One diet that’s been receiving a lot of media attention lately is an alkaline diet, which encourages the consumption of foods such as fruits and vegetables, including beans. Before we can answer questions about alkaline diets and cancer, first we should have an understanding of what alkaline means exactly.
We can say in general alkaline is the opposite of acidic. How acidic or alkaline a substance is measured by its “pH” level. pH stands for the “power of hydrogen.” The pH level measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is.
The scale refers to the concentration of hydrogen ions (the nucleus of a hydrogen atom separated from its accompanying electron) in any given substance.
A substance with a pH of 1 would be very acidic, a pH of 7 is neutral, and a pH of 14 is completely alkaline.
Why is this important to our conversation about alkaline diets?
All life on earth depends on pH levels in and around living organisms and cells being at the right level for that particular life form.
Human life requires a tightly controlled pH level in the blood serum, the liquid portion of the blood plasma. It takes a range of about 7.4, a slightly alkaline range of 7.35 to 7.45 in the blood for humans to survive.
However, levels of acid vary considerably from one area to another throughout your body. Each cell or tissue or organ type like in the stomach or muscles or blood has its optimal pH level. For example, your stomach has a pH of 3.5 or below, which is very acidic, allowing for the breakdown of food.
Your kidneys are mainly responsible for keeping the optimal pH level in your body. As cells breakdown they make acids and the foods you eat can increase or lower the amount of acid in your body. By removing or adjusting the right amounts of acid and elements that neutralize acids, the pH level in your blood is kept stable.
What is the alkaline diet then?
The goal of the alkaline diet is to give the body everything it needs to keep it alkaline. An alkaline diet gives the body all of the nourishment to help support the body, maintain pH, and keep the body homeostasis (acid/alkaline balance).
The alkaline diet is quite healthy encouraging the consumption of high quantities of fruits, vegetables, and healthy plant foods while restricting processed junk food. An alkaline diet is one that consists of some of the nourishing foods in nature.
Factors making diets alkaline
Fresh food: Fresh Foods tend to be more alkaline and have more nutrients. Through processing sometimes, they can be made acidic, but not in all cases. This is particularly true of foods that contain oils that are exposed to heat, light, and air, and become rancid.
Mineral content: What makes most foods alkaline is they contain a lot of alkaline minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium bicarbonate, manganese, and iron. These alkaline minerals are very important to the health of your body’s cells.
Low in sugar: All forms of sugar, glucose, fructose, or dextrose, are very acid-forming in your body. Some fruits have a lot of fructose and thus acidic, but many are alkaline.
Vegetables: Most vegetables are alkaline-forming especially green colored food that contains chlorophyll.
High water content: Foods that have a high water content is normally more alkali forming.
Is an alkaline diet beneficial for cancer patients?
The idea behind an alkaline diet being beneficial for cancer patients is related to what happens at a cellular level.
Cancer is the growth and uncontrolled proliferation of abnormal cells. The main biological cause of this is still not completely understood.
The prevailing theory of the cause of cancer includes factors together or by itself. This includes genetic causes, environmental causes like carcinogens, or the constitutional characteristics of the individual.
The pH of most cells is around 6.8, which is on the acid side of the scale. However, cells are surrounded by blood and tissue fluids with an optimal pH of 7.3. If the pH of your blood goes much below 7.2 or above 7.6, enzymes, which control the cells, chemical reactions, your cells can stop functioning properly.
When your body fluids contain too much acid it can result in several harmful effects. It can decrease your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells, and the cell’s ability to repair itself making illness inevitable.
The human body is very sensitive to its pH level, so it has evolved with a very efficient alkaline buffering system to maintain this slightly alkaline pH. The normal bodily functions like metabolism cause a small amount of acidity in the body and this buffering system is present to neutralize it.
Food cannot change pH
Food cannot change the pH of the body. The body has a very important regulatory mechanism to maintain the pH of the blood (and other cells) at a pH of 7.35. If anything threatens to change that, the body will go to extreme lengths to maintain it at 7.35. If it goes to 7.2, the person may die.
The body has evolved with a very small ‘alkaline buffering system’ to maintain this slightly alkaline pH. The normal bodily functions like metabolism cause a small amount of acidity in the body and this buffering system is present to neutralize it.
The idea that an acidic environment is conducive to making tumors grow faster is the fact that a tumor itself actually creates acid. It has been shown that cancer itself creates an acidic environment and not an acidic environment that causes cancer. Moreover, cancer cells can grow in an alkaline
The belief that cancer can be treated or even cured with an alkaline diet does not seem to be valid. However, an alkaline diet, being one that focuses on fresh vegetables and fruits and no junk food, surely is a healthy way to eat. And being healthy can help anyone overcome disease of any kind, cancer or not.