The regulation of your body's pH after consuming acid-forming foods is a very complex process that starts in the digestive system, where the pH potential of food has a direct, instant impact on the ratio of hydrochloric acid and sodium bicarbonate produced in the stomach during the first stage of digestion. If you bombard your body with acid-forming foods (sugar, grains, meat, dairy, alcohol, chemicals, hydrogenated fats and trans fats), you enter a state known by the medical community as diet-induced acidosis, also called low-grade acidosis or chronic metabolic acidosis.
In the past 80-plus years, medical science has proven a clear link between an acidic diet and the incidence of cancer. In one recent study, researchers from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences analyzed data from 43,570 women between the ages of 35 and 74, and found that diet-induced acidosis was a significant risk factor for invasive breast cancer.1
In another investigation, researchers analyzed the records of over 30,000 adults who underwent a health screening between January 2001 and December 2010 and found that those with the lowest (most acidic) urine pH had a higher risk of death from cancer—along with cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality—than those with the highest (most alkaline) urine pH.2
Thousands of studies have shown the protective anticancer effect of consuming a diet rich in alkaline vegetables and fruits. In April 2017, a meta-analysis of data from more than 10,000 individuals found that the higher the participant's vegetable consumption, the lower their risk of kidney cancer.3
But it's important to understand that eating alkaline won't make your whole body 'turn alkaline' and kill the cancer cells. When you eat alkaline, you are giving your body an abundance of nutrients to support its ability to maintain homeostasis, and within that balance, it will increase its ability to prevent cancer.4
One of the main causes of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is diet-induced acidosis. A 2017 study investigating more than 90,000 individuals found that those with a higher net dietary acid load had a higher risk of death from any cause, and particularly from CVD.5 These results confirm the findings of Korean researchers who, in 2015, looked at the health screening results of 31,590 adults and found a correlation between acidosis and the risk of death from CVD.2
Acidosis also completely messes with two hormones that are vital for weight loss—leptin and adiponectin. Leptin is responsible for sending a message to the brain that it's time to stop eating. According to the findings of a 2003 Swiss study, acidosis significantly decreased leptin levels in fat cells.6 If leptin is suppressed, you are more likely to feel hungry all the time.
Just as important is adiponectin, the hormone that tells your body to burn fat for fuel. In a 2010 study, Thai researchers simulated acidosis in participants over seven days and found that their levels of circulating adiponectin were significantly decreased.7 In effect, the subjects were burning less fat for fuel after only a week of high acid intake.
Diet-induced acidosis also causes chronically elevated cortisol, which can trigger inflammation, stress the adrenals and imbalance the gut bacteria, all of which are heavily involved in fat cell formation, weight gain and an inability to lose weight.
By increasing cortisol levels, acidosis can also promote insulin resistance, causing an increased risk of a huge number of metabolic diseases.8
Due to the detrimental effect of diet-induced acidosis on thyroid function,9 an acidic diet can have serious effects on our body's ability to regulate other cancer-fighting hormones such as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is essential for protecting against prostate, colorectal and breast cancer.
If acidity, inflammation and oxidative stress are the root cause of any health challenge, it's not surprising that the solution to practically every condition is their opposite: alkalinity, anti-inflammation and antioxidation (or what I call 'triple-A').
Simple alkaline oats
Makes 2 servings
½ to 1 cup oats (45-90 g, depending on how hungry you are)
1 to 2 cups (240 to 480 mL) filtered water (depending on the amount of oats you prepare)
1 tsp chia seeds
Splash of nut milk
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
Dollop of coconut or nondairy yogurt
1 handful of mixed nuts and seeds
Berries of your choice, optional
1) Bring the oats and water (not milk) to a simmer in a pan, amd then add the chia seeds. Cook until the mixture is a touch too dry for your liking, then stir in a splash or two of the nut milk. (I love coconut milk, but any nondairy milk is fine.)
2) Remove the oats from the heat and stir in the coconut oil, cinnamon and a dollop of nondairy yogurt. Top with the nuts and seeds and then finish with blueberries or strawberries, if desired. (I recommend keeping your fructose intake down to 1 or 2 servings of in-season fruit per day.)
Soothing gut-healing soup
Makes 2 servings
1 cup dry lentils (200 g, or one 15-oz [425 g] can, drained and rinsed)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup (240 mL) organic low-sodium vegetable stock
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large handful of spinach
2 tablespoons dill, chopped, plus sprigs for garnish
1 handful of cashews, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil
1) Prepare the lentils according to the package instructions and set aside. (This is the longest step and may take up to 30 minutes.)
2) Gently warm the garlic and onion in coconut oil in a large pot for 3 minutes until browned.
3) Add the sweet potato and carrots. Stir until evenly coated and the flavors come together, about 2 to 4 minutes.
Add the stock and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are warmed through but not overcooked to retain as many nutrients as possible.
4) Add the lentils. Cook for another 5 minutes.
5) Either transfer the mixture to a blender in batches or use an immersion blender to blend the contents in the pot. Add the avocado, pepper, spinach and dill and blend.
6) Garnish with a few springs of dill and cashews. Serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil on top.