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Over the years, I’ve had patients ask me if there’s any truths to claims that an “alkaline diet” could help prevent or treat cancer. Hype, scam or science? Lately, I’ve also seen alkaline water being sold on store shelves. Sound investment or marketing money grab? Here’s what the literature says about alkaline foods. Should you opt out of chemo and turn to alkaline water instead?

First of all, our body does a pretty awesome job at maintaining a stable pH. The term pH is a measure of how acidic or basic the water in our blood is and our body has many different mechanisms to keep pH in a very narrow range, from 7.35-7.45, with an average of 7.40. Unless affected by severe pathological conditions, our blood pH will stay in that normal range and barely ever budge.

Our body has many different mechanisms to maintain a stable pH. Firstly, we breathe out carbon dioxide, which in water, forms carbonic acid. So you could say that breathing attempts to “alkalize” your body. Just holding your breath will cause you to retain carbon dioxide and make your body more acidic. Other protective mechanisms also come into play. Our kidneys can secrete and eliminate H+, or hydrogen ions, which are acidic, and that lowers pH in the urine, and increases it in our blood. They can also recycle bicarbonate (HCO3-) back into our bloodstream, which is a base, and in turn also lowers acidity.

Unless you're suffering from complex medical conditions (diabetic ketoacidosis, renal failure, etc.) leading to excess acids or bases, your pH will remain perfectly normal.