What is an alkaline Diet? A review of The pH Miracle Diet book by Dr. Young

Notepad with alkaline diet, apple and measure tape

By: Gail Clayton, R.Ph.

Background of Author

 The pH Miracle was written by Dr. Robert Young, PhD and Shelley Young. Dr. Robert Young is highly educated with degrees in nutrition, microbiology, and naturopathic medicine and is a world-renown researcher in diabetes, cancer, leukemia, and AIDS.1(4-5-406) Dr. Young has spent a lifetime looking into the causes of poor health and helping people regain their health.1(405) Shelly Young, LMT, is a licensed massage therapist with a specialty in lymphatic drainage massage.1(406) She has a passion for nutritional education  and exercise/massage for healing. Robert Young was inspired by a French scientist and doctor, Antoine Béchamp, who coined the term, pleomorphism, which states that cellular disease is due to microbes that arise from within the body and alter their shape and size in response to environmental conditions.2 Béchamp describes the collective conditions in the body that can give rise to illness, the ‘terrain’, which includes the pH, urine, semen, and body fluids. When the ‘terrain’ is not balanced then a pathological condition causes the granules to proliferate causing illness.2 This insight from Béchamp motivated Robert Young to seek out the nature of illness and disease and how to restore health and wellness by manipulating the body’s ‘terrain’.1(ix)

Central Theory

Dr. Young focuses on the pH of the foods we eat to create a more alkaline pH in the body which is significantly more disease resisitant.1(xiii) Dr. Young believes that a natural healing of the body will occur by utilizing these basic principles: consuming alkaline foods, keeping caloric intake at a moderate level, along with good hydration, high oxygen intake, exercise, and a high mineral intake .1(xiv) In addition to diet, we are also encouraged to modify our high-stress lifestyle and include relaxation, massage, aerobic exercise, sauna, body brushing, and deep breathing exercises.1(215-228)

Science Behind the Theory

The pH Miracle has a similar premise as most health based diets and includes, plenty of fresh (preferably raw) fruits and vegetables, sprouts, and juices (made from greens). It does allow some whole grains (millet, buckwheat, and spelt), fish, nuts, seeds, legumes and tofu. However, it is important that at least 80% of your food intake is alkaline, and to include raw foods since they are more alkalizing than cooked foods.1(65) Acidic foods such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, table salt, dairy products, corn, wheat, fermented food, black tea, sodas, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, and caffeine must be eliminated totally from the diet.1(65) Dr. Young uses the acronym “COWS” to remember the key elements of this diet. “Chlorophyll, Oil, Water, and Salt”.1(66) The chlorophyll comes from green vegetables, and the oil from essential fats such as flax, borage, evening primrose, grape seed, and hemp oils.1(66,70) A clean source of alkaline water is essential, and plenty of it to hydrate for health.1(70,73) Avoid table salt that has been irradiated and devoid of minerals, but include healthy alkalizing salt such as Celtic, Himalayan, and real sea salt.1(77) To start the diet you can either go all-out and jump right into it, or you can start with making changes to shift more towards a more alkaline diet.1(145) The alkaline diet program can be summarized in these steps:

Step 1- Transition. The first twelve weeks can be a gradual switch from your normal acidic foods to incorporating more alkaline foods.

Step 2- Cleanse. Using laxatives and supplements to clean house and get rid of stored toxins for up to four weeks.

Step 3- Strict Alkaline. For the next 8-12 weeks consuming 70-80% alkaline foods while including supplements and mineral salts, along with plenty of alkaline water.

Step 4-Maintainence. Continue eating alkaline, but additional foods such as fatty fish, grains, soy, and starchy vegetables can be added.1(144)

The blood pH homeostasis, or acid base balance is probably the most important biochemical balance in the entire human body. Prior to the agricultural revolution and the onset of highly processed foods, the pH and the acid load in our diets are much less alkaline and we have seen a reversal of the K+/Na+ ratio.3 The ratio previously was 10:1 whereas today the ratio is 1:3.3 A plant based diet is higher in potassium, and the modern diet is higher in sodium. This shift in the way our diets have changed may cause metabolic acidosis.3 Coupled with the aging process and the loss of the acid-base regulatory function from our modern acid based diet, the result contributes to illness and disease.3 Returning to the ‘hunter gatherer’ type diet that is high in plants that are naturally alkaline, and low in meats and sugars, we can reap the rewards of a number of health benefits including:

  1. Increased fruits and vegetables in an alkaline diet would improve the K/Na ratio and may benefit bone health, reduce muscle wasting, as well as mitigate other chronic diseases such as hypertension and strokes.
  2. The resultant increase in growth hormone with an alkaline diet may improve many outcomes from cardiovascular health to memory and cognition.
  3. An increase in intracellular magnesium, which is required for the function of many enzyme systems, is another added benefit of the alkaline diet. Available magnesium, which is required to activate vitamin D, would result in numerous added benefits in the vitamin D apocrine/exocrine systems.
  4. Alkalinity may result in added benefit for some chemotherapeutic agents that require a higher pH.3

With these benefits also comes a reduced morbidity and mortality that could ultimately reduce the strain on our already overburdened healthcare system while at the same time allowing the aging population to age gracefully and disease free.

