Is there any benefit to an alkaline diet for Fibromyalgia?
Living with Fibromyalgia, I am always receiving “good-intentioned, loving” advice, “you should eat that, you shouldn’t eat that”. So, I decided to investigate the benefits of an alkaline diet for Fibromyalgia.
The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance to improve overall health. According to Webmd.com, your pH is the measure of exactly how acidic or alkaline you are. A pH of 0 is completely acidic, and a pH of 14 is completely alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral.
What exactly does pH stand for???? So, to not get too scientific, the simple explanation is, “pH is the negative log of hydrogen ion concentration in a water-based solution. ”
Am I the only one confused?
What is confusing is that the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet. Unlike the pH level in the urine, a selectively alkaline diet has not been shown to elicit a sustained change in blood pH levels, or to provide the clinical benefits claimed by its proponents. Because of the body’s natural regulatory mechanisms, which do not require a special diet to work, eating an alkaline diet can, at most, change the blood pH minimally and transiently.
What is even more puzzling is you don’t just have one pH level. The stomach has a pH ranging from 1.35-3.5. It must be acidic to aid in digestion, but the blood must always be slightly alkaline with a pH of 7.35 to 7.45.
What does it mean to alkalize?
A 2012 report, published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, reviewed the published studies and basically drew mixed conclusions. The bottom line: the key benefits of an alkaline diet seem to stem from guidelines you’ve already heard a million times—eat more fruits, veggies, and plants, cut back or cut out sugar and processed foods, and slash your sodium intake.
When people encourage you to “alkalize”, most of them mean that you should eat plenty of foods that have an alkaline-forming effect on your body. The reason for making this suggestion is that the vast majority of highly processed foods – like white flour products and white sugar – have an acid-forming effect on your system, and if you spend years eating a poor diet that is mainly acid-forming, you will overwork some of the buffering systems that keep your body in the healthy 7.35 -7.45 range. Below this point, you could create undesirable changes in your health.
Your health is best served by a good mix of nutrient-dense, alkaline and acid-forming foods; ideally, you want to eat more alkaline-forming foods than acid-forming foods to have the net acid and alkaline-forming effects of your diet match the slightly alkaline pH of your blood. If you’re eating mainly grains, flour products, animal foods, and washing these foods down with coffee, soda, and milk, you will certainly improve your health by replacing some of your food and beverage choices with fresh vegetables and fruits.
Fibromyalgia and the alkaline diet
A naturopathic doctor will tell you that your body is probably too acidic and explain to you the importance of being alkaline. Our bodies are meant to be alkaline, and our highly acidic diets put stress on our systems. They tell us that when eating foods that create acid in the body, most of the toxic waste is eliminated from the body by the bladder and bowels and some is eliminated by breathing and through the skin. However, some of the waste is stored in protective fat cells, and some is absorbed into the blood stream and carried throughout the body.
According to Deidra Rawlings, N.D., a naturopath and author of Foods that Help Win the Battle Against Fibromyalgia, “What we eat provides the body with what it uses to build cells, tissue and organs, Getting the right nutrients is important to alleviating symptoms of FMS. A good fibromyalgia diet high in alkaline-forming foods (mostly raw fruits and vegetables) can reduce inflammation. Eating too many acid-forming foods, such as butter and bread, can lead to migraines, diarrhea and fatigue,” says Rawlings.
The key, then, is to eat an alkaline diet and drink alkaline ionized water, for fibromyalgia as well as for almost any disease.
Weight Loss with an Alkaline Diet
It would make sense that a diet comprised mostly of fruits and vegetables would assist in weight loss, something that will help to alleviate pressure on the joints when living with Fibromyalgia and Arthritis.
A recent study found that older adults who consumed more foods that are metabolized into alkaline residues (mainly fruits and vegetables), and fewer foods that are metabolized into acidic residues (mainly proteins and refined grains), hung onto more muscle mass. The effect was nearly enough to offset the 4.4 pounds of lean tissue that older adults typically lose per decade.
Alkaline Diet Foods
Because the alkaline diet is more a theory than a program, there is no on accepted structure. The lists of foods that are alkaline versus acidic are not predictive.
For example, lemons and apple cider vinegar, which are acidic in nature, are listed as alkaline, due to how they are metabolized in the body.
Also, the acid-forming list includes some other healthy foods, such as cranberries, pomegranate, chickpeas, walnuts, and tea. To be fair, while these foods aren’t entirely off limits, I question the need to ration them.
Also, in searching online, I found several versions of the alkaline/acidic charts, some with the same exact food listed in both categories. Others break foods down into sub categories, like extremely, moderately, or slightly alkaline or acidic.
Finally, some advocates recommend a 60/40 alkaline/acid ratio, others 80/20, and portion guidelines vary. Here are some examples of foods you can eat on the alkaline diet: edamame, artichokes, broccoli, almonds, coconut oil, and kale. (Cynthia Sass, Published January 22, 2013Health.com.)
***I also want to point out that my favorite food, wild blue-green algae is alkaline and is so easy to add to an alkaline diet. I welcome you to read my story about the changes to my life since I was introduced to this amazing food in 1993!
Checking your pH level
The easiest way to check you pH level is first thing in the morning using a pH strip. To be more exact, measure one hour before the meal or two hours after the meal. The strips can be purchased at most pharmacies. The pH will be lower in the morning and higher in the evening due to normal or abnormal eating habits. The urine strips measure the pH between 4.0 and 9.0.
Be Cautious when starting a new diet program
Because the alkaline diet promotes excluding certain families of foods, it has been recommended that patients with a history of kidney disorders or other medical conditions that require frequent physician monitoring, such as diabetes mellitus, should not attempt this diet without physician supervision as you can run the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Any changes in diet should be discussed with a physician, and regular monitoring is necessary to ensure health choices are in your best interest.
So, I think the alkaline diet benefits for Fibromyalgia are what we have been told all along— just including the foods that make up a healthy eating plan: fruits and vegetables and drinking water in place of the unhealthy sugar and refined carbs. The weight loss is an extra benefit!
Photo credit: (1) http://tinyurl.com/kxasq9j (2) http://tinyurl.com/lg9klcd
Let me know your thoughts!
Today, besides being an active grandmother, I am a volunteer with several community organizations, and I love spreading the word of this amazing super food, wild blue-green algae, which will always fit into a natural, alkaline diet plan.