Did you know there may be a number of benefits of alkaline water to health?
In this article, we’ll look at the potential benefits of drinking alkaline water, as well as some of the evidence that backs it up.
Firstly though, what exactly is alkaline water?
Alkaline water is commonly described as described as water with a pH higher than 7.0, which contains alkalising compounds, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and bicarbonate.
pH is an indicator of how acid or alkaline something is.
Although pH levels do vary in different parts of the body, the optimum pH for a human body is considered to be around 7.4, which is slightly alkaline.
Alkaline water may benefit our acidic Western diet
Western diets, however, have become increasingly acidic over recent years. Diets are often packed with sugary drinks, processed foods and snacks, excess salt, hydrogenated oils and chemical additives and pesticides. Excess stress is also associated with modern Western living.
These factors can contribute to excess acidity in the body – something often referred to as low grade acidosis, a condition where disease can thrive.
Advocates of alkaline water, however, maintain this excess acidity can be balanced through drinking alkaline water.
Let’s break it down and take a look at 11 key ways alkaline water may benefit health.
1 – Alkaline water may aid hydration
Around 70% of the adult body is made up of water, so it’s important to stay hydrated for optimum health.
Water has many functions in the body, a key one being the maintenance of bodily fluids. These bodily fluids aid digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, as well as effective maintenance of body temperature. Even our cells need water to stay hydrated and work efficiently.
Advocates of alkaline water suggest it may be more hydrating than regular water.
Some research does exist to back this suggestion up. In 2010 a study examined 38 young, healthy adults who drank either alkaline water with a pH of 10, or normal water, for four weeks.
The research concluded that those who drank the alkaline water had more alkaline blood and urine at the end the study and were more hydrated than those who drank the regular water.
There is also much anecdotal evidence of people who believe alkaline water offers enhanced hydration.
Ionised water may offer even better hydration
Drink ionised water and hydration may increase even further.
Ionised water is with mineral ions in it. Water can be ionised naturally or via a water ioniser.
Ionised water is believed to lead to better hydration because when water is ionised, the size and shape of the water molecule changes – it becomes what is called ‘microclustered’. This means the water molecules become smaller and can better penetrate and hydrate the cells of the body.
2 – Alkaline water may help balance pH levels in the body
Advocates of alkaline water believe it may neutralise the excess acid in our bloodstream that can lead to acidosis, thereby helping your body to metabolise nutrients more efficiently, which in turn leads to better health.
It’s important to understand here though, that in order to help balance pH levels in the body, alkaline water needs to contain alkalinity. This is not the same as pH.
Whereas pH is a measurement of hydrogen in the water, alkalinity is the presence of alkalising compounds, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate.
The body needs a consistent supply of these alkalizing minerals in order to maintain and balance its complex pH regulating system.
So drinking alkaline water that contains alkalinity may well help keep the body’s pH in balance.
3 – Alkaline water may help boost your immune system
Excess acid in the body is thought to contribute long term to a range of health issues – from conditions such as acidosis to deep rooted diseases such as cancer or arthritis.
Drinking alkaline water may help neutralise these excess levels of acid, in turn boosting the immune system.
4 – Alkaline water may help with weight loss
The body uses fat cells to defend itself from acid, so drinking alkaline water may give your body the message that it no longer needs to defend itself.
A study of mice that were given high fat diets certainly goes some way to back this theory up.
Along with the high fat diet, one group of mice was given alkaline water and the other tap water. The alkaline water group gained markedly less weight than the group drinking tap water.
5 – Alkaline water may help with skin conditions such as psoriasis
Excess acidity is something commonly associated with skin conditions such as psoriasis or acne.
Alkaline water is thought to help neutralise these excess acidic toxic residues (such as uric acid) that can accumulate in the our cells and which can contribute to these skin conditions.
6 – Alkaline water may help with bone health
The body requires a consistent supply of alkalising minerals to help maintain it’s complex pH regulation systems. When these minerals get depleted through excess acidity, it’s thought the body starts to draw on reserves in the bones, thereby weakening them.
It’s thought drinking alkaline water may help.
In terms of scientific evidence, this study tracked 30 young women who ate similar diets and drink either bicarbonate-rich, alkaline mineral water or non-alkaline mineral water for four weeks. Those who drank the alkaline water had lower markers of bone loss than the non-alkaline one.
7 – Alkaline water is a powerful antioxidant if it’s ionised
Ionised water contains increased molecular hydrogen, which acts as a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are believed to counteract and prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, thus leading to better health.
In fact, according to this study published in Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, molecular hydrogen has been shown to protect proteins, DNA and RNA from damage.
Another study concluded molecular hydrogen contains anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory and anti-cell death properties, which may be beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular diseases.
8 – Alkaline water may help with acid reflux
Ever stayed up late and overindulged with spicy food? Then you may have woken up in the night with acid reflux. Many Western diets are increasingly rich in food in drink such as sugary sodas and sweetened beverages, coffee, meat, sugary snacks and highly processed foods. And it’s these types of food and drink that are more acidic by nature and can contribute to acid reflux.
Researchers in the US tested alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 and discovered it inactivated pepsin, a key digestive enzyme associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease.
So rather than reaching for the Tums, drinking alkaline water may well help too.
9 – Alkaline water may help reduce the risk of cancer
This video from Cancer Research UK shows how cancer starts:
Advocates of drinking alkaline water, particularly ionised alkaline water, claim it may reduce excess acidity in the body, creating a more alkaline environment in which mutant cancer cells can’t survive.
However, the area is a complex one. Because, whilst there is much anecdotal evidence of people claiming to have cured cancer and other diseases, