The pH Diet... Can it re­ally heal canc

Could your chances of get­ting can­cer sim­ply come down to the acid­ity of the food you eat? Here, Jane Alexan­der in­ves­ti­gates the trend for ‘go­ing al­ka­line’

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - BODY & SOUL -

C an you cure can­cer by diet alone? Could it be as sim­ple as chang­ing the pH of your body from acid to al­ka­line? A state­ment fly­ing around the in­ter­net de­clares that ‘Ev­ery sin­gle per­son who has can­cer has a pH that is too acidic.’ It’s at­trib­uted to No­bel Prize win­ner Dr Otto War­burg. whose ar­gu­ment was that can­cer can­not sur­vive in an al­ka­line en­vi­ron­ment and so we should all seek to al­ka­linise our bod­ies.

One web­site goes so far as to say: ‘What you put in your mouth can de­ter­mine life or death. Starve can­cer to death by re­mov­ing acidic food and liq­uids, thereby al­low­ing oxy­gen to re­turn to the cells and the body to re­turn to a nor­mal pH bal­ance.’

Given that peo­ple are at their most vul­ner­a­ble fol­low­ing a di­ag­no­sis of can­cer, the as­sured­ness of this state­ment — and the sug­ges­tion that you are to blame for con­tract­ing can­cer in the first place through your bad diet — is con­cern­ing.

Al­ka­lin­ity is also big busi­ness. There are co­pi­ous books out there telling you how to fol­low an ‘al­ka­line diet’ and many web­sites sell prod­ucts promis­ing to turn your body al­ka­line. At a price, of course. Tempted? There’s just one fly in the oint­ment. War­burg’s ma­jor work on can­cer was writ­ten in 1962 and The Amer­i­can In­sti­tute for Can­cer Re­search re­jected the idea out of hand back in 2008. So why is it still be­ing ad­vo­cated? What is the truth?

‘All can­cer bod­ies are oxy­gen-de­pleted, highly acidic, and thus have a very low pH bal­ance,’ in­sisted Dr War­burg. He be­lieved that can­cer cells main­tain a lower pH (as low as 6.0), due to lac­tic acid pro­duc­tion and el­e­vated lev­els of CO2. He be­lieved there was a firm cor­re­la­tion be­tween pH and oxy­gen. A higher (al­ka­line) pH meant a higher con­cen­tra­tion of oxy­gen molecules while a lower (acidic) pH meant a lower con­cen­tra­tion of oxy­gen.

His ideas have gained wide ac­cep­tance in the world of nat­u­ral medicine. Alla Svirin­skaya, a med­i­cally trained healer and author of En­ergy Se­crets (Hay House) says, ‘ Pay­ing at­ten­tion to the pH of our food re­ally is at the cut­ting edge of nu­tri­tion and I guar­an­tee that the new buzz in eat­ing will no longer be a de­bate about whether you eat carbs or not, or what the GI of your food is — in­stead ev­ery­one will be ask­ing what pH your food is.’

She states that, for op­ti­mum health, the pH of our blood should be 7.4 — in other words, al­ka­line. ‘When the pH of your body shifts too far to the acidic side, you tend to be­come ill. Ex­cess acid ac­cu­mu­lates in your bones and joints. It has been said, “You are not what you eat, but what you ab­sorb.” A sta­ble pH helps you ab­sorb food, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als in an op­ti­mum man­ner. It also will sta­bilise your emo­tions and re­ac­tions, as proven by much re­search.’

Bharti Vyas, author of The pH Bal­ance Diet (Amorata Press) agrees: ‘All the food we eat ‘burns’ with oxy­gen in our cells to pro­duce en­ergy — our fuel,’ she says. ‘This di­ges­tion process gen­er­ates an in­ter­nal ‘ash’ that is acidic, al­ka­line or neu­tral. When acidic residue ac­cu­mu­lates in­ter­nally, it slows the body down, caus­ing low en­ergy, poor health and weight prob­lems.’ She goes on to say that, ‘If you’re reg­u­larly eat­ing too many acid-form­ing foods, you will be more vul­ner­a­ble to in­fec­tion — from can­dida to fre­quent colds and flu… you are likely to have many mi­nor, and some not so mi­nor, symp­toms.’

