Alkaline water is a water with a pH level 8 to 9. This water also contains minerals such as silica, calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc. Alkaline water has gained immense popularity in the recent years. Be it health enthusiast, fitness experts, professional athletes or celebrities, they all seem to have made alkaline water a part of their fitness diet.
While we are all aware that drinking enough water helps improve our overall health, what is it about alkaline water that makes it better than regular water?
Many natural health experts claim that alkaline water increases energy, slows down aging, improves fertility and prevents cancer. But is there any scientific proof that supports these claims? Let us find out.
- Also read: How Much Water Should I Drink a Day?
What is alkaline water?
You may already know that pH is the measure of alkalinity or acidity of a substance. The pH scale runs from zero to 14, with zero being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline.
Seven is the neutral midpoint on this scale. Regular drinking water has the pH level of 7 which means it is neutral. Our body too has a pH level which is 7.4.
Alkaline water, which is rich in minerals like calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate, has a pH level of 8 or 9. These minerals are also essential to keep the body running smoothly.
Calcium strengthens bones and supports a healthy circulatory system. Magnesium is essential for maintaining muscles, nerves, heart and kidney function. Sodium controls blood pressure.
Potassium plays a vital role in muscle relaxation and contraction. You can buy alkaline water in bottled form from supermarkets or use a water alkalizer, which can cost around $1,500.
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How does alkaline water work?
According to the proponents of alkaline water, this water makes our bodies less acidic.
The human body has a pH level of 7.4, which means it is slightly alkaline. Many natural health experts believe the modern unhealthy diet makes our body acidic.
This condition is known as chronic low-grade acidosis, which can lead to health issues like metabolic and hormonal problems and loss of bone.
According to many alternative medicine experts, our bodies need to be maintained strictly at pH 7.4. Even a slight change can have health risks.
According to these experts, acidosis can lead to diarrhea, osteoporosis, anxiety, and impaired immune function. Alkaline water can help by making the body less acidic.
Though many professional argue against its use, there have been a few studies that have linked alkaline water to improved health.
According to a 2012 study, consuming alkaline water with pH 8.8 instantly denatures pepsin, rendering it permanently inactive (1). Pepsin is the primary enzyme that leads to acid reflux.
According to another study published in the Shanghai Journal of Preventive Medicine, drinking alkaline ionized water helps decrease the levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood lipids significantly (2).
During a 2016 study, 100 healthy adults were given alkalized high pH water after exercise to rehydrate. The researchers discovered that high pH water reduced high-shear viscosity by an average of 6.3 percent as compared to 3.36 percent with standard purified water.
Viscosity is the measure of how blood flows through the vessels. The results of the study showed that rehydration with alkaline water made the blood flow more efficiently and this helped in better oxygen delivery in the body (3).
Much more scientific research and studies are needed to prove the numerous benefits that the proponents of alkaline water claim.
Benefits of alkaline water
Many natural health experts believe the alkaline water alone can improve the pH balance in the body and this can lead to many health benefits.
While some of their theories do have some merit, many don’t. Let us look at some of the benefits of alkaline water.
1. Improves blood circulation
Recent research has shown that alkaline water helps improve blood circulation. This improved circulation makes it easy for the body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
This happens because alkaline water helps reduce the viscosity of the blood. The study, which compared the effects of alkaline water and regular water on the viscosity of blood, found alkaline water reduced viscosity by 6.3 percent, while regular water reduced it by 3.36 percent (3).
2. Promotes bone health
A highly acidic diet can increase bone loss as it increases the amount of calcium that is removed through urine. An alkaline diet prevents bone loss and helps make bones stronger (4).
Some other studies have also shown that alkaline water also influences other hormones that affect bone metabolism. A 2009 study compared the effect of alkaline mineral water which is rich in bicarbonate with that of an acidic one which is rich in only calcium, on bone markers in young women with regular calcium intake.
The study found that calcium-rich water had no effect on calcium resorption but alkaline water which is rich in bicarbonate reduced parathyroid hormone (PTH) (5).
High blood sugar can damage your nerves and blood vessels. Its symptoms include increased thirst and a frequent need to urinate. According to a six-month study in China, alkaline water helps to reduce the blood sugar to the normal range in patients (2).
Another study found that alkaline water can function as an oral anti-diabetic agent as it significantly reduces blood glucose concentration and improves glucose tolerance in animals (6).
4. Improves hydration
Our body depends on water for its survival. Every cell, tissue, and organ of our body needs water to function correctly. So, it is imperative to stay well hydrated.
According to a 2010 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 38 subjects were mineral-rich alkaline water for four weeks.
The researchers concluded that alkaline water improves acid-base balance and hydration status when consumed under free-living conditions (7).
5. Reduces acid reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as or acid reflux, is a condition in which causes the liquid content of the stomach to regurgitate into the esophagus.
The symptoms include burning chest pain that increases when you are lying down. Consuming alkaline water can neutralize pepsin, and reduce the symptoms of acid reflux.
According to a study by the Voice Institute of New York, drinking alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 helped deactivate pepsin and provided relief from acid reflux (1).
The proponents of alkaline water claim that alkaline water provides many other benefits, but they are not substantiated by any proofs or studies. Some of these claims include –
- Alkaline water has anti-aging properties.
- It helps in the colon cleansing process.
- Alkaline water boosts the immune system.
- Alkaline water can improve skin health and help detoxify the body.
- It helps in weight loss.
- It can enhance the effect of chemotherapy in cancer patients.
Side effects of alkaline water
Though alkaline water is generally considered safe, it can produce some serious side effects.
1. Reduced stomach acid
Alkaline water neutralizes the acid in the stomach. This is beneficial for people with acid reflux, but for most people excessive reduction if stomach acid can be harmful.
Stomach acid is needed for proper digestion and also for killing bacteria and pathogens.
2. Excessive alkalinity
Water which is highly alkaline can harm the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alkaline water can also lead to gastrointestinal problems.
Drinking water with high pH can lead to a condition known as metabolic alkalosis, which can cause problems like nausea, vomiting, twitching and tingling in face, hands, and feet.
3. Kidney troubles
Kidneys help in maintaining healthy pH levels in the body. When we drink alkaline water on a regular basis, it puts excessive pressure on the kidneys to bring the pH levels of the body back to normal.
Alkaline water is a definite no-no for people suffering from kidney disease.
Where can you get alkaline water?
There are two kinds of alkaline waters. The artificial alkaline water is regular tap water that is run through an electric ionizer to raise its pH level.
Natural alkaline water is created when water passes over rocks and soil and picks up various minerals which raise its pH level. Natural alkaline water contains minerals like calcium, potassium, silica, magnesium, and bicarbonate.
The naturally occurring spring water is the best source of alkaline water as it contains the benefits of minerals. The artificially created alkaline water does not have any minerals.
You can buy alkaline water from health food stores. They can also be purchased online. Water ionizers are also available in the shop these days.
You can also make alkaline water at home by squeezing lemon or lime to a glass of water. Even though lime is acidic, it can change the composition of water and make it alkaline. Adding baking soda to drinking water can also make it alkaline.
Alkaline water has a pH level of more than 8, and it contains minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, silica, and bicarbonate.
The benefits of alkaline water include improved circulation, better bone health, reduced blood pressure, reduced acid reflux and enhanced hydration.
Many other claims of alkaline water are not supported by any research. However, you must choose natural alkaline water rather than an artificial one, which does not contain any beneficial minerals.