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What is the alkaline diet and what is it supposed to do?

The alkaline diet favors the hiring of “alkaline foods” – such as vegetables, fresh fruit, fruit juices, tubers, nuts and legumes – limiting the “acidic foods“, such as cereals, meats and cheeses; alcohol, carbonated drinks such as cola and very salty foods are also not recommended.

The alkaline diet is based on the consideration that a diet rich in acidic foods ends up disturbing the body's acid-base balance, promoting the loss of essential minerals, such as calcium and magnesium contained in bone.

These alterations would favor the appearance of a mild chronic acidosis, which in turn would be a predisposing factor for some diseases and for a general sense of malaise.

The alkaline diet recommends consuming 70-80% alkaline foods and 20-30% acidic foods every day. This dietary model is significantly closer to the one followed by man until the discovery of agriculture than the current one.

How to tell when an element is acidic?

The acidity of a food is not measured in its fresh state, but on the ashes (minerals) that remain after combustion. These inorganic substances, therefore not metabolisable, can behave like acids or bases, and as such participate in the maintenance of normal organic pH.

Lemon, for example, has a very low pH, linked to the abundant presence of citric acid; it is however considered an alkaline food because its acidic components have an organic nature and as such are easily metabolised by the body and eliminated through breathing, while the basic inorganic ones remain there longer.

The elements that give rise to the formation of acids, decreasing the urinary pH, are sulphur, phosphorus and chlorine, while foods rich in sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are considered alkaline.


An index widely used to evaluate the acidifying or alkalizing characteristics of a food is the so-called PRAL (Potential Renal Acid Load).

Acidity of the organism

Our blood is slightly alkaline and under normal conditions its pH varies between 7.35 and 7.45. The maintenance of these values ​​is given by the subtle balance between production and excretion of alkaline and acidic substances, in which the kidneys and lungs participate above all. The respiratory mechanism eliminates or retains carbonic acid in the form of carbon dioxide, respectively increasing or decreasing blood pH, while the renal mechanism eliminates or retains H+ and buffers.

Regardless of diet, normal metabolism generates enormous quantities of volatile (eliminated through breathing) and fixed (eliminated by the kidney) acids every day. In addition to the homeostatic systems already described, other biological mechanisms called buffer systems intervene, capable of effectively neutralizing part of the acids. Among these, the main one is the carbonic acid/sodium bicarbonate system. It is no coincidence that the latter is sometimes taken by athletes with the aim of buffering the acidosis induced by the anaerobic lactic mechanism and prolonging tolerance to fatigue.

Nor is it a coincidence that during this effort the organism increases pulmonary ventilation with the aim of eliminating the excess of carbon dioxide, and therefore indirectly of hydrogen ions given by the dissociation of carbonic acid.

Metabolic acidosis

Only in extraordinary circumstances can the production of acid metabolites increase to the point of causing acidosis; this happens, for example, during severe anaerobiosis (for example following a cardiovascular collapse), which gives rise to such high quantities of lactic acid as to make the normal homeostatic mechanisms insufficient.

Another cause of acidosis is the so-called ketosis, which occurs following excessive catabolism of lipids and some amino acids; this condition is typical of decompensated diabetes mellitus (diabetic ketoacidosis), but also of prolonged fasting and a diet chronically based on the extreme reduction of carbohydrate intake in favor of fats and proteins (strongly ketogenic).

Symptoms of acute acidosis include lethargy, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, headache, stupor, and coma; Chronic acidosis is accompanied by a greater risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

Metabolic alkalosis

Rarer, but still possible, are conditions of metabolic alkalosis, which are accompanied by cramps, muscle spasms, irritability and hyperexcitability. They are generally due to vomiting or excessive ingestion of alkanes.

Blood pH values ​​lower than 6.8 and higher than 7.82 are not compatible with life.

To know more:
Alkaline diet and health

To know more:
Hydrogen and acidosis: what's true?

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