How­ever de­trac­tors say the the­ory makes no sense at all. Dr Gabe Mirkin, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Ge­orge­town Univer­sity School of Medicine and author of sev­eral books on fit­ness and nu­tri­tion,

pours scorn on the idea. ‘No foods change the acid­ity of any­thing in your body ex­cept your urine,’ he says. ‘Your stom­ach is so acidic that no food can change its acid­ity. An en­tire bot­tle of cal­cium pills or antacids would not change the acid­ity of your stom­ach for more than a few min­utes.’

All foods that leave your stom­ach are ren­dered acidic. Then they en­ter the in­testines where se­cre­tions from the pan­creas neu­tralise the stom­ach acids. ‘So no mat­ter what you eat, the food in the stom­ach is acidic and the food in the in­testines is al­ka­line,’ con­tin­ues Mirkin. ‘You can­not change the acid­ity of any part of your body ex­cept your urine. Your blood­stream and or­gans con­trol acid­ity in a very nar­row range. Any­thing that changed acid­ity in your body would make you very sick and could even kill you.’

So can we con­fi­dently dis­miss the idea and re­turn to eat­ing what­ever we wish? It seems not. Kevin O’Ha­gan, Health Pro­mo­tion Man­ager for the Ir­ish Can­cer So­ci­ety, is keen to point out that diet is im­por­tant, both for gen­eral health and fol­low­ing a can­cer di­ag­no­sis. ‘Diet can help re­duce the risk of can­cer and it can also help you get back on track af­ter a can­cer di­ag­no­sis,’ he says. ‘Our sim­ple ad­vice to the gen­eral pub­lic and can­cer sur­vivors is to eat a healthy diet, be phys­i­cally ac­tive and main­tain a healthy weight.’

But what about the al­ka­line diet? ‘Stud­ies are not con­clu­sive in this mat­ter,’ he says. ‘More con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence is re­quired be­fore we can rec­om­mend this par­tic­u­lar diet.’

Nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist Lowri Turner, author of The S- Fac­tor Diet ( Dun­can Baird) is equally cau­tious. ‘I think a dose of healthy scep­ti­cism is wise — par­tic­u­larly when deal­ing with can­cer,’ she says. ‘No rep­utable com­ple­men­tary ther­a­pist would ever sug­gest aban­don­ing con­ven­tional can­cer treat­ment for di­etary changes, al­though they can be a use­ful ad­junct.’

‘I don’t think the peer-re­viewed re­search has es­tab­lished a link be­tween an acidic diet and can­cer,’ she con­tin­ues. ‘How­ever, there is a grow­ing be­lief that our mod­ern acidic diet — high in meat and grains and dairy — may cause in­flam­ma­tion in the body and this is now be­lieved to be at the root of many ill­nesses. What we do know is that ‘life­style fac­tors’ are a con­trib­u­tory cause to many ill­nesses, in­clud­ing can­cer. An un­healthy diet — one high in pro­cessed meats, high-fat foods, sugar and dairy and al­co­hol — may be a fac­tor in many dis­eases.’

So it seems we shouldn’t be too hasty. By dis­miss­ing the al­ka­line diet al­to­gether, we could just be throw­ing the baby out with the bath­wa­ter. There’s no doubt that fret­ting over the pre­cise pH of your food could be an ad­di­tional worry when you’re al­ready un­der stress from a can­cer di­ag­no­sis — but all the ex­perts agree that, if you want to pre­vent can­cer or kick it into touch, then it re­ally is worth eat­ing the most healthy foods you can.

In­ter­est­ingly, those just may co­in­cide with what’s ad­vo­cated in the al­ka­line diet.

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