Time and time again I’m asked, “Since I have cancer, should I follow an alkaline diet?” The thought process behind this question is the theory that the food we eat can affect how acidic or alkaline our body is and, therefore, be able to slow or halt cancer growth. The short answer to this is no, but I will explain why. But, oh, how great would that be if it were true!
Some self-proclaimed experts say that cancer tumors favor an acidic environment and, therefore, the logical thing to do would be to change what we eat to prevent cancer growth. Now to separate fact from fiction, yes, tumors do favor an acidic environment, but the food we eat does not create that acidic environment that surrounds the cancer tumor. It is created by the cancer itself, not by the food we eat.
Think back to science class and learning about acid-base balance of the Ph-scale¹ which ranges from 0 to 14, the middle Ph of 7 being neutral. Blood Ph falls within the narrow range of 7.35-7.45 and any deviation from that would have severe life-threatening consequences. Luckily our bodies (starring roles go to kidneys & respiratory system) have a very efficient way to maintain this important homeostasis. Proponents of an alkaline diet test urine Ph which does change based on certain foods, but those changes are normal as our body regulates Ph.
Let’s talk food for a minute – most fruits and vegetables are considered alkaline, so am I in favor of that? Yes! Some acidic foods include white flour, white rice, soda, alcohol and processed foods, so am I in favor of decreasing those in our diet? Yes! Note, meat and dairy fall under the acidic category and by limiting them in your diet, especially lean meats, poultry and low fat dairy, you’re also potentially eliminating protein and lot of other important nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.
One last thing – drinking alkaline water and possibly purchasing special machines to alkalize water (FYI – some machines cost in the range of $4,000) although not harmful, is not something that’s necessary. Again, it’s not going to change your body Ph or stop cancer growth. There is no solid evidence to support this. Lucky for us, our bodies are so efficient at making sure all is functioning properly so we don’t have to work too hard!
¹-BC Cancer Agency – FAQ #2 Alkaline Diet
Oncology Nutrition For Clinical Practice, Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, pg. 63
American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) e.Newsletter, May 2008; Cancer and Acid-Base Balance: Busting the Myth
Robin Foroutan, Food & Nutrition, May-June 2016; Alkaline Diet: Does pH Affect Health and Wellness?
www.eatrightpro.org, The Alkaline Diet – Book Review
Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in oncology and weight management in Long Island and in the New York City area. Wendy is the Nutrition Program Director for Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation, a 501c3. Connect with Wendy on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and read more of her blog posts and download recipes at Food4HealthRD.com