The Acid / Alkaline Myth

There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about the importance of the acidity / alkalinity of the food we eat. There are a lot of people that spend a lot of effort (as well as money) on “alkalizing the body”.   This is taking measures to force a change in the body’s pH to make it more alkaline (or base).  First let me say that this topic is covered quite well in book: The Gut Health Protocol.  And second, let me just re-emphasis that trying to alkalize the body is a very bad idea.

“The food chyme leaving the stomach is very acidic at pH 4-5.   Intestinal pH gradually increases in the small intestine until it is at about pH 6 at the bottom of the duodenum. The pH drops to 5.7 in the caecum (the beginning of the large intestine), but again gradually increases, reaching a pH of 6.7 in the rectum. These levels are quite a bit more acidic than blood which has a pH of about 7.4. This lower, more acidic, pH is needed to hold down candida growth and promote probiotic bacteria growth.” — “The Gut Health Protocol”

I sometimes wonder if this entire argument is simply one of semantics. People (including some doctors I’m afraid) are getting an “Alkaline pH” confused with our need for “alkalizing minerals”. Providing the body with plenty of “Alkalizing” nutrients is wonderful and very important. Making the body more alkaline is very dangerous.  Do alkaline foods contain a lot of alkalizing minerals?  Sometimes, but so can acidic foods. 

This topic has become almost religious in nature. So much so that fights break out and people get banned from online forums and Facebook groups. The subject is so biased that many of the charts you find on the internet simply make up their facts. These graphs vastly misrepresent the pH of foods, making some foods far more acidic than they really are and making other foods far more alkaline than they really are.  Some of these charts were put out by companies selling alkalizing water machines, as an add on to reverse osmosis machines, etc.   

There were many other charts from probably well-meaning bloggers who were most likely getting their information from these same companies. Some of the authors of these charts obviously knew this information was phoney because in the fine print they said that “This chart reflects the particular food’s on the pH balance in the human body which may or may not reflect the direct pH value of the food itself”.

There are several attempts out there to try to show certain foods in a good light, and other foods in a bad light, they do this by making up this functions that have no basis in science, such as certain foods produce “alkalizing ash” in the body. It has nothing to do with science. What little science that has been used to prove this hypothesis has been extremely poor and is easily argued with much stronger evidence and higher quality studies.

Fruits are actually very acidic, but they also contain some buffering minerals. The acidity of the fruit you eat will be shuffled off by the kidneys into your urine, or to your lungs to be exhaled as carbon dioxide. The minerals will stay behind to help buffer (neutralize) the blood’s pH as necessary.

The intestine needs to be acidic, there is no doubt about that in science. Doing anything to make the gut alkaline will cause disease. The key is simply to eat nutritionally, lots of mineral rich foods, then you never have to worry about the pH of your food (except too much acidic citrus can damage your teeth….   There is always an exception).

Restricting foods simply because they are “acidic” is a bad idea, they can contain a lot of nutrition and the acidity of the food makes very little or no difference to overall health. Worrying about the pH of your urine is a bad idea. If the last three meals you ate were full of buffering minerals, mineral rich vegetables / fruit, acidic citrus fruit, then your urine’s pH may very well be acidic. But that is meaningless for determining health. What is important is that you consumed a lot of “alkalizing minerals”.   These minerals are used by your body to buffer acids, if you have enough of the various buffering agents in your body acidic food is not bad for you in the least, assuming it is healthy mineral/vitamin rich food.  Trying to artificially alkalize your body to offset this rise in urinary pH is very unhealthy, unnatural, and likely to lead to increased pathogen growth (see below).

“It is well established that a pH around neutrality favours hyphal development of C. albicans (candida albicans) in vitro, while a low pH (pH < 6.5) blocks hyphal formation… One of the major virulence factors is its ability to switch between yeast and filamentous form.… A pH of 5.4 also induces low filamentation, pH 6.4 gives moderately lower than pH 7.4. A pH of 7.4 was best suited for germ tube induction.” 

Dr. Chris Kresser — “The Acid-Alkaline Myth”, Part 1. The whole theory that it creates ” ‘ash’ after they are metabolize” is nothing more than myth.

Bicarbonate is very important in the body, but as a buffering agent. It is made by the body and stored in order to adjust the pH on-demand.  The main job of bicarbonate in the body is to regulate the pH of the blood and to raise the pH of food leaving the stomach and entering the small intestine. You do NOT need to consume sodium bicarbonate for this to occur.   The body is perfectly capable of making all the sodium bicarbonate it needs from CO2 in the air we breathe.   We do NOT have a bicarbonate deficiency and we do not need to supplement it.  AND we are most CERTAINLY NOT talking about Bicarbonate of Soda

It isn’t the pH that matters, it is the buffering potential. Thus, we shouldn’t be worried about the pH, we should be worried about obtaining plenty of good minerals in the food we eat. This is the point I’ve been trying to make, we shouldn’t worry about the pH of the food we eat, we should worry about the minerals it contains.   

The Alkaline Myth & Hype – The Acid-Alkaline Truth Exposed