The Science of Alkaline Water: Magic or Myth?
You may have heard alkaline water touted as a miracle solution to your woes or wondered what it is when you notice it on a grocery store shelf.
Based on the available research, are the supposed healing properties of alkaline water magic or myth?
What is alkaline water? Alkaline water is drinkable water with a high pH, which makes it “basic” (as opposed to “acidic”). Alkaline water must also contain alkaline minerals and a negative ORP (also known as, “oxidation reduction potential”).
Some claim alkaline water neutralizes acid and regulates your body’s pH.
Normal drinking water is a 7 on the pH scale, which is neutral — it is neither acidic nor basic. When the pH goes higher, the more basic and the less acidic. Bases and acids tend to cancel each other out.
Is alkaline the same as basic? All alkaline solutions are basic, but not all bases are alkaline. Alkaline refers to certain mineral content, which can form a basic solution. Basic solutions are simply solutions which have a pH of 7.1 or higher.
Let’s get into the science of alkaline water and figure out if alkaline water is magic or myth.
Is alkaline water safe?
Alkaline water is considered safe as long as the alkaline minerals in the water are natural and not synthetic.
Alkaline water is likely unsafe for anyone with a kidney disease. Your kidneys are your natural filtration system that regulates your body’s pH. If your kidney is not working correctly, alkaline water can interfere with your body’s pH.
The World Health Organization published a study that cautions against regularly drinking any water with reduced mineral levels, which is made by reverse osmosis or distillation.
Is alkaline water over-hyped?
Yes. Alkaline water does not live up to the hype from celebrities and companies trying to sell their product — many tout alkaline water as a miracle cure-all.
But, there is scientific evidence that alkaline water can alleviate stomach pain and acid reflux, on top of other surprising benefits of alkaline water.
Health Benefits of Alkaline Water
What is alkaline water good for? Alkaline water is supposed to neutralize acid and regulate your body’s pH levels.
Science shows that alkaline water offers several health benefits:
- A 2012 study shows that naturally carbonated pH 8.8 alkaline water makes a significant difference in treating acid reflux disease by deactivating pepsin, the enzyme responsible for acid reflux.
- Another study reveals that alkaline water can benefit those with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes.
- According to scientific research from 2016, alkaline water may improve blood flow by regulating blood viscosity, after exercise. This means better oxygen delivery by the blood.
- A small study suggests alkaline water “enhances hydration” in athletes.
- Alkaline water also reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress results in premature aging, immune dysfunction, heart disease, and even cancer.
- In Japan, multiple studies have shown alkaline water relieves gastrointestinal distress. In Japan, alkaline water is an approved medical treatment for stomach discomfort, bloating, heartburn, and other ailments.
Alkaline Water Risks, Side Effects, & Dangers
There are a few potential risks to drinking alkaline water, two of which are related to excess alkalinity within the body (metabolic alkalosis). This is not a risk for most people, but for those on a strict alkaline diet, it’s an important consideration.
Here are the possible side effects of alkaline water:
- Drinking a lot of alkaline water may interfere with digestion in some people. If your diet is already highly alkaline, there is some evidence that alkaline water may raise the pH of your stomach acids. Because your stomach is supposed to be very acidic compared to the rest of your body, this could disrupt digestion by limiting the breakdown of food in the stomach.
- Many sources indicate alkaline water may cause skin irritation if the body’s alkalinity moves too high.
- People with kidney problems should not regularly drink alkaline water. Your kidney helps regulate your body’s pH, and alkaline water may dangerously increase your body’s pH without the kidneys prepared to stop it.
Severe metabolic alkalosis, which is incredibly rare, causes side effects including:
- Muscle twitching
- Tingling in the face, arms, or legs
Different Perspectives on Alkaline Water
Is alkaline water better than plain water? Supporters of alkaline water would say yes, higher pH water is better than neutral pH plain water.
Fans of alkaline water would say:
- Alkaline water hydrates you more.
- Alkaline water helps with weight loss, according to animal studies.
- Alkaline water may relieve stomach distress and acid reflux.
- Alkaline water may provide anti-aging, anti-heart disease, and anti-cancer benefits.
- Alkaline water improves blood flow, which increases oxygen delivery.
- Avoiding tap water decreases your intake of fluoride and other chemicals in regular water.
- Alkaline water is a healthy part of an alkaline diet.
However, there are plenty of opponents of alkaline water. The nay-sayers would say no, alkaline water is not better than plain water just because it has a higher pH level.
Opponents of alkaline water would say:
- Alkaline water can cause skin irritation.
