(Not a diet but a life-style change)

As a working mom of three kids, Julie Cove knows what it’s like to be busy. Several years ago, though, she was so overloaded that she got to the point where she began experiencing health problems, the worst of them being debilitating pain in her back.

The Victoria, B.C.–based certified holistic nutritionist says she tried everything to alleviate her pain, from acupuncture to surgery – all unsuccessfully. What helped her heal, she says, was adopting an “alkaline lifestyle,” one centered on an alkaline diet.

Proponents of the diet say that the human body is alkaline by design and that the environment in which our cells exist must be pH-balanced for optimum well-being. pH is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen measured on a scale from 0 (very acidic), to 14 (very alkaline). In the centre, at 7, is neutral. Healthy blood has a pH of 7.365.

According to proponents of the alkaline diet, when we consume a lot of acidic foods and drinks—like coffee, dried fruit, beef, eggs, sweetened yogurt, and strawberries, to name a few—our blood pH can start to fall, affecting the body in various ways. Fatigue, bloating, irritability, and pain, Cove claims, are all possible side effects of having a pH that’s out of whack.

Balancing acidity with alkalizing foods helps improve health, says Cove, author of Eat Better, Live Better, Feel Better: Alkalize Your Life…One Delicious Recipe at a Time. But she says there’s more to the alkaline approach to well-being than that.

“I refrain from using the word ‘diet’ because this is more of a lifestyle,” Cove tells Yahoo Canada. “It’s about making a shift in more than just the food you eat. It’s about watching your stress levels, exercise, and taking care of your spiritual and emotional well-being and even your thoughts. If you’re stressed and you get hit with bad news, your body instantly secretes acid in your stomach.”

At the heart of the alkaline diet are vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables — mostly green ones. Examples of highly alkaline foods include broccoli, cucumbers, kale, celery, sea vegetables and spinach. Others are sprouted seeds, raw tomatoes and squash.

“Add green to your breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Cove says. “It’s as simple as that.”

She suggests a green smoothie at breakfast; if you don’t have time or tools to make one yourself, pick up a green juice while you’re out and about or get a green powder to add to a glass of water. Develop a love for salads.

“Figure out what works for your lifestyle; it doesn’t have to be complicated,” she says. “Get a bag or a box of greens and bring it to the office for lunch….At dinner, add a salad; if you’re at a restaurant, order the salad.”

An easy way to keep the body’s pH in balance, according to Cove, is to take the 75/25 approach to eating: 75 per cent of meals should consist of alkaline foods: vegetables—mostly raw—as well as low-sugar fruit like lemons, limes, avocados, and tomatoes. The acidic balance can be made up of raw or cooked items including grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, plant proteins and wild salmon.

But despite Cove’s passion for the alkaline lifestyle, according to Dr. Paul S. Philbrook of Mississauga’s Trillium Health Partners, it holds no credibility in the mainstream medical community.

“Our body pH is very, very tightly regulated within a very narrow range, and you can’t change it,” Philbrook says. “We have systems to maintain that; it’s called homeostasis. If we didn’t we wouldn’t last long at all; if you actually become acidotic down to 7.1 or 7.2, you’d probably die….If you took in a lot of acid or alkaline in some form or another you would just pee it out. That’s one way we regulate. The other way is by way of respiration; we breathe faster or we breathe slower, and that blows off carbonic acid.”

Philbrook adds that scientific evidence behind the alkaline diet is lacking.

“We absolutely rely on evidence and not just suppositions that don’t have any background,” he says.