Alkali Diet: Part II - The Minuet of Minerals

May 28, 2008

The Alkali Diet Part II:  The Minuet of Minerals 

 Competency # 16 Minerals                            Reference: : First International Symposia on the Alkaline Diet, Feb 2008, Journal of Nutrition, Arnett, T, J. Nutr. 138: 415S–418S, 2008

 Last week we learned that fruits and vegetables are loaded with potassium and magnesium.  Meat and refined carbohydrates are not.  A lemon, as sour and acidic as its taste is, is actually an alkali in its end metabolic products.  That’s all because of the way our body breaks down nutrients and excretes the remnants.  

Because fruits and vegetables are just loaded with potassium and magnesium, our kidneys are really very happy with the bicarbonate they end up making.  We give our kidneys lots of potassium to work with as they can exchange poisons and clean up our blood.   The bicarbonate that our kidneys can use when we eat lots of fruits and vegetables, gives our blood an ever so slight shift to being alkali.  That extra bicarbonate that’s made is actually critical to our metabolism. 

 Now, here is the interesting rub.  Protein is, in effect, acidic.  You can only use so much protein a day.  Any extra and you have to break it down.  We can’t store protein like we can store fat.   Proteins are made of amino acids strung together in long strings.  Did you get that?  Acids!  The amino acid group on each amino acid is an acid you have to get rid of when you break down a protein into its constituent parts.  Then, there are abundant sulfur-containing amino acids in animal-based protein.  And you get rid of that acid by balancing it with alkali. 

 Eating too much protein, and not enough potassium, magnesium and calcium means your acid/alkali balance is out of whack.  You have to borrow from somewhere to make up the difference.  And where you borrow from is from your bones, or from your muscles.  Your kidneys just have to have something to exchange for the extra acid you eat in your diet.   You can make your urine more acidic.  That’s one way to make the balance work.  You can breath a little deeper.  That’s another way for a short-term balance adjustment.  But in the long run, day in and day out, if you keep eating too much acid, you end up breaking down your bones and your muscles to get extra alkali to balance everything out.  You lose muscle mass and bone mass.  Bit by bit, your muscles lose mass and your bones get softer. And then there is salt.  Sodium is a potassium, magnesium and calcium killer.  

As crucial as salt is to your health and well-being, too much of a good thing is a problem too.  We used to have diets with much, much more potassium and magnesium.  Some estimates are as high as 8 molecules of potassium for every one of sodium in our “Paleolithic diet” days.  Nowadays, we eat 1 molecule of potassium for every 4 of sodium.  That’s a big problem too.  That would be a 32-fold shift in ratio of sodium to potassium.  When your kidneys try to sort out the new environment of so much sodium from all the salt in our diet, they get overwhelmed and just dump out potassium and magnesium.  That makes the acid–alkali problem worse. 

 Where do we go from here?  Next week we'll add it all up in method to show you how to balance the acid and the alkali.  It’s a new way of looking at your diet that will help you immensely hang on to muscle and bone for the long haul. 

 WWW: What Will Work for Me?  I'm thinking about the importance of this new concept: the alkali in my diet.  It gives me a new appreciation of how many times I add salt to my food, and how that upsets my acid-base balance.  I’m trying to add extra pepper instead.  It’s interesting to watch myself get used to the spicy flavor instead of the salty flavor.  You can do it too.  And I’m still counting to 9 servings, each and every day, of fruits and vegetables.  Lots of mighty minerals.  Maybe a bit more in balance.

The column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)