The New Alkaline Diet: Ian Blair Hamilton
The concept of an alkaline diet has been around for many years. Fundamentally it suggests that we increase consumption of alkalising foods and reduce our consumption of acidifying foods. There are many charts and sites on the web saying basically the same.
So why hasn't the theory become mainstream?
My theory is that any 'diet' is only as good as
(a) its promoter and
(b) its ease of following.
And frankly, an alkaline diet isn't easy to follow. Think 'Popeye' and you get the general idea.
I have been studying alkaline diet theory for over a decade. I've read and followed every website, book, diet and strategy I could find. I can say that just under age 65, I'm very healthy and that decade – one in which I saw many of my old friends ageing rapidly – has seen less age-related change in me than any friend I know. So in one sense it has worked- for me at least.
But I need to be very honest here. I don't follow the alkaline diet conscientiously. In those ten years I did eat mountains of fruit, (acid in the form of fructose) bread (acid in the form of carbohydrates) and yes, meats (acid in the form of protein). So although I can point to my alkaline diet as a contributing factor to my present wellbeing, a skilled debater could equally argue that I am well because of the fruit, the bread and the meat... of yes, I forgot the wine and coffee!
In that decade I have also closely observed hundreds of people attempting the alkaline diet, and I have yet to see one who can honestly say he or she adheres to it.
There is another important factor which I will expand on later. In those ten years I have constantly consumed alkaline ionized antioxidant water. It's my firm belief that the antioxidant effect of this water may have been the deciding factor in how I have resisted ageing when my friends have not.
My partner Cassie has seen her health improve over the ten years on our version of the 'alkaline diet' and alkaline ionized water, but she never reached good health. She has been plagued with recurrent Irritable Bowel Syndrome since I knew her, and candida albicans rears its ugly, painful hydra-head every time she loses ground with her struggle with IBS. In her efforts towards health she has become an amazing researcher and has tried almost everything to heal her stomach and lower bowel permanently. She would have long periods of relative health, usually coinciding with close control over her diet, then stress, or a breakout with my on a special occasion would send her back again into pain, constipation and more.
So we can say that our alkaline diet helped us 'clean up' the foods we chose, but can we say it gave
us radiant health? No, we can't.
In my profession as alkaline consultant I saw many cases like ours, and with the maturity one only gains from hard experience, slowly gave up on the idea that one health regimen works for everyone.
Sandra's Alkaline DietI particularly remember Sandra, a qualified nutritionist, who came to us when we conducted our own trial of the effect of alkaline ionized water on people with arthritis, gout or rheumatism. Sandra was plagued with pain in her arms and joints, and had strictly followed the alkaline diet to no avail. She enrolled in our trial out of utter desperation.
30 days later, drinking alkaline ionized water daily, her pain had gone. (Here's a video of her discussing it at AlkaWay). This was not an isolated case. I saw dozens of different reactions to the alkaline diet, which finally made me accept that everyone is an individual with complex and varied reasons for ill health, so to say that any modality will fix them was.. well.. in my case.. amateurish enthusiasm. Of course, I saw many, many amazing health changes that I believe was the water; I'm simply more careful about what I attribute healing to these days.
The Alkaline Diet ExplainedBefore we give up on the alkaline diet, let's do a quick recap, because many people have real misconceptions about what it is.
Our body needs reserves of both acids and alkalis. Acids come in the form of the vast majority of foods and are almost completely burned up during metabolism to give us energy. Alkalis are in some foods in very minute amounts, as inorganic minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium (some others to a lesser degree).
Here is where people get confused. We are not trying to eat more alkaline foods than acid foods (foods containing, on balance, more of one than the other). We are attempting to do two things:
- Reduce our intake of acid-containing foods – simply because most of us don't need so much and because what we don't metabolise turns into metabolic acid and is stored in the body.
- Increase the intake of foods that, after metabolism, leave us with more alkaline minerals to support the alkaline buffer in our blood and to repair and regenerate our skeleton.
The LemonThe classic example every alkaline diet advocate refers to is the lemon. Stick a pH test probe into a lemon and you'll see it is strongly acidic. But drink lemon juice (also highly acidic) and your body will burn up the acids in energy creation but leave the alkaline minerals in what some people call 'alkaline ash'. This alkaline residue forms the basis of your body's body building, anti-inflammation program, immunity and much, much more.
