How Can Oranges be Alkaline in the Body

Dr. George Wood Clapp Discusses


            It is confusing to many of us that foods that taste acid, like oranges, may, under proper conditions, become alkaline in the body, and that foods that do not taste acid, like bread or meat, may become acid in the body. Let us clear that confusion.

That confusion comes because our words mix, rather indiscriminately, two wholly unlike standards, taste and body chemistry. All we have to do is to separate those standards and put each in its place, and the confusion will clear itself.

Let us look first at taste. It is an extremely important function, the only organs for which are in the mouth. By means of those organs we taste food before it has been long in the mouth and usually before it has been very much acted upon by the digestive juices. By that standard oranges are acid and bread and meat are not. At that point the use of taste as a standard ceases, because we can taste nothing after food leaves the mouth. The function of taste, while very important, is short-lived.

Now consider body chemistry. When we say “in the body.” we refer to the alkaline reserve of the blood. Any food which increases the alkaline reserve is alkaline “in the body,” no matter what it tasted like. Any food that lowers the alkaline reserve is acid in the body, no matter what its taste.

What Happens After Food Leaves the Mouth?

Let us summarize the action as briefly as possible, and then look at it in greater detail. If oranges have been properly grown and ripened, they are capable of being so acted upon by the fluids of the body that the small amount of weak acid they contain will n ever reach the blood. Such fruit will contain an important quantity of the alkaline mineral salts, calcium, potash and sodium, and these salts will raise the alkaline reserve of the blood, sometimes in so important a way as to make the difference between life and death for some invalid, as I know from experience.

On the other hand, all foods made from grains, especially flour and cereals, under the influence of digestive juices develops acids which enter the blood and can be neutralized only by alkaline mineral salts from milk, fruit and vegetables. The use of mineral salts to neutralize acid foods lowers the alkaline reserve of the blood.

Food that neutralizes acids from other food and helps to maintain the alkalinity of the blood at a desirable level is spoken of as “alkaline-in-the body” of “acid-binding” food, regardless of its taste, while food that demands alkaline minerals from other food is spoken of as “acid-in-the-body,” whatever its taste may be.

How Sugar Sets Fire to Acid

If oranges are even fairly well grown, they will contain a lot of sugar, for sugar is literally and actually bottled sunshine. Sugar, as you know, is rich in oxygen. The physiological chemists tell us that the sugar in orange juice is burned in the stomach with almost explosive speed and energy. It must be, because it has been known to appear in the blood as blood sugar in five minutes from the time of taking.

Now comes what we are interested in. The fierce fire of the sugar should burn the acid, or in technical words, oxidize it out of existence. In burning, it contributes its part to the body’s energy and disappears from the scene.

Theoretically it leaves behind it a deposit of alkaline mineral salts in a form especially acceptable to the body. It is these which, after the disappearance of the acid, build up the alkaline reserve of the blood.

Acid and Acid

So far we have been dealing with what ought always to happen and does happen under the most favorable conditions. Practically, what often happens is sometimes very different in ways that affect the character of the acid, its fitness to be oxidized in the stomach and disappear from the scene, and its effect on the body. To understand that, we shall have to understand how an orange is grown –or should be grown.

Orange trees should be grown in slightly acid soil. If the soil is too acid, it may be said to have acidosis –as is said of people. Acidosis in soils is very common, calcium deficiency being one of the important causes. Trees grown in such soil will have acidosis, and the oranges grown on such trees will have acidosis, perhaps in such degree that the acid in the fruit cannot be completely oxidized in the stomach and does not disappear from the scene. We believe that acid goes on into the intestines. And, if we can trust experiments in culture dishes, it hinders the growth of the bacteria on which we have to depend for control of fermentative processes. That hindrance is harmful.

If the soil, the trees and fruit had been in good physiological balance, oxidation would have been rapid and complete, the acid would have disappeared in the stomach, and the friendly bacteria would not have been hindered.

