I recently wrote a post that asked the question – is a vegan or vegetarian diet bad for your skin? – and concluded that no, neither of those diets are bad for your skin but sugar is. Since I try to keep up with the latest information about all things skincare related I recently read an article in MedEsthetics magazine profiling dermatologist Jeanette Graf, MD. In the article Dr. Graf talks about the skin benefits to following an alkaline diet:
Jeannette Graf, MD, is a well-known researcher and expert injector in the medical aesthetics arena, but more recently she has focused her career on creating great skin from the inside out. Her theories are based on research that suggests that eating more alkaline-producing foods (versus acid-producing foods) offers optimal internal health, leading to glowing, healthy skin. She recommends a 3:1 ratio of alkaline-producing foods to acid-producing foods when preparing meals.
Olive oil Alcohol
Citrus fruits Soft Drinks
Berries Red Meat
Sea Salts White sugar
Furthermore, Dr. Graf explains how she became interested in the whole idea of an alkaline diet as a diet that would positively impact the skin (pages 49-50):
[Dr. Graf] came across a Noble Prize-winning study by Dr. Otto Warburg. The study involved culturing cancer cells and normal cells in two different environments – one group he grew in a high oxygen, alkaline medium; the other he grew in a high acid, low oxygen medium. “What he found was in the conditions with the high acid, low oxygen, the cancer cells grew like crazy and the normal cells could not survive,” says Dr. Graf. “But in the alkaline medium with high oxygen, the normal cells grew beautifully and thrived, whereas the cancer cells could not survive. That said to me, we need to be alkaline.”
Alkalinity is the basis of Dr. Graf’s book and also a key component of her practice. “Internal to external is major for me and I talk about diet to everyone, because I want them to be alkaline. I’ll even take out pH strips and test them,” she says. “Every patient who comes into my office gets a lecture on what she should and shouldn’t eat. We should be treating diet like a medication, and having a great lifestyle is all part of it. And we heave to lead by example and start incorporating it into our practice. Fortunately, I think we’re starting to see more of that.”
Once I read this information I realized that I read something similar in Kate Somerville’s book Complexion Perfection! . In Chapter 4: Beauty and the Buffet, Somerville relates a story about her father-in-law Dave Somerville and how he started following an alkaline diet after receiving a cancer diagnosis (pages 44- 45):
Four different doctors presented treatment options such as surgery and radiation, but Dave decided to go with a different approach. He’d always been interested in nutrition and alternative health, and when a friend recommended a naturopathic doctor in San Diego, he found what he was looking for: a doctor who “laughs at cancer.” I was nervous; in fact I honestly thought at first that it was a mistake. Yet this is where I first learned how dramatically nutrition can impact the skin.
Dave’s treatment regimen focused on organic foods, a range of immunity-boosting supplements, and drinking nothing but purified water – lots of it. Most important, he maintained an alkaline environment in his body, the basis of his naturopathic doctor’s protocol. Dave ate foods that alkalized his body and minimized those that acidified it, helping maintain his body in a healthy pH range and reducing disease-causing acid waste in his system. The theory (one not supported by the traditional medical community) is that cancer cells don’t grow in alkaline environment.
My father-in-law was completely committed to this program, and in less than a year’s time, his cancer disappeared. Total recovery. I know this sounds unbelievable, but the strategy miraculously worked for him. I’m telling you this story here in this book because of the other changes I saw – changes in his skin. I couldn’t believe it, but I actually saw brown spots and sun damage disappear from Dave’s face, in the same way that the cancer vanished. From a clinician’s perspective, I thought, This is impossible. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. Generally, when people in my line of work see sun spots and pigment issues, we treat them with topical peels, usually aggressively, and topical products. I was blown away, because Dave’s skin glowed. I mean, it literally glowed. To this day, he stays very close to the parameters of the diet, and looks a decade younger than his actual years.
To be sure, the choices my father-in-law made were fairly extreme, and he was absolutely dedicated to the strategy. However, I cannot deny the impact that this diet had on his health and his appearance.
If you are thinking of switching to a more alkaline diet what exactly should you eat? And how does this diet actually work? According to the WebMD article Alkaline Diet: What to Know Before You Try It:
The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance to improve overall health. But the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet.
For instance, your diet may affect the pH level of your urine. But what you eat does not determine your blood’s pH level.
