Beat cancer with alkalinity?
Can we beat cancer with alkalinity? A Nobel Prize winning scientist (Otto Warburg) is widely credited for discovering that the interior of large tumors was significantly more acidic than the rest of the body. Despite all the name dropping about alkaline environment and cancer, it is important to recognize that Dr. Warburg did NOT receive the Nobel prize for this discovery.
Dr. Warburg was actually awarded the Nobel prize for his very meticulous work on elucidating the oxidation/reduction process of respiration and the process by which iron and oxygen interact in fermentation. The conclusion that has been drawn from his observation about the pH within tumors is that chronic exposure of the body cells to an acidic environment promotes tumor (cancer) formation. His experimental findings have been used as the basis of a huge educational and marketing campaign aimed at ways to raise the body pH. One of the most frequently discussed topics is increasing the blood pH, thus alkalinizing the body to discourage growth of cancer. The most common therapy offered is with Alkaline water. Every week another patient at the Cancer Care Center in Las Vegas, NV proudly announces that they are going to elevate their pH and beat the cancer by drinking a gallon of alkaline water every day. Because of such an intense interest in this topic and constantly discussing this with my patients, I have done a fair amount of research on the topic. Lets apply our god given mental ability to understanding this topic.
What is ACID and BASE? How is pH measured and what does it mean? Here is a simple and concise explanation. An acid is anything that has an excess of Hydrogen ions (positive charge). A base is anything that has an excess of Hydroxide ions (negative charge). Yes, this is exactly like electricity ! Anybody who has ever experienced a Zap when touching a metal doorknob (or touched by the kid rubbing his feet on the carpet) knows how urgently the electric charges want to go back to being neutral and balanced. There are tremendous numbers of electrical charges in so many substances we could spend all day listing them out.
Since we are only interested in human biology/chemistry we will limit the discussion to water, which composes 75% of the total mass of the human being and is the substance that makes an acid or base environment for our cells.
pH is an arbitrary scale developed by scientists to quantify the number of H+ or OH- in water. pH of 7 means that there is exactly the same amount of H+ and OH- and everything balances. Each number change represents a 100 TIMES difference in the amount of H+ compared to OH-. Thus, pH of 6 means that there is 100 times more H+ in the solution than OH-. A pH of 8 means the opposite-there is 100 times more OH- in the solution than H+.
The normal pH of the body is 7.2-7.6, thus we are generally a little alkaline. Any significant change from this range causes a LOT of problems in the body. The reason for this is that proteins
have specific shapes and those shapes determine how the protein functions in the body. When the pH changes too much, the proteins in the body change their shape and thus do not work properly…this is called denatured proteins. The reason they change shape is because each protein has a distinctive amount of positive and negative charged locations which result in a distinctive folded shape. Included is a picture that demonstrates the various levels of structure in a protein. The first level is simply the sequence of amino acids that make up the protein. The second level is the shape of the various amino acid strings as they begin to form stable sub folds. The third level is the major folding of the amino acid substructures to clump together in a particular shape (based on attraction between positive and negative charged areas in the amino acid chain itself), and the fourth structure is the final structure of the protein as the amino acids both interact within themselves as well as with the ions in the environment. In normal body pH, the various negative and positive regions of the amino acid sequence interact with the H+ and OH- in the serum as well as with different parts of themselves to fold into the specific shape that the body uses for the function of that protein. When the pH changes significantly, there is an excess of either negative or positive charges which pulls the protein into different shapes and the protein stops functioning. When you melt a key it no longer opens the lock. Wikipedia has a nice discussion about protein folding, click here.
When discussing the pH of a human body, it is important to understand that pH varies tremendously within the body. Blood pH, Urine pH, Stomach pH, Stool pH, Saliva pH and Intracellular pH are all different, and a complex system within the body maintains the proper pH in each of these areas. Thus, just because your saliva is acidic does NOT mean that your blood is also acidic. Just because your urine is alkaline does NOT mean that your blood is also alkaline. The ways that the body balances the pH is manifold. It includes the kidneys, lungs, blood, and GI system. The first and most obvious is the huge amount of acidity in the stomach. The pH of normal stomach acid is between 1.5 and 3 and this is confirmed with a stomach acid test. In order to produce the acid into the stomach, the body must also release alkali into the blood–which is why there is a temporary rise of blood pH particularly after a heavy protein meal. Remember the pH scale, thus there is 100,000 TIMES as much H+ in the stomach acid even at a pH of 3. The highly acidic contents of the stomach are promptly neutralized by secretions from the small intestine and pancreas, which is a good thing. All that stomach acid would eat a hole in the small bowel. So we have excellent processes to both create acidity and to neutralize that with alkalinity, and vice versa. What do you think happens to the tiny amount of alkalinity that you get from drinking alkaline water? You guessed correct — it is neutralized quickly and thoroughly, and has no effect on the blood or other body tissues.
It is absolutely clear that alkaline water cannot and does not change the pH of the blood or serum in any meaningful way. So what about all those claims about all those health benefits of drinking alkaline water? Can we really beat cancer with alkalinity? Lets ask the residents of Kansas City–their city tap water has a pretty high alkalinity (measured at 9.8 in 2015) so they are constantly drinking and bathing and cooking with alkaline water (much more alkaline than you would drink from a bottled water source). Several of my friends work in Kansas city oncology clinics and unfortunately it looks like they have just as many cancer patients as any other city. The SEER database does not show any drop in the incidence of cancer in Kansas City when compared to the national averages. However, according to some studies, mice with cancer may benefit from an alkaline environment, lets see if the same is true in humans.
But don’t despair ! If you really, really want to raise your alkalinity, there are a lot of ways to do it and some are very cheap and easy. Aspirin will increase the alkalinity of the blood. Deep or rapid breathing will increase alkalinity. Any Antiacid will work to elevate the serum alkalinity. So will Alka-Seltzer (combination of aspirin and antacid). So will drinking Baking Soda in water. So will eating Green Vegetables. So will vomiting or suctioning stomach secretions (pumping the stomach). Here is a BIG CAUTION — metabolic alkalosis is dangerous, particularly if it occurs too quickly. Try to be reasonable and cautious–go slow, and if you have a doctor you communicate well with, get them to help you ! Remember that I am NOT recommending you do any of these things as I am NOT making any medical recommendations. You the reader have particular body makeup and medical conditions and life habits and only after an in person detailed review of your medical information would I make specific recommendations – you would have to be one of my patients to get a medical recommendation from me. The above is just for your education. For more information about healthy living and cancer therapy you can click here or here or here.
We will discuss acid and base physiology in a more expanded discussion as time permits.