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  • Joanna Injore

Exploring the potential of alkaline diets in cancer treatment: What you need to know.

This blog delves into another common diet associated with cancer- the alkaline diet. We will explore alkaline foods, go through a little of the science of alkalinity and pH, and whether alkaline diets could be followed if you are affected by cancer.


image of pH chart with the words what do you need to know about alkaline diets in cancer treatment

So, what is the alkaline diet?


This idea of the alkaline diet (aka ‘alkaline ash’, ‘acid-alkaline diet’ or pH diet) is to reduce the acid environment in the body, particularly the blood, as it is thought an acidic environment is more harmful whereas an alkaline environment leads to improved health. There are even some people who claim that the alkaline diet can cure cancer too which will be discussed more later.

The simple idea of changing your diet to include fewer acidic foods and more alkaline foods to change the pH of the blood led to the creation of the alkaline diet. So which foods are acid and alkaline?


Acid and alkaline foods


Early experiments from the 1900s into heating foods and testing the pH of the ash that is left behind, led to some foods being defined as ‘acid-forming’ or ‘alkalizing’.


Acid-forming foods were: meat, rice, pasta, bread, cheese, alcohol, sugar, eggs, cheese, bread, fizzy drinks


Alkalising foods: fruit and vegetables, herbal tea, tofu, almond

alkaline diets and cancer image of a lemon

However, this is based on quite old research and there is no consensus on classifying foods as ‘acid’ or ‘alkaline’. The process of digestion in our bodies is also nothing like burning food to ash!





How does the body control our blood pH?


Can we influence our pH level with diet? To answer that we need to understand how the body works. Your kidneys and respiratory system work together to maintain a consistent stable environment in the body called homeostasis. Our blood pH is one of these systems and is very tightly controlled to stay within a pH of 7.4 - slightly alkaline. The environment in our stomach is also tightly controlled to an acidic pH which helps us to digest what we eat. These internal processes mean that the food we eat cannot change the pH of our blood or our stomach as our body will continue to regulate at its set level. The only time your blood pH could change is during ‘metabolic acidosis’ which can occur if you are very ill due to kidney disease or kidney failure. Otherwise, your body will keep this tight control no matter what you eat- it is very clever!


alkaline diets and cancer image of blood test

What about the alkaline diets in cancer treatment?


In the early 1990s, Robert O Young an This blog delves into another common diet associated with cancer- the alkaline diet. We will explore alkaline foods, go through a little of the science of alkalinity and pH, and whether alkaline diets could be followed if you are affected by cancer. alternative health writer published several books about the risks of an ‘acid lifestyle’ 1. His books sold millions worldwide and advised people to follow a restrictive diet, of low carbohydrate foods, ‘liquid detoxes’, ‘numerous supplements’, and switching to ‘alkaline foods’. There was also a worrying suggestion that eating an alkaline diet could be used to treat cancer due to the idea that cancer cells when tested in a lab, thrive in an acid environment 2. However, there is no evidence that humans consuming an alkaline diet can be used for cancer treatment 3


Is following an alkaline diet risky?


As I have mentioned in other blogs following any restrictive diet can be harmful during cancer treatment when it is vital to get the right nutrition to keep your weight stable and obtain all the nutrients your body needs. So yes, the alkaline diet can be harmful not be mention doesn’t work.


There was a very sad case in the UK in January 2017 when a British woman with terminal breast cancer called Naima Houder-Mohammed ‘“paid thousands of dollars for [Robert O Young’s] alkaline treatment, which consisted mainly of intravenous infusions of baking soda”. Unfortunately, very sadly she passed away after a few months of following this treatment. After this in court, it was revealed that Robert O Young was not a medical doctor and he was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison for practicing medicine without a license 1.


This was an extreme case but highlights the importance of checking the facts before making any changes to your diet. It is completely understandable that when you have a cancer diagnosis you may want to try any type of treatment but do scrutinize the information before making any changes my previous blog may help you spot the facts from fiction


Debunking the cancer diet myths is often one of the first steps we do in my programs. It is a safe environment to talk about what you have read and may be thinking of trying, my role is to provide you with the information and facts to keep you safe and healthy whether that is during or after treatment.


If you have some questions about cancer diets do get in touch





References:



3. Fenton & Huang (2017)“Systematic review of the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water, and cancer” (http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010438)


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