Dr. Young is a proponent of using “salt therapy” along with the alkaline diet. Included in the book, is a symptoms list and a salt remedy to treat the symptom. Table salt (the highly processed white salt) is highly discouraged and considered harmful. However, good salts are said to be necessary and can help reduce dietary acidity and slow or reverse the process of aging.1(188) It is proposed to mix one teaspoonful of mineral salts in a glass of water three times daily.1(188) High intakes of sodium have been linked with cancer, osteoporosis, kidney stones, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.4 Although sea salts may have a higher mineral content than white table salt, the liberal use in the amounts advocated in The pH Miracle is unwarranted. The current UI for sodium is 2300 mg/day(which is a mere 2/3 tsp).5(463)  The amount of trace minerals is less than 15% in mineral salts, so that would equal to almost 9000mg/day of sodium if taking one teaspoonful three times daily. This amount far exceeds the UI for sodium.

Although the alkaline diet in The pH Miracle endorses the liberal intake of vegetables (except for the high carbohydrate vegetables) with very few restrictions, the intake of fruits are somewhat limited. In fact, most fruits are to be avoided in this diet except for lemons, limes, grapefruit.1(91) These fruits are low in sugar and have a high concentration of sodium and potassium bicarbonate salts.1(91) Pomegranates are also allowed as they are an alkalizing low-sugar fruit that is rich in vitamins and minerals.1(92) I believe that by cutting out most fruits we could be missing out on important vitamins and minerals, along with the different enzymes and color pigments these fruits provide. A pro-vitamin A carotenoid, β-cryptoxanthin is found in fruits such as oranges, papayas, and apples which are forbidden in this alkaline diet.5(373),1(103) Dr. Young argues that the sugar content in most fruits is too acidic to include in the alkaline diet and that sugar from fruits ferments just the same as any other acid sugar.1(91) Berries are excluded from the alkaline diet which have a long standing history of reported health benefits. Berries are rich in a pigment called anthocyanins, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Including berries in the diet have a positive impact on many chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.6 To exclude these amazing fruits with their powerful healing capabilities would not be worth the benefit gained in pH.

My Opinion

 Overall, I believe this to be a really good concept for a diet plan to follow. I think it may be a bit difficult as it doesn’t allow for coffee or tea, and the meals may take a lot of time for preparation. I think it would be difficult to follow this diet unless someone were desperately ill and motivated into making drastic changes in their diet in order to recover. I would incorporate a modified version of the diet for my clients, excluding the excess salt, and including a wider variety of fruits. Even though some fruits have a high content of sugar, these fruits could be included in a limited amount so that we could benefit from the vitamins and phytochemicals that they provide.

If you are interested in incorporating more alkaline foods into your diet, click on the handy refrigerator chart I made up for you to download and print and put on your refrigerator as a guide!

Alkaline food chart



  1. Young R, Young S. The pH Miracle. Grand Central Publishing. New York NY. 2010.
  2. Ali M. Oxygen Governs the Inflammatory Response and Adjuicates Man-Microbe Conflicts. Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients. May 2005. Issue 262, p. 98-103. 6p. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.bridgeport.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=ddbd4d48-d471-413e-a987-c167fe4dd686%40sessionmgr4001&hid=4105. Accessed December 31, 2014.
  3. Schwalfenberg G. The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?Journal of Environmental and Public Health. (2012) Art ID 727630. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/727630. Accessed December 31, 2014.
  4. Sodium (Chloride). Linus Pauling Institute. Oregan State University. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/sodium/. Accessed December 31, 2014.
  5. Gropper and Smith, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism.2013. 6th edition, Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.
  6. Costa A, Garcia-Diaz D, Jimenez P, et al. Bioactive compounds and Health Benefits of Exotic Tropical Red-Black Berries. Journal of Functional Foods. Vol (5):2 April 2013, p. 539-549. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2013.01.029. Accessed December 31, 2014.