Alkaline diet: What cancer patients should know

There’s so much information surrounding cancer and diet that it can be hard to separate the myths from the facts. That’s especially true when it comes to trendy diets.

The alkaline diet is one such trendy diet that often comes up in conversations about both cancer treatment and prevention.

So, to learn more about this diet we talked to Maria Petzel, a senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson. Here’s what she had to say.

What is the alkaline diet?

The alkaline diet is based on the theory that eating certain foods can change the body’s acid levels, also called the pH levels. Some believe that changing the body’s pH levels can improve your health and help you lose weight or even prevent cancer.

But there’s no way the foods you eat can alter the pH level of your blood. The body’s pH is a very tightly regulated system. If you change your diet, you may see changes in the pH of your saliva or urine because these are waste products, but there’s no way you could ever eat enough that it really impacts your blood.

What is alkaline water?

While we can’t comment on specific brands, most alkaline water is just like bottled water with different mineral content. Alkaline water also can’t change the pH of your blood.  

What is the link between the alkaline diet and cancer?

Some studies have shown that acidic environments help cancer cells grow. So the idea is that a diet high in alkaline foods (high pH) and low in acidic foods will raise the body’s pH levels (make the body more alkaline) and prevent or even cure cancer.

It should be noted that these are studies of cancer cells in a dish and do not represent the complex nature of how tumors behave in the human body. And food cannot change the pH of your blood.

What should cancer patients know before changing their diets?

Research shows that there’s no one diet or food that can cure cancer. But proper nutrition can help you feel your best during cancer treatment – or at any time.

That’s why it’s so important to talk to a doctor or a dietitian before beginning a new diet. This is true regardless of whether you have cancer. Different diet plans work for different people, and your doctor or dietitian can help you determine if a new diet will help you reach your health goals.

If you’re an MD Anderson patient, ask your doctor here to refer you to a clinical dietitian. Each clinic at MD Anderson has an assigned dietitian who is available to help patients at all stages of cancer treatment.

Your dietitian can assess your nutrition and talk with you about your nutrition goals, which may change at different stages of treatment. Your dietitian can help limit your diet’s adverse effects on your treatment, minimize side effects and help you cope with new food sensitives that you’ve developed since your diagnosis.

Together, you and your clinical dietitian can find the right diet to help you feel your best.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.