In the past, I tended to discount the idea that what you eat or drink has much influence on your body’s pH, or acid-alkaline balance, since your body so tightly regulates it. Your blood pH tends to stay in a relatively narrow range, because your body actually takes minerals like calcium from your bones to buffer, or alkalinize, the blood. That’s why an acidic diet weakens bones. But could an acidic diet contribute to other health problems? I was skeptical about that.
Then I read that that researchers at the University of Arizona have received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effect of baking soda–yes, simple, cheap, acid-neutralizing baking soda–on the progression of breast cancer, particularly triple-negative breast cancer, a kind that is hard to treat with hormone-suppressing therapies. I was even more intrigued when I found that, in animal studies, baking soda has proven helpful in reducing the spread of breast and prostate cancer to the lungs, brain, and bone. I interviewed three of the main U.S. researchers in this area, Robert Gillies, Ph.D., at the Moffitt Cancer Treatment Center, in Tampa, and Mark Pagel, Ph.D., and Ian Robey, Ph.D., both at the Arizona Cancer Center, in Tucson. Here is what I found out.
Cancer tumors are very metabolically active, and produce lactic acid, the same stuff that makes your muscles burn when you use them hard. So the cells in tumors and the tissue around tumors are acidic compared to the rest of your body. This acid destroys surrounding tissue, which allows the tumor to grow, invade surrounding areas, promote angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) and allows cancer cells to metastasize–to travel through the bloodstream to other areas of the body and form new tumors.
Baking soda is the opposite of acid–it is alkaline and can neutralize acid. If you consume enough of it, baking soda increases your body’s buffering capacity, which allows it to neutralize acidity around a tumor and reduce its capacity to spread. At least, that’s the theory. That’s what researchers will try to find out, along with other things, like safe but effective dosages and how best to measure a tumor’s pH, which can vary.
Those research findings won’t be available for some time, and we don’t recommend using baking soda without medical supervision. It’s too easy to overdo it. The safest way to make your body less acidic and more alkaline is to change how you eat, these experts say. An alkaline diet limits high-protein foods (meat, eggs, cheese) sugar, salt, soda, alcohol, and caffeine, and includes lots of vegetables and fruits. It follows the basic principles of a plant-based diet.
By Gale Maleskey, MS, RD
Twin Ponds Integrative Health Center offers a:
FOUR-WEEK PROGRAM IN PLANT-BASED NUTRITION taught by Hilary Smith, RN, Certified in Whole Plant-Based Foods from eCornell University.
In addition, if you’d like PERSONALIZED NUTRITION COUNSELING to help your body fight cancer, reverse bone loss or reduce inflammation, please call Twin Ponds Center and ask for an appointment with me–Gale Maleskey, MS, RD