Can What You Eat Really Affect Your Bones and Joints?

For many years I recommended my patients to eat a diet that was more ‘alkaline’ in nature as researchers said it would help to reduce the pain of arthritis. It was also believed that diets high in red meat and other ‘acid ash forming’ foods would increase their pain.

A new study by Joe Leech has examined the science behind the alkaline diet.

What is an alkaline or acid diet?

An alkaline diet is one based on nuts, fruits, starches and sugars.


An acid diet is one that includes meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, grains and alcohol.


The view was that if you ate a diet containing foods that produced ‘alkaline ash’ rather than ‘acid ash’ it would be better for your body in many ways and make you less vulnerable to illness than an acid ash forming diet.

You eat food, it is converted into energy and there is a residual ‘ash’ that remains.

Food components that leave an acidic ash include protein, phosphate and sulphur. Those that leave an alkaline ash include calcium, magnesium and potassium.

So Can What You Eat Really Affect Acidity of Your Body?

The metabolic waste of foods was thought to directly affect the pH of your body and it was thought that if our urine was monitored and kept at alkaline levels then you would be healthier.

The urine of patients was monitored to test the pH of their urine. pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. Acid has a pH of 0.0 – 6.9 and alkali has a pH of over 7.1.

pH can change in the urine as a result of what we eat but the truth is that the effect on the rest of our body and therefore our health generally is negligible. Meat is an acid ash forming food and for several hours after eating steak our urine will test acidic but our blood pH will not be affected.

Kidneys control the pH of the body by neutralising acids; our respiratory system also controls the acidity in our body. Diet does not!

Some parts of your body are much more acidic than others – and should be! The stomach for instance has a pH of 2 – 3.5 because food is broken down in the stomach by the acid.

Blood is always slightly alkaline.

However, our body regulates very carefully the pH balance and it is, in fact near impossible for food to change the pH value of blood in healthy people.

Therefore, the answer to the question, can diet affect the body’s acidity is a resounding NO! And it is a good thing it can’t because it is critical for our health that the pH of our blood remains constant!

What were the previous theories?

It was believed that acid forming diets impacted the level of calcium in your body and would therefore lead to osteoporosis. Calcium was thought to be leeched from the bones to oppose or neutralise the acids in the system and therefore deplete the bones of calcium and contribute to osteoporosis.

True or false?

False! As I said above, the kidneys remove acid from your body and thus regulates pH levels. Kidneys produce bicarbonate ions that neutralise acid in your blood and when these bicarbonate ions bind to acid in the blood they form carbon dioxide which is breathed out from your lungs and peed out from your kidneys. Bones don’t come into that regulation.

Cancer was thought to grow in an acidic environment therefore an alkaline diet would help reduce the likelihood of developing cancer.

True or false?

False! In fact cancer grows in normal body tissue, which has a slightly alkaline pH of 7.4. Cancer can create and acidic environment but an acidic environment does not create the cancer.

So what should we eat?

We all know by now what constitutes a healthy diet and what does not. It is good for us to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and restrict processed foods and things like those ‘freakshakes’ that are making the headlines for being full of sugar! However, a healthy diet is not healthy because it forms alkaline ash. It is healthy because it is based on good quality food and nothing to do with its pH levels.

So if you want to help to relieve the pain in your joints or arthritis, please come in for treatment

and do appropriate exercises

weight bearing tendons cropped
Appropriate exercises?!

and eat healthily so you are not overweight and therefore overloading the joints but do not expect dramatic changes from focussing on whether your diet is ‘acidic’ or ‘alkaline’.