- Alkaline water messes with your natural stomach acids.
- Your kidneys and lungs already regulate the human body’s pH. Altering your blood pH too much can result in alkalosis or acidosis, both of which can be problematic or, in rare cases, deadly.
- Alkaline water has never been studied on a large scale to confirm health claims.
- Alkaline water is more expensive than plain water.
So, is alkaline water magic or myth? It’s certainly not magic, but it can support a healthy diet.
How much alkaline water is too much?
No large-scale studies have confirmed how much alkaline water is too much. But it is considered generally safe for almost everyone.
Start with 8 ounces per day and gradually increase your daily intake.
Can you drink alkaline water every day? As long as you do not suffer any side effects from drinking alkaline water, it should be safe to continue drinking alkaline water every day.
If you have kidney problems or are concerned about possible side effects, consult your doctor or registered dietitian before starting alkaline water.
Should I drink alkaline water?
When it comes down to it, you need to drink what works for you. At Clean Plates, we are all about personalized diet — no “one size fits all” plans.
If you struggle with acid reflux or are worried about oxidative stress aging you prematurely, speak with your healthcare provider and consider drinking alkaline water.
Alkaline water can be a beneficial part of the alkaline diet.
The alkaline diet has many research-backed benefits:
- Protects the kidneys
- Increases muscle mass
- Might alleviate back pain
- Lowers the risk of diabetes
- May improve chemotherapy results
Alkaline water is understandably a regular part of the alkaline diet.
Where To Buy Alkaline Water
Many stores, like Wal-Mart or Big Lots, sell alkaline water. You can also find alkaline water packs on Amazon.
Alkaline water is also known as “ionized water” or sometimes “electrolyte water” though the latter term is a little vague.
These are some popular alkaline water brands:
- Alka Nix
- Perfect Hydration
- Store brand (such as Kroger, Sam’s Club, or Costco)
Preferably, you will want your alkaline water bottled in water bottles that are BPA-free and recyclable.
As single-use water bottles are going out of style, you may want to buy an alkaline water machine. This starts with tap water and removes hydrogen ions, yielding a higher pH. A true alkaline water machine should also infuse the water with alkaline minerals.
For between $400 to $1600, you can own your own water ionizer. For those looking to adjust the pH of their water, Amazon has several available options, such as:
- Aqua Ionizer
- Pure Hydration
Some of these machines even make water with a pH over 9. Some can even make acidic water (pH below 7).
How To Make Alkaline Water: A DIY Recipe
How do you make water alkaline without a machine? To easily make your water more alkaline, combine ½ teaspoon of baking soda with a gallon of water.
Baking soda is the easiest ingredient with which to make your own alkaline water since it’s already alkaline and probably in your pantry.
Here is your DIY recipe for homemade alkaline water:
- 1 gallon (just under 4 liters) of pure water
- ½ teaspoon (not tablespoon!) of baking soda
- Take one gallon of pure water. You can adjust the amount of water if you wish, but one gallon is a good bulk amount — not too little, not too much.
- Mix a ½ teaspoon of baking soda in the water. Baking soda has a pH of about 9, and is alkaline in nature.
- Shake or mix the water and baking soda together until the baking soda is completely dissolved in the water.
- Enjoy a glass of alkaline water!
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- Koufman, J. A., & Johnston, N. (2012). Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, 121(7), 431-434. Full text: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nikki_Johnston2/publication/230587176_Potential_Benefits_of_pH_88_Alkaline_Drinking_Water_as_an_Adjunct_in_the_Treatment_of_Reflux_Disease/links/00b7d5303d555e5f0d000000/Potential-Benefits-of-pH-88-Alkaline-Drinking-Water-as-an-Adjunct-in-the-Treatment-of-Reflux-Disease.pdf
- Yu-lian, W. A. N. G. (2001). Preliminary observation on changes of blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids after using alkaline ionized drinking water [J]. Shanghai Journal of Preventive Medicine, 12. Abstract: http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTOTAL-SHYI200112005.htm
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- Pizzino, G., Irrera, N., Cucinotta, M., Pallio, G., Mannino, F., Arcoraci, V., … & Bitto, A. (2017). Oxidative stress: harms and benefits for human health. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2017. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/
- Tanaka, Y., Saihara, Y., Izumotani, K., & Nakamura, H. (2018). Daily ingestion of alkaline electrolyzed water containing hydrogen influences human health, including gastrointestinal symptoms. Medical gas research, 8(4), 160. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6352572/
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