What the Acid Leaves When It Burns

If the soil and the trees were in good physiological balance and the fruit was allowed to ripen on the trees –and that is the only place where it can ripen, not n a gas house or a dye tank –the disappearance of the sugar and acid will leave a well balanced combination of several mineral salts, dominantly alkaline and of a character peculiarly acceptable to even a fairly healthy body.

It is the characteristic of providing necessary minerals in readily usable form, far more than either the sugar or the acid, that makes properly grown and ripened oranges of such great value in treating trench mouth, pyorrhea, poor alveolar structure, tonsilitis, influenza and pneumonia, before general anesthetics and childbirth, and after general anesthetics, operation and accidents.

If the soil and the trees had acidosis, the deposit of minerals left by the disappearance of the sugar and acid is likely not to be dominantly alkaline. These minerals not only may fail to raise or maintain the alkaline reserve of the blood, but may turn the tables definitely against the patients, as many a dentist known who has prescribed oranges and seen that the more of them the patient took, the sicker and patient became.

All of This is Important to Us

Our service, at its best, is not excelled in importance by any form of medical service except that which meets emergencies. We see people while the manifestations of disease are relatively small, as in caries, gingivitis, etc. Filling cavities and stimulating gums are merely repairing existing damage –they are not by any means all of professional service. We want to arrest the disease processes while they are still young. Diet that meets the requirements of the body is helpful in arresting disease.

If we are to take our proper place in health service, we need to know at least a little about some of the more important foods. Such knowledge is only beginning, but Price is showing us more and more about it. Here is a little information about oranges.

From our point of view an orange is as good as the fertilizer it gets –just as a man is, generally speaking, as good as his food. Good fertilizers, like good clothes, cost more than poor fertilizers. And an orange grove, when conducted by health principles, is a glutton for fertilizer.

There is an overproduction of oranges in proportion to the demand. Competition to get rid of the fruit forces the prices, through a considerable part of the year, to such low levels that the average grower cannot get back the cost of raising good fruit. Sometimes he doesn’t get back the cost of raising any kind of fruit. Dr. House, who runs his orange grove scientifically, told me of one of his neighbors who shipped 1100 boxes of fruit and got back a BILL for $800! (I believe those figures are right, but am trusting a memory.)

What Can We Do About It?

There are, doubtless, growers in California and Florida who would be glad to raise fruit to meet our requirements if they knew how to get in touch with people who want that kind of service, and it those people would pay a price that would permit the service with a fair profit –and an orange grower’s wildest dreams nowadays never reach beyond a modest profit.

The difference in cost between poor service and good service is not great, only a few cents a dozen oranges at most, and sometimes not that. But it is of great importance to all concerned, and that reminds me of a story.

When I came into the dental profession many years ago, the usual fee for an amalgam filling, in country towns, was fifty cents. Naturally, when there was a big, two-surface cavity in a molar, we didn’t take much pains for a 50c fee. But if the patient would pay a dollar, we cleaned the cavity carefully, sometimes put a protecting pad over the pulp and finished the filling smoothly. That extra fifty cents got the patient a lot of value.

On Whom Shall We Depend to Maintain Our Standards?

On ourselves –and ourselves alone. These things I am writing here are the standards within our own profession, not in the commercial business of growing and shipping oranges. Most growers never heard of them. If they heard, they couldn’t afford to pay attention because they are not getting enough for their fruit to permit them to care.

If I had to sell my fruit at the average of the wholesale market in New York last week –this is written just after Christmas –and someone were to call my attention to these health matters, I should reply, “If you will pay me enough for my fruit so that I can afford to attend to them, I will, but at the present prices I cannot afford it.”

The shipper cannot be expected to know. His business is to get the fruit off the trees and to market. His commission is small, and he must handle volume.

The storekeeper, speaking generally, cannot know. It is out of his field, his margin is small, and the must work fast.

Our dependence must be on ourselves. We shall have to come to this kind of study for all the food our patients need for health –milk, grains, etc. The study in oranges leads the way.

The kind of oranges we need can be delivered anywhere in the United States, as far north and as far west as Chicago, for 35c a dozen in a box holding 200, or at $5.50 for the box and $2.85 for half the quantity.

220 West 42nd St.,

New York City.