Alkaline Diet: the key to strong bones, muscles and brain

October 08, 2008

The Alkaline Diet                                                                                    

Number 237 Competency # 5  The Way to Eat          Reference: Eur J Nutr 40:200 – 213 (2001)           

This diet sounds like the desert salt flats of Nevada.  But it's not.  It's the key to your healthy survival.  If you've never heard of alkali, you are not alone.  But summer is a great time to eat fruits and vegetables in abundance, and that's the key to understanding what we mean by alkali. We know acid tasting foods.  They taste sour.  Vinegar tastes sour.  

But it's not the taste that matters.  It's what your body does with the food as it digests it.  The end products of digestion are what get into your blood, affect your internal chemistry and have a huge impact on what you have to excrete.  The excretion of poisons is a delicate balance your kidneys and liver go through every day.   Doing this excretion process is what determines much of your overall health.   

Surprisingly enough, a lemon is an alkaline food.  Despite its sour taste, the end products of its digestion are alkaline.  That's because it breaks down into lots of basic salts like potassium and magnesium.  In fact, almost all fruits and vegetables are loaded with potassium and magnesium in combination.  And when you have digested fruits and vegetables, you have an abundance of potassium and magnesium for your kidneys to work with.  Your body uses those two minerals to keep a healthy balance of acid and base in your body. 

 The net effect of this is that your bones stay strong and healthy.  We talk about potassium problems all the time.  60% of Americans are magnesium deficient.  This fact is little known and not appreciated.  Blood tests don't show the extent of your deficit. What is new and unique in human history is the amount of processed carbohydrates and sodium that we are eating.  Foods containing processed carbs and extra salt tend to be acid producing in their net effect.  This is also true for meat and dairy.  In fact, cheese is about the most acid of all, in part because of the protein in it, and in part because of the salt. 

 You can reduce your acid and alkaline nutritional balance to a very simple formula.  Our kidneys are happy when our acid and base is in balance.  Here's how you get to balance.   You should have three servings of fruits and vegetables for every serving of meat.  You need about 6 servings of fruits and veggies for every serving of cheese.  For every serving of white bread or pasta, you can make a rough guess of two fruit or veggie servings.  When you add all the acid servings you have in a day, and subtract all the alkali, you want to come up with a balance of zero.  

If I eat 3.5 oz of cheese (one serving), I will need to eat two bananas and a large apple to make up for the acid load of the cheese. Sounds simple.  It is.  The resulting abundance of fruits and veggies leads you to the diet we used to eat about 100 years ago, and prior to that throughout human history.  What is intriguing is that doing this also leads to your bones being stronger and your muscles not wasting.  In fact, new evidence shows that eating a diet of acid base balance will result in stopping the gradual loss of muscle mass we experience as we get older.   And there is a strong correlation between good muscle mass and healthy brain.  It all starts with the alkali you eat 

 Conclusion:  You can keep your muscles from the wasting of aging and your bones strong and dense by eating a diet filled with fruits and vegetables.  And now you know the science.  It's the abundance of potassium and magnesium found in those fruits and vegetables that keep us well and strong.  Potassium and magnesium are not found in meat, cheese or processed carbohydrates that come in plastic packages.  Lots of fruits and vegetables are your key to healthy living.  It's the alkali diet. 

 WWW:  What will work for me.  As radical as this sounds, it's not so hard to do in summer.  The abundance of fruits and vegetables that are out there is like a symphony of opportunity.  Get out there to your farmer's market and look at all the yummy stuff they have to offer.  Try and figure out how to make a new salad, a giant plate of tomatoes, a way to make pickled beets that you adore.   Cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, peppers.......   And personally, I've added a magnesium supplement to my daily mix.

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