I originally designed our own alkaline food chart as a wall chart and it's still available in this form, but I realised that if people are serious they need more. That's why we began stocking The Acid Alkaline Food Guide. It's very popular, but as I mentioned, I am yet to see many people really strictly adhering to it. Like every diet, it's great on paper and reduces in possible effect the more we 'cheat'.
Imminent death sometimes works.If there is one thing I have learned about diets, it's that unless faced with imminent death, everyone cheats. Most will deny they are cheating to your face, which, after some probing, I realised was caused by actual unconsciousness of binge eating. Diet scientists are already aware of this and many a clinical trial is flawed to the core by cheating participants who lie.
In June 2010, Cassie was once again affected by serious candida. She had done the diets, tried every darn probiotic yet invented.. she had even spent a very large sum at the famous centre For Digestive Diseases where she had healthy faecal matter with its own new internal micobia introduced to her cleansed bowel. Radical, yes, but it does work for many people. However, $5000 later it had no effect on her.
I mention this only to let you see that she was very, very determined to get well. One day she came across a site called healingnaturallybybee.com. Bee is a 70-year old lady who had suffered for many years just as Cassie had. Like Cassie she had embarked on a search for answers. What she discovered attracts over a million visits per month and she advocates what seems to be a very 'non-alkaline' diet that challenges the whole diet industry.
She says that candida is a natural response to an unnatural diet, namely carbohydrates The body, says Bee, had to use what it had to try to maintain a healthy balance against the massive excesses of carbohydrates in the modern diet. In its infinite wisdom, it lets candida loose on the carbohydrates, gobbling and chomping away, and of course, breeding up in the process.
Stop consuming carbohydrates, says Bee, and you will eventually return candida to its correct balance in the body. And what does carbohydrates include?
Bread. Fruit. Even some vegetables, especially root vegetables. Wine. Beer, all grains and anything made with grains.
The one no-one needs reminding about is sugar. Sugar, fructose, galactose, maltose, glucose.. they are all sugar, and there are lots more on the list. Carbohydrates from the short list above also break down in the body to sugar. Sugar is also acid. It's the 'daddy' of all acids. Powerful and potent, it invades us and changes some very basic and important functions of the body.
So if you are serious about an alkaline diet, let's see how serious you are by reducing everything from that list above to as close to zero as possible.
If you do, you'll be massively changing the balance of acids and alkalis in your body, not by increasing the spinach or kale you eat, but by adjusting at the other end; at the acid end of the seesaw.
Open any textbook on diet and you'll see written in some advice to balance your intake between carbohydrates, proteins and fats, with the advice to reduce fats as much as possible. Carbs, we are told, are an ideal source of long term energy release with no ill effects. Yet let's take a quick look at the biggest carbohydrate eaters on the planet: USA. America's diet is killing them. They have epidemic diabetes, epidemic obesity, cancer, underwritten by an almost manic hunger that is never satisfied. Low fat is the biggest failure in dietary history – as again, seen in America.
Fats, of course, are lipids, and lipids are acids. Fats are the bad kids on the block, and everyone 'knows' that they are bad. So what could fats tell us if allowed to speak for themselves? Perhaps they would say:
- I am the most efficient energy source you consume.
- I am your heart's primary food.
- I am what every cell wall in your body consists of.
- I regulate your hormonal system.
- I can make you feel full without eating massive amounts of carbohydrates.
- I raise your good cholesterol level.
Of course, in the family of bad kids on the block, there really are some bad ones. All polyunsaturated oils taken away from their natural source, certain mono-unsaturated oils as sold in your supermarket, like Canola, and yes, there are more.
The good kids include all animal fat, butter, uncooked olive oil and coconut oil.
"What!?" I hear you cry. Animal fat? Yes, animal fat.
Here's the simple truth. We can get everything we need for energy from the good fats. They convert to energy more cleanly, (less processing and stress on the liver, less strain on the gall bladder) they convert more fully, they only convert to sugars when needed, and.. wonder of wonders, they satisfy your hunger in a way carbohydrates will never do, which makes them better weight reduction participants than all carbohydrates and sugars.
So.. why do we all believe that fats are bad?There's a huge backstory here and no-one explains it better than Gary Taube, scientist and writer of Good Calories, Bad Calories. Gary has singlehandedly dismembered the research on fats and carbohydrates. He has challenged flawed, paid papers that have been presented to us as truth with the help of corporate America (Big Food) and if you check his blog you'll see what happens to people with the courage to challenge the dominant paradigm. There are others in increasing numbers, all with the same message.
