Our Diet has Become Acidic

January 23, 2022

Our Diet Has Become Acidic

Mountain gorillas have a urinary pH of 8.5. They are almost exclusively vegan. Chimpanzees will eat meat, and their urinary pH ranges from 5.5 to 9.0, depending on whether they have recently eaten a captured animal. If vegan, pH 8.5-9.0 and if eating meat, 5.5. You will have the same effect and you can do the test yourself. Eat a vegan diet for a week and measure your urinary pH. It will be above 8. The biological "ash" of plants is a bit of alkaline salts. The biological ash of animals foods is some acid. (No animal products, no grains, no cheese or dairy, no sugar. Raw.).

Go back to eating a standard American diet, where you get 37% of your calories from animals, and your urine will become pH 5.5, acidic. That's because animal-based foods tend to have about 3 times the Net Acid production that plants have as alkali. Simplified that means you have to eat three servings of plant to neutralize the acid of on serving of animal (cheese is even more acidic: its ratio is 6 to 1). Grains are about balanced with acid against vegetables, so it only takes one serving of vegetables to balance the acid of a slice of bread.

The question arises about what happened to humans as we transitioned from hunter-gatherers to sedentary, urban dwellers watching football and playing computer games while eating nachos, cheese, and pizza? As hunter-gatherers, we certainly ate some animal products. That was the object of our hunting. We also always had plants as our backup staple in case the hunting failed. The Hazda of Tanzania are instructive. They are constantly hunting for animals, but not always successfully. Their women know some 250 plants which they gather and bring home to consume in case the men don't capture an animal. Their pH will bounce back and forth from alkaline to acidic, based on the success of their hunt and the volume of their plant consumption.

Applying the best computer algorithms to measure the net acid excretion of diets, Sebastian looked at the diets of 159 preagricultural societies and estimated that their diets were mostly plant-based to the tune of a Positive alkaline load of 84 meq of alkali. The same formulas applied to modern, advanced societies' diets calculate that we are about 48 meq of acid. That suggested about a 132 meq shift from alkaline to acidic.

A second way to look at it is to estimate the Plant to Animal ratio in diets as societies navigate food choices, economic wealth, trade, and distribution of foods and modern food production. Again, Sebastian's team estimated a Plant to Animal ratio from 85:15 in hunter-gatherer, pre-modern societies to 5:95 with a net acid shift from -178 (very alkaline) to + 181 (very acidic). Overall, about 50% of hunter-gatherers were able to get enough animal product to be net acidic, so they weren't all always alkaline. (Think the Inuit who lived almost exclusively on animal fat.) It all depended on the environment and the abundance of animal food resources.

All of this data reflects a net shift from alkaline to acid in just a few thousand years. That's not enough time for our DNA to craft new strategies to optimize our biochemical response.

What are the implications for humans living in the 21st century? What happens when we get a net acid load in our bodies? This is quite a profound shift, particularly because most of our physiology from 64 million years of mammalian evolution was crafted in an alkaline environment. We are pushing our metabolism to the edge of what it can handle. The pH of your blood is an incredibly important constant and our multiple buffer systems speak to that. Our pH doesn't change enough to measure. Our buffer systems do change but they are so myriad and so fluid that our current measurement systems can't catch it. We can only measure the net balance of what comes out in our urine.

A first consideration is in our bones. We now have unequivocal proof that alkalizing your urine by taking potassium citrate will repair the epidemic of osteoporosis. Most studies have used 60 meq of potassium citrate a day, which alkalizes urine sufficiently to increase bone density within a year in every study published. That's an easy one to recognize.

It goes further. Basic to every organ are "connexins", or pores, that allow cells to communicate to the cell adjacent to it. Connexins are exquisitely sensitive to pH. There is now increasing interest in how connexin dysfunction plays a role in obesity. But those little pores are shut tight if you are acidic. Fascinating.

There is beginning to be academic interest in the "alkaline" diet as a way of helping chemotherapy in cancer, renal disease, and multiple other conditions. Just as an example, we now know that more vegetables help lower blood pressure.

The world of naturopathic medicine is all over this concept and many practitioners offer dark-field examination of blood. With an alkaline diet, red cells will stand apart and show a halo around them. As soon as a person ingests an acidic load, that halo disappears and red cells make stacks of cells in rouleaux formation. My suspicion is that naturopaths, locked out of the hallways of medicine, have had to innovate and explore heretofore unexplored ideas. They may be on to something.

www.What will Work for me? Every health condition you can name gets better with "more vegetables". Daniel figured that out in the first randomized, placebo-controlled trial in history. (Just read the first chapter of the Book of Daniel.). Daniel and his fellow Jews ate vegetables instead of the king's rich food and in a short time, looked much healthier. They didn't have MRIs or Chem panels to show the difference, just their own common sense.) I have also personally seen acidic blood with rouleaux formation change in 20 minutes in three people when they ingested an alkaline smoothie. We were designed to be mostly alkaline. In short, more vegetables. Eat up. Measure your urinary pH. We now have pretty good evidence to show the alkaline to acid shift in the last 5,000 years and we are suffering from the consequences. If I were in an academic setting, this would be my field of study.

References: Am Jr Clin Nutrition, Adv Chr Kid Disease, J Zoo Wild Med, Designing Foods, J Endo Clin Metab, Int Jr Mol Soc, J Environ Public Health, Am J Clin Nutrit, Am J Clin Nutrition,

(Editors Note: We have done this topic some 8 years ago or so. The new material is the quantitative measurements. The good news is that more academic centers are taking it up and considering its implications. And there are critics who suggest we haven't shifted at all.....and critiques of their sloppy work. )

Pop Quiz

1. A healthy urine pH of 8 reflects what? Answer: a diet with more vegetable material, not including grains, than animal.

2. What was the ratio of servings of animal to plant to grain? Answer: 3:11 with a 6 for cheese.

3. Calculate for me the number of servings of vegetables you have to eat to neutralize the acid of a Big Mac? (3 breads, 2 animal, 2 cheese). Answer: 21

4. I can cure osteoporosis? Really? You must be kidding? Answer: Yes, yes and no. The literature is clear and concise. You don't need to spend $ 10,000 a year and myriad side effects. Yes, you still need Vit D, K2, magnesium, and fish oil.

5. What are connexins? Answer: pores that open up between cells to communicate across cellular membranes. Very sensitive to acid/alkali load.

This column was written by Dr. John E Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI