A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Are there any benefits of drinking alkaline water? Read on to see if you should sip it or sling it.
Alkaline water most definitely has claims behind it that have yet to be proven and are hard to deliver. Luckily for you, we’re here to answer a few of your questions: what alkaline water is, how it works, what it claims to benefit, and if you should drink it.
What is Alkaline Water?
Unless you’re a chemist, you may not have thought about acid and alkaline since your school science class, so here’s a little reminder:
Alkaline refers to the pH level of the water — that’s whether it’s acidic, alkaline or neutral. Plain and unchanged (distilled) water has a pH of 7 which means it’s neutral. As the number gets lower than 7, the liquid becomes more acidic, while the higher it gets the more alkaline it is.
For example, vinegar has a pH of about 4, lemon juice is a 3, our stomach acid is a 2, and battery acid is a 1. Going in the other direction, seawater has a pH of about 8, hand soap is a 9, ammonia is a 10, and bleach is around 12. When we’re talking about alkaline water, it has a pH of about 8 or 9.
Usually by adding certain metals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and other minerals, the pH of water can be increased. Other unnatural processes such as ionization exist to make water more alkaline which involves using electricity to increase the alkalinity.
Are There Benefits of Drinking Alkaline Water?
Since our stomach is already very acidic, some believe that a diet which consists of more acidic foods and drinks such as sugars, dairy, grains, processed foods, sodas, coffee and energy drinks and many other foods that are common in a western diet will lead to various negative side effects.
These body-damaging effects include weight gain, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, swollen joints, chronic inflammation and cancer — among others. To undo all of the bad, alkaline water has been touted as the product to neutralize the acidity in your body to hopefully 7 or above and prevent you from developing any of these side effects.
No major studies have been done on alkaline water, but preliminary research has shown a possible affinity towards preventing acid reflux, blood pressure, and blood thickness. These benefits of drinking alkaline water are still anecdotal and in the beginning stages of being proven, so we can’t say for sure that it does any more that wet your whistle. As for all the other supposed benefits, don’t believe everything you hear as no research has even remotely shown alkaline water preventing joint damage, diabetes, or cancer, to name a few.
The reason that this all sounds a little off the mark is that our body is extremely good at homeostasis (specifically balancing our body’s pH level), and rarely deviates from its set pH, suggesting that it doesn’t need that much help from alkaline water.
Not to mention that our stomach acid is as low as it is for very specific reasons. As most of us have bodies that have intelligently evolved (apart from the odd gym ape) for these features to protect its systems and organs from outside attack. In the case of stomach acid, this is to prevent bacteria and pathogens from getting into the bloodstream. The stomach acid denatures the proteins of bacteria and pathogens, meaning that they can’t do us too much damage.
So why would you want to guzzle alkaline water and alter the stomach’s pH? This would make it become less acidic and you could potentially become more susceptible to viruses and illness. Finally, a low pH environment is what certain enzymes in our body need to break down food and nutrients efficiently. In other words, this means a more alkaline stomach could lead to inefficient digestion and nutrient absorption.
Take Home Message
Alkaline water might as well be a more expensive form of distilled water, as it has no proven positive effect on the body. There might be health benefits of drinking alkaline water, but there are no studies to prove this. It also might lower the acidity in our stomach too much and actually lead to negative side effects. Whether you choose to try it or not, make sure to keep the facts — or lack of them — in the back of your mind.