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assorted vegetables

Acid and Alkaline Diets:

What are they used for?


Throughout history, both modern medical practitioners and traditional healers have used the acid-base balance of foods in the treatment and prevention of various adverse health conditions. At one time it was common practice for doctors to recommend an acidic diet for the prevention of bladder infections, as the bacteria that often cause the infections tend to thrive in an alkaline environment. This practice of urine pH manipulation through dietary intervention fell out of favor with the advent of modern day antibiotics. This advice may once again become popular as concerns regarding the overuse of antibiotics continues to rise, and as holistic, nondrug solutions to common health problems continue to gain in popularity.

In Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine, an excess of acid in the body related to having certain body type known as a "pitta dosha". Even though they didn't have terms for things like pH and hydrogen ions, evidently Ayurvedic healers did seem to have an understanding of the basic underlying principles of acidity and alkalinity. The Ayurvedic cures for an acid stomach included increasing consumption of raw fruits and vegetables, which we know today to be alkaline forming foods.

Low acid or low alkaline diets may also be recommended in the prevention and treatment of certain types of kidney stones. Some types of stones are more easily formed in an acidic environment and some in an alkaline environment. Calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and magnesium phosphate stones develop in alkaline urine. For these types of stone a more acid forming diet is generally recommended. Uric acid and cystine stones are more likely to form in acidic urine. For people with these types of stones, doctors are likely to prescribe a more alkaline diet.

In animals, an alkaline diet has been successfully used to prevent bone deterioration and stress fractures.

A very interesting and well referenced paper called "Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century" , from the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that the benefits of a net base (alkaline producing diet) included preventing and treating osteoporosis, age-related muscle wasting, calcium kidney stones, hypertension, and exercise-induced asthma and slow the progression of age- and disease-related chronic renal insufficiency. The authors felt that relatively modern foods such as cereals grains, refined sugar and other energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods contributed to a low grade metabolic acidosis among the population that is a major factor in many modern diseases.

Holistic doctors often recommend diet changes to prevent or treat acidosis or alkalosis, however mainstream medical practitioners often prefer to use drugs instead of nutritional therapy to treat these conditions.

 

Links:

Acid and Alkaline Diet Tips

Sources

1. Haas, Elson, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Celestial Arts, Berkeley, California, 1992.

2. Balch, James F. and Phyllis A., Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Third Edition, Avery, New York. 2000

3. Riond JL., "Animal nutrition and acid-base balance", European Journal of Nutrition, 2001 Oct;40(5):245-54.

4. Cordain, L. et al. "Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century", American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 81, No. 2, 341-354, February 2005

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