What’s in the Alkaline Diet
The alkaline diet is mostly vegetarian. In addition to fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits, alkaline-promoting foods include soy products and some nuts, grains, and legumes.
Web sites promoting the alkaline diet discourage eating acid-promoting foods, which include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, processed foods, white sugar, white flour, and caffeine.
The alkaline diet is basically healthy, says Marjorie Nolan, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.
“It’s a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of water, avoiding processed foods, coffee, and alcohol, which are all recommendations for a generally healthy diet anyway,” Nolan says. “But our body regulates our pH between 7.35 and 7.45 no matter how we eat.”
Diets that include a lot of animal protein can lower urine pH and raise the risk forkidney stones. So eating a diet rich in vegetables, as with an alkaline diet, can raise urine pH and lower the risk for kidney stones, says John Asplin, MD, a kidney specialist who is a fellow of the American Society of Nephrology.
Researchers have speculated that an alkaline diet might slow bone loss and muscle waste, increase growth hormone, make certain chronic diseases less likely, and ease low back pain. However, that hasn’t been proven.
There is also no concrete evidence that an alkaline or vegetarian diet can prevent cancer. Some studies have shown that vegetarians have lower rates of cancer, particularly colon cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. But vegetarians often have other healthy habits, such as exercise and abstaining from drinking and smoking, so it is difficult to determine the effects of diet alone.
“Clinical studies have proved without a doubt that people who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and hydrate properly do have lower rates of cancer and other diseases,” Nolan tells WebMD, “but it probably has nothing to do with blood pH.”
Because there is no evidence that diet can significantly change blood pH, a highly irregular blood pH is a sign of a larger problem — perhaps kidney failure — not a dietary issue.
People with kidney disease or medical issues that require monitoring by a doctor, such as severe diabetes, should not attempt this diet without medical supervision.
“If someone’s blood sugar is not being monitored properly — especially if they’re on insulin if they’re type 1 or they’re a severe type 2 diabetic — you’re potentiallyrunning the risk of your blood sugar dropping too low after a meal if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Nolan says.
It all comes down to balance, Asplin says. The alkaline diet could potentially over-restrict protein and calcium.
“Vegetarians can be completely healthy in their diets as long as they make sure to get adequate supplies of essential components to a diet. But it is also true that many Americans over-consume protein and get much more than they actually need,” Asplin says.
If you do want to follow a more alkaline diet here are some tips from the Live Strong website:
Which foods fall into the alkaline category is not always obvious. For example, a lemon, which you would probably consider acidic, becomes alkaline when digested and hence falls into the alkaline category. Choosing alkaline foods may at first, therefore, require research. The alkaline diet closely resembles a vegan diet, in that you arrange your meals around plant-based foods rather than meat, the reverse of the typical Western diet. To ensure that you absorb important nutrients, plan to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Foods to Include
Alkaline foods should comprise about 75 to 80 percent of your diet. The foods to include in an alkaline diet menu include most vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and whole grains. To determine what foods belong to the long list of alkaline vegetables, the Macrobiotics Cooking with Linda Wemhoff site suggests choosing leafy, round root and sea vegetables. In the extensive alkaline fruit category, she recommends tropical- and temperate-climate fruits. Everyday Diet recommends flax, sesame and sunflower, among other seeds, and spelt and sprouted grains. Fresh water, herbal teas, almond milk and wine are considered examples of alkaline beverages.
Foods to Avoid
Acidic foods should comprise no more than 20 to 15 percent of your diet. Foods to avoid on the alkaline diet are meats, dairy, shellfish, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, processed foods, refined grains and sugars, and artificial and chemical products. In addition, the Health and Rejuvenation Research Center advises avoiding preserves, canned fruits and dried sulfured fruits and various vegetables and beans, including asparagus tips and garbanzo beans. Limit alcoholic beverages and coffee.
Bottom Line: If this diet interests you I suggest reading more about it. You can find numerous books about an alkaline diet on amazon. Most of the sources I read suggested trying to consume 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic for your overall health. In the long run I could see how a diet like this would benefit both your skin and your health.
Sources and Further Reading:
Doing research for this post turned out to be very informative and interesting. I learned a lot! If you have the time check out the sources below for a lot more information about the alkaline diet.
Image from www.alkalinesister.com