Cut out carbohydrates as much as humanly possible. Substitute fats. Stay on the diet and see the effect.
I'm sure you've noticed by now that a fat loaded diet actually substitutes one form of acids (lipids) for the other (sugars). But because carbohydrates are the antagonist, the cause of so much illness including but far beyond diabetes and candida, and because there is no denying that we need acids to convert to energy, our choice between the two forms of acids is a critical one. By switching from carbohydrates to fats, we 'clean up' our acids and burn them far more efficiently. And now we can support our acid/alkaline balance as we had planned to, with dark leafy greens, green drinks and alkaline ionised water.
The problem I had in accepting that fats were the good kids on the block was centred on my acceptance of the dominant paradigm - a stunning example of cognitive dissonance. I've written in some detail about the campaign by Monsanto in the US to stop the consumption of dairy and coconut oils. It's stunning to learn that such a huge change from saturated fats to polyunsaturated fats was a cleverly managed PR exercise with millions and millions of dollars as the reward for participating companies. But it's even harder to actually give up the fear that their campaign has instilled into us through repetition over the years.
On her website, Bee counsels that the only way back to health from candida overgrowth is total abstinence from carbohydrates. It's fascinating to watch correspondents on her bulletin board attempt to bargain with her, using every possible reason to keep hold of their 'little treats'. I have observed for many years that sugar is seriously addictive, and so it's common to hear dieters on her site talk about detox, or the serious mental blockages they see in themselves as they begin to 'clean up'. Bee says that you need to be on her diet for a month for every year you have been sick. She stresses over and over that although she calls it Bee's Candida Diet, it is actually a diet for everyone.
Bee's site carries many, many stories of radical health improvements. What she doesn't offer is scientific proof, but as mentioned before, Gary Taubes' book fulfils this area more than adequately. I will offer one recent scientific study of mice that gives you an idea of what we are talking about here.
At the British Columbia Cancer Research Centre, scientists implanted various strains of mice with human tumour cells or with mouse tumour cells and assigned them to one of two diets.
The first diet, a typical Western diet, contained about 55 percent carbohydrate, 23 percent protein and 22 percent fat. The second contained 15 percent carbohydrate, 58 percent protein and 26 percent fat. They found that the tumor cells grew consistently slower on the second diet.
There's more. Mice genetically predisposed to breast cancer were fed the same diets and almost half of them on the Western diet developed breast cancer within their first year of life while none on the low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet did. See it here.
Only one on the Western diet reached a normal life span (approximately 2 years), with 70 percent of them dying from cancer.
Only 30 percent of those on the low-carbohydrate diet developed cancer and more than half these mice reached or exceeded their normal life span.
For those of you interested, Dr Jay Wortman has also worked with indigenous populations using similar principles and has even made a video of it. He also has a blog that documents his own progress but also some of the resistance he finds to his newfound knowledge.
I was lucky. Living with Cassie, who worked very hard to remain strictly carbohydrate free, I supported her and did the same. She had more negative symptoms to begin with, I didn't, but I was very surprised to see the one health challenge I have – Benign hyperplasia of the Prostate – improve dramatically over six months of diet. Cassie also experienced better and better 'gut' health. We continued to drink our alkaline water and continued to eat our dark leafy greens. We saved pots of money by giving up the local carbo-crazy restaurants, choosing to cook wonderful home meals. We both experienced an almost magical increase in the enjoyment of the food we ate, combined with satiety – being 'full' on less food.
Prostate cancer is, as we all know, far too common in men of my age, so one wonders why, when a study of mice bred for prostate cancer showed a slowing in tumour growth, a followup human study was not begun. Perhaps it was because getting a man of my age to drop his 'little pleasures' just seemed to hard.
In line with my earlier observations, our close friends who had had long term health problems saw how well we were doing and asked what had happened. We passed on the diet, they began it, began to get well, and when we moved overseas, gave in to carbohydrate temptation. One is now suffering from CFS, another is undergoing another soul-searching rationalisation for her ill health, and the other, as always, lies about her 'treats' and at the same time complains that diets didn't work.
I can't judge them. The diet seems difficult when we look at it from our toxic carbohydrate-addicted mind, but once we began, supported by our alkaline staples, a whole new way of looking at food emerged. We loved our food because we really, really tasted it!
I would burst out in rapture at a mouthful. Cassie would moan in ecstasy over a simple dish.
