Understanding the alkaline diet concept is not easy. Information is often inconsistent and medical science is not entirely behind the thinking that foods you eat impact subtle shifts in metabolic pH of the body. I can't help but notice that alkaline foods are the same foods advocated by proponents of the Mediterranean diet. They are whole foods and there is no gimmick to get out of putting healthy whole foods into your mouth, chewing and swallowing. I'm a Mediterranean diet fan and I think there is something to the alkaline diet concept. I tried it and it helped me with a variety of stubborn health problems. Here I will try to distill what I've learned.
Health experts agree that the Mediterranean Diet promotes health and prevents disease including skin problems.
I’ve concluded that by adapting the true Mediterranean Diet so that it also does not require the body to neutralize the slightly acid pH created from digesting certain foods, you have the perfect diet for skin and overall health.
I consider it the "magic wand" to promote our own natural health and vitality.
This is the diet I aim for in my own life and the one that I recommend to my patients with skin problems and other health problems. I've lived on this diet for over 10 years and conquered the health problems that lead me here.
I outlined the Mediterranean Food Pyramid in my last blog post. In this post, I'm going to explain the concept of an Alkaline Diet.
How does an Alkaline Diet work?
Foods you eat effect how acid or alkaline your body is. In general terms:
- Every food you eat or beverage you drink releases either an acid or alkaline base into your blood stream when you digest and absorb it.
- Your body is naturally alkaline (pH 7.35-7.45) and you're healthiest if you stay alkaline. (The term ‘pH’ is a way of measuring and describing acid and alkaline base amounts.) Your body will work hard to maintain this pH if you are eating acid forming foods.
- Consuming some foods and beverages that release acid can be ok so long as most of what you consume releases alkaline base into your blood stream so that your body stays alkaline.
What are the health claims of the Alkaline Diet proponents?
Right now, The Alkaline Diet (also called the Acid/Alkaline Diet) is a new popular diet craze. It’s based on the long standing alternative medicine principle that foods create subtle but important changes in your body’s pH (acid and base balance). These pH changes affect our body’s health; a shift towards acid pH cause diseases while maintenance of the natural alkaline pH of the body supports health and prevents disease.
Proponents of the alkaline diet claim that when your body is too acid it's more prone to conditions such as:
- Mucous production
- Breast and ovarian cysts
- Numerous other health problems
My dermatology patients have observed over the years that some of their skin problems worsen with dietary changes that could be acid forming. These skin problems include:
- Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)
- Other inflammation based rashes
My own personal experience with seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea, Reynaud’s phenomenon and discomfort from my musculoskeletal problems support the benefit of an alkaline diet.
What is the controversy surrounding an Alkaline Diet?
Traditional Western medicine, of which I am a member, doesn’t agree that the body pH is that important or that impacted by digesting foods. Western scientists have been unable to document the health benefits of maintaining the alkaline body pH compared with having a slightly more acid body pH when they conduct scientific studies. They conclude that the alkaline diet hypothesis is unfounded. They claim that the body's mechanisms for pH maintenance are efficient and any temporary shift in pH has no consequences.
I agree, the body works hard to maintain a healthy pH. I also find it curious that the foods that create a slight acid byproduct when absorbed into the body are the same foods associated with health problems like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other inflammation-associated health issues. I think there is a mystery worth wondering about.
This means that I am going out on a limb here. The conclusion that physiologic pH maintenance secondary to shifts in pH due to dietary acid byproducts is irrelevant is not consistent with my personal experience and my professional observation as a physician. I’ve devoted years of study, and a lot of time reading and researching the alkaline diet alternative medicine literature and I think there’s merit to it. I don't think the science is sorted out but the general correlations are clear. As a result, I’m willing to incorporate an alkaline diet into my own dietary goals, recommend it to my patients and wait for Western science to catch up. (I expect this to be a long wait because: good scientific studies take time, subtle things are hard to measure, and research studies follow funding.)
Dr. Bailey's note added in 2018: Over the years I created a free E-Book with my diet guidelines. Click here to go to my free eBook page where you will find all of my eBooks in one place, including my Diet eBook! Yes, I have spent years focusing on diet and skin health. I want to share my knowledge and observations with you to help you achieve great skin through simple changes in your diet.
Over the years I have also written a lot of articles on diet and natural health for your complexion and well-being.