The alkaline diet, colds, and cravings

(Updated Sept 2020.) A few months ago I came down with a cold that had the bizarre feature of getting noticeably worse overnight, as if a troop carrier’s worth of viral reinforcements had rolled in and disembarked. It was actually kind of scary. This monster was worse than the so-called Russian flu that went around Los Angeles in the mid-90s, which I caught three times in six months.

After reading Nancy’s post on how she solved her gallstone problems by changing to an alkaline-forming diet, I had found a lot of online anecdotal experiences from people who used baking soda (which is very alkaline-forming) to head off colds and flus. After seven days of this Cold From Hell, I started mainlining baking soda — 1/2 tsp every few hours. After four hours I was significantly better and 18 hours later the cold was almost gone. Even weirder, the insane chocolate cravings I’ve had ever since I can remember were down about 75 percent. (Update Sept 2020: I have since tried this three more times with colds and not once have I had the success of that first experience. However it’s also possible I was confusing a low-grade, recurring sinus infection with a cold. So there’s that.)

A few weeks before I had also started taking vitamin B2 and selenium, so that obviously had to be taken into account. If I lowered the baking soda to 1/4 tsp twice a day, or stopped the selenium and vitamin B2, the cravings came back. From this I concluded that:

1. My body is too acidic — duh. It’s not uncommon for celiacs, sugar abusers, or Standard American Dieters. Theoretically a too-acidic environment makes it harder for the body to fight off invaders or absorb nutrients.

2. My cravings for chocolate, which is very alkaline-forming, are in part my body’s attempt to balance that acidity. Even though the dark chocolate is wrapped up in sugar, I guess my body can register just enough of chocolate’s individual super-alkalinity to want more of it. (Why I don’t crave celery, also very alkaline, I don’t know.) This would explain why I prefer less sugary chocolate and have no interest in ice cream or anything sweet that is not mostly chocolate. Except the occasional Pepsi.

3. The more alkaline environment made the selenium and vitamin B2 work a lot better. I’ve suspected for a while that part of the chocolate cravings thing is that my body can’t produce enough glucose, which fuels your brain. Vitamin B2 helps with glucose metabolism, which is needed for oxygen transport. Selenium might or might not help with glucose metabolism (some say yes, some say no) but it does help with oxygen transport and energy production.

Supporting #2 is that according to alkaline diet experts, the body becomes more acidic as you sleep, and I unfailingly want to eat chocolate in the a.m., as disgusting as that sounds. During this alkaline experiment, when I ate chocolate at that time of day I would feel sick like a normal person. Eventually I didn’t bother trying and went straight for the cantaloupe (also alkaline-forming). Some weird retraining of taste going on there.

I also discovered that if I cut dairy (acid-forming) from my diet, the cravings almost disappeared. If I fell off the wagon with soda pop or dairy, the cravings came back. This observation made me wonder about what the ladies at Keeping the Pounds Off have said about dairy triggering food cravings for them. (Their cravings are much more severe and seem to include all foods). I’d never eaten a lot of dairy before — just yogurt and whatever is in chocolate — and I never noticed a correlation before this experiment.

The more alkaline diet did not seem to do anything for my semi-monthly desire to drink Pepsi and eat half a bag of gluten-free cheese curls.

Unfortunately, I was not able to continue with the experiment. Possibly because of the very acidic red meat I refused to stop eating, it took nothing less than 1/2 tsp twice a day of baking soda to see an effect, and after several weeks this was clearly too much for my digestive system. (Be warned that the sodium in baking soda can affect levels of other minerals in your body.)

6 thoughts on “The alkaline diet, colds, and cravings

  • James

    I was surprised to read that you used sodium bicarbonate to make yourself alkaline. If I remember HS Chemistry (a very long time ago), sodium bicarbonate is a buffer, which can dampen acids or bases, but isn’t alkaline itself.

    Googling a bit, I learned two things. First, sodium bicarbonate in water *is* mildly alkaline, and second, supermarket baking soda has anti-caking agents which are bad for you. I don’t know if the anti-caking agents are worse than all the extra sodium one would get.


    • Marjorie

      Ah, shame on me. I made a mistake made all over the internet. This is why finding accurate acid/alkaline food lists is so difficult. I neglected to specify that baking soda is alkaline-FORMING in the human body. Lemons are, too, while being acidic themselves. I’ve corrected my copy.

      I believe the caking agent thing refers to aluminum, which is no longer used in baking soda. Crunchy Betty has a post on this subject. She also talks about the chemicals used in the extraction process. I chose Bob’s Red Mill because they use a chemical-free process, but according to one of her commenters, all US manufacturers do.

  • Steph

    Ah, this is the direction I’ve been dragging myself, too, thank you for the post.

    I’ve been taking about a quarter teaspoon of baking soda in the juice of a lemon every AM for a few months now, but then I counteract with coffee and finishing my son’s pancake.

    If you have a favorite food list for alkaline/acidic, would you mind passing it on? (Some lists have coffee as alkaline, which I would like to be true.)

    • Marjorie

      I decided to go back to just 1/4 tsp in the a.m. just to see what happens. So far, so good. As for food lists, I’m afraid I can’t help much except to look for sources who specifically say acid- and alkaline-FORMING foods. I asked Nancy a while ago for her list but no reply yet. In her May 28 post she does say that she’s found coffee to be very acidic.

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