Because I have now experienced how good it can be, I am looking from a new mind/body vantage point, and absolutely understand why my dear friends can't seem to stay on the diet. We are all addicted to carbohydrates! Sugar hair-triggers the insulin response in our blood because we never stop snacking on a 'little something sweet'. Our adrenals wear out, shrieking with panic as yet another massive dose of acidic sugar dumps on our system like a dumptruck in our driveway. And yet, like the drug addict, we rationalise it away as our 'right to choose', or 'what keeps me stress-free' or 'that's just how it is, what can I do?'.
Some attempts have been made to study humans on low carbohydrate. Here's a link to a crazy German study of totally desperate cancer patients. The only people allowed to be enrolled were those people who had completely run out of options; virtually at deaths' door. They also used some suspect 'bad kid on the block' oils including hempseed and linseed as fat sources, plus soy protein as well as animal protein. In short, the study is so mixed up one wonders what they would achieve or how they would interpret those results.
The good news is that for five patients who were able to endure three months of carbohydrate-free eating, the results were positive: the patients stayed alive, their physical condition stabilized or improved and their tumours slowed or stopped growing, or shrunk.
This 'new alkaline diet' isn't really new. We still advocate all of the good greens, but we do NOT advocate fructose-ladenfruit. The big change is from carbohydrates to fats. Our greens and our alkaline water support our good fats as they re-energise the body and heal our sugar-drug habit. We drink alkaline ionised water because we have learned that many of our alkaline foods actually bind essential calcium, thus making it eaten but unavailable. Alkaline ionized water gives us those essential alkaline minerals plus an abundance of antioxidants in the form of free hydrogen, supporting our body's regeneration, immunity and self-healing.
There is ample documented scientific evidence in the form of peer reviewed studies that show the beneficial effect of drinking alkaline water. So we cover all bases with the new 'Acid and Alkaline Diet'- good acids in the form of good fats, good alkalinity in the form of dark greens and alkaline water.
But what about protein? Doesn't protein up the levels of uric acid, and isn't uric acid the cause – or one of the causes – of gout? Gary Taubes had to drop a chapter from his book 'Good Protein Bad Protein' because of the size of his work, and he recently released this missing chapter here. To quote (in part):
"Because uric acid itself is a breakdown product of protein compounds known as purines – the building blocks of amino acids – and because purines are at their highest concentration in meat, it has been assumed for the past 130-odd years that the primary dietary means of elevating uric acid levels in the blood, and so causing first hyperuricemia and then gout, is an excess of meat consumption.
The actual evidence, however, has always been less-than-compelling: Just as low cholesterol diets have only a trivial effect on serum cholesterol levels, for instance, and low-salt diets have a clinically insignificant effect on blood pressure, low-purine diets have a negligible effect on uric acid levels. A nearly vegetarian diet, for instance, is likely to drop serum uric acid levels by 10 to 15% percent compared to a typical American diet, but that's rarely sufficient to return high uric acid levels to normality, and there is little evidence that such diets reliably reduce the incidence of gouty attacks in those afflicted.(4) Thus, purine-free diets are no longer prescribed for the treatment of gout, as the gout specialist Irving Fox noted in 1984, "because of their ineffectiveness" and their "minor influence" on uric acid levels.(5) Moreover, the incident of gout in vegetarians, or mostly vegetarians, has always been significant and "much higher than is generally assumed." (One mid-century estimate, for instance, put the incidence of gout in India among "largely vegetarians and teetotalers" at 7%.)(6) Finally, there's the repeated observation that eating more protein increases the excretion of uric acid from the kidney and, by doing so, decreases the level of uric acid in the blood.(7) This implies that the meat-gout hypothesis is at best debatable; the high protein content of meats should be beneficial, even if the purines are not."
So it appears that protein in the form of meat may not be the problem we as alkaline diet advocates thought it was. A former 12-year vegetarian, I now eat more meat than ever before, along with a large supplement of coconut oil which reversed my early onset Alzheimers' symptoms. Having said that. I eat less meat per meal than I may have done earlier in my life because, simply, I'm not as hungry as I was on a carbohydrate-dominant diet.
Judging on past experience, I expect a strong resistance to the idea that we can be healthier eating meat, fat and dark greens than a balanced carbohydrate diet. I'm not interested in arguing it out because I have done the work and with Cassie's help, satisfied myself that this new paradigm is a radical new method of dietary acid/alkaline balance, rather than the original concept of swinging to alkaline away from acids.
However.. I will answer questions about it on my blog (see below).
Written By Ian Blair Hamilton (AlkaWay/Ion life Founder)