June 01, 2015 03:53 PM

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Kelly Ripa says a high-alkaline cleanse has changed her life — but what is it? And does it work?

While there’s no medical proof that supports the method’s claims, weight loss physician Dr. Caroline Cederquist tells PEOPLE that consuming healthy foods high in alkaline can’t be a bad thing.

“I think all nutritional experts are in real agreement that almost everyone needs more fruits and vegetables in their diet,” says the Florida-based doctor specializing in nutrition.

And Ripa, 44, isn’t the only celebrity who is on top of the trend: Elle Macpherson recently told PEOPLE she monitors her body’s pH level with alkalising supplements as well.

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What It Means 

Put simply, high alkaline refers to a pH level higher than 7.0.

“This whole alkaline cleanse is coming from the theory that certain foods make the body more acidic and others make the body more alkaline, on the opposite spectrum,” explains Cederquist. “Typically, protein-containing foods and starches and grains are supposed to add acid to the body, and maybe so do caffeine, alcohol and processed foods in general.”

“Whereas alkaline, which is just another form of the acid base, is supposed to be primarily in vegetable-based foods,” she says. “So there’s some thought that being acidic is bad, being alkaline is better. But to be honest, it’s not something that is really considered accepted within the medical literature.”

CEO of alkaline Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic water Ryan Emmons says those on an alkaline cleanse should eat beets, broccoli, apples, bananas, almonds, chestnuts, tofu, cinnamon, ginger, cucumber, kale, spinach, artichokes, sea salt, kiwi, olive oil, lettuce and bell pepper. They should steer clear of processed foods, yogurt, fish, processed juices, sugar, beer, white bread, coffee, cheese, soda and most nuts.

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Does It Work?

Although Cederquist does not believe high-alkaline cleanses have restorative powers, she says eliminating certain foods from your diet can help determine causes to which your body may react negatively.

“She did this for a reason,” Cederquist says of Ripa. “People don’t do a cleanse because they feel awesome. Nobody does that. They do a cleanse because something’s not right, they’re fatigued or exhausted or have joint pain or the bowels don’t work, there’s gas or bloating.

“Apparently she followed this and said, ‘I feel really, really great.’ And it may not have anything to do with the fact that she’s replaced acidic food with alkaline. What is probably more likely is that she has some sort of hidden food sensitivity.”

The most common such sensitivities Cederquist sees in her patients’ blood tests results are dairy, wheat, soy, citrus, egg, yeast and corn.

The problem with high-alkaline cleanses, she says, is that eating too much of some foods could end up doing more harm than good.

“I find that if there are 100 books on the alkaline diet, they all have different foods in them. So it’s very, very hard to get some kind of agreement as to what’s alkaline and what’s not,” she explains. “One of the things that is recommended is soy beans, but a lot of people have a hidden food sensitivity to soy.”

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Is it Safe?

“The harm of straightforwardly following an alkaline cleanse for who knows how long is that most people who come see me … are having issues with weight,” Cederquist says. “And if they switch to a diet which has a lot of fruit, they’re not getting any protein because they cut out all meat and dairy.”

But she does not doubt Ripa, who learned about high-alkaline cleanses through her chiropractor after suffering from unspecified injuries, feels healthier now.

“When people have hidden food sensitivities, they can indeed have join pain and muscular pain. We see this often.” she explains. “I’ve had patients say, ‘I’m 50 percent better because I took those foods out.’ … I mean, it’s amazing.”

What Doctors Recommend 

The key to finding the right diet, Cederquist says, is rejecting a one-size-fits-all notion.

“No one has a problem with less caffeine, less alcohol, less sugar, less processed foods. I think we’re all on board with that, even with the wheat and gluten,” she says. “But dairy isn’t an issue for all people. For some women, it’s a great source of lean protein and has all the good amino acids. To just say ‘Dairy is bad for all of us’ isn’t necessarily great.”

As for cleanses and juicing in general, she isn’t a fan.

“If somebody juices, just naturally they end up not eating eating enough protein to support their lean tissue, and then they’re having vegetables or fruit in an already partially metabolized state,” she says. By turning veggies and fruits into smoothies or juices, you remove key fiber, she adds.

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High-Alkaline Water

Emmons says his product, which has been on the market for three years, has real health benefits — although he acknowledges more research is needed.

Alkaline “boosts your immune system to help prevent colds, flus and other viruses,” Emmons tells PEOPLE. “It can also help prevent chronic diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer.”

“We hope to do a more advanced studies soon because of the feedback we have gotten from cancer patients, weight loss customers, and those with acid reflux, amongst others to prove the timeframe for these health benefits,” he adds.

Emmons says going on a high-alkaline cleanse is “not harmful” as long as it lasts for the recommended three to 10 days. Furthermore, he says his water has no negative side effects and encourages even people who aren’t on a cleanse to drink it.

“In order to be healthy, the body must have a balanced pH — it must be equally acidic and alkaline. High stress levels, environmental toxins, and especially the overconsumption of processed foods, have resulted in most of our bodies being overly acidic,” he says. “When we are overly acidic, our bodies are compromised and struggle to effectively assimilate vitamins or minerals from our food, decreasing the cell’s production of energy, and ability to detoxify or repair damaged cells.”

—Michele Corriston

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