840. [PubMed]
  30. Supplee JD, Duncan GE, Bruemmer B, Goldberg J, Wen Y, Henderson JA. Soda intake and osteoporosis risk in postmenopausal American-Indian women. Public Health Nutrition. 2011:1–7.[PMC free article] [PubMed]
  31. Fenton TR, Tough SC, Lyon AW, Eliasziw M, Hanley DA. Causal assessment of dietary acid load and bone disease: a systematic review & meta-analysis applying Hill’s epidemiologic criteria for causality. Nutrition Journal. 2011;10(1, article 41) [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  32. Frassetto LA, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A. Dietary sodium chloride intake independently predicts the degree of hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis in healthy humans consuming a net acid-producing diet. American Journal of Physiology—Renal Physiology. 2007;293(2):F521–F525. [PubMed]
  33. Frings-Meuthen P, Buehlmeier J, Baecker N, et al. High sodium chloride intake exacerbates immobilization-induced bone resorption and protein losses. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011;111(2):537–542. [PubMed]
  34. Cappuccio FP, Meilahn E, Zmuda JM, Cauley JA. High blood pressure and bone-mineral loss in elderly white women: a prospective study. Lancet. 1999;354(9183):971–975. [PubMed]
  35. Devine A, Criddle RA, Dick IM, Kerr DA, Prince RL. A longitudinal study of the effect of sodium and calcium intakes on regional bone density in postmenopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1995;62(4):740–745. [PubMed]
  36. Morris RC, Jr., Schmidlin O, Frassetto LA, Sebastian A. Relationship and interaction between sodium and potassium. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2006;25(3):262S–270S. [PubMed]
  37. Barzel US, Massey LK. Excess dietary protein may can adversely affect bone. Journal of Nutrition. 1998;128(6):1051–1053. [PubMed]
  38. Heaney RP, Layman DK. Amount and type of protein influences bone health. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87(5):156S–157S. [PubMed]
  39. Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Ceglia L. Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008;87(3):662–665. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  40. Garibotto G, Russo R, Sofia A, et al. Muscle protein turnover in chronic renal failure patients with metabolic acidosis or normal acid-base balance. Mineral and Electrolyte Metabolism. 1996;22(1–3):58–61.[PubMed]
  41. Caso G, Garlick PJ. Control of muscle protein kinetics by acid-base balance. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. 2005;8(1):73–76. [PubMed]
  42. Webster MJ, Webster MN, Crawford RE, Gladden LB. Effect of sodium bicarbonate ingestion on exhaustive resistance exercise performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1993;25(8):960–965. [PubMed]
  43. McSherry E, Morris RC., Jr. Attainment and maintenance of normal stature with alkali therapy in infants and children with classic renal tubular acidosis. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1978;61(2):509–527. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  44. Frassetto L, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A. Potassium bicarbonate reduces urinary nitrogen excretion in postmenopausal women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1997;82(1):254–259.[PubMed]
  45. Wass JAH, Reddy R. Growth hormone and memory. Journal of Endocrinology. 2010;207(2):125–126.[PubMed]
  46. Frassetto L, Morris RC, Jr., Sebastian A. Long-term persistence of the urine calcium-lowering effect of potassium bicarbonate in postmenopausal women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2005;90(2):831–834. [PubMed]
  47. Vormann J, Worlitschek M, Goedecke T, Silver B. Supplementation with alkaline minerals reduces symptoms in patients with chronic low back pain. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 2001;15(2-3):179–183. [PubMed]
  48. Zofková I, Kancheva RL. The relationship between magnesium and calciotropic hormones. Magnesium Research. 1995;8(1):77–84. [PubMed]
  49. Schwalfenberg G. Improvement of chronic back pain or failed back surgery with vitamin D repletion: a case series. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2009;22(1):69–74. [PubMed]
  50. Groos E, Walker L, Masters JR. Intravesical chemotherapy. Studies on the relationship between pH and cytotoxicity. Cancer. 1986;58(6):1199–1203. [PubMed]
  51. Smith SR, Martin PA, Edwards RHT. Tumour pH and response to chemotherapy: an in vivo 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy study in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. British Journal of Radiology. 1991;64(766):923–928. [PubMed]
  52. Raghunand N, Gillies RJ. pH and chemotherapy. Novartis Foundation Symposium. 2001;240:199–211.[PubMed]
  53. Raghunand N, He X, Van Sluis R, et al. Enhancement of chemotherapy by manipulation of tumour pH. British Journal of Cancer. 1999;80(7):1005–1011. [PMC free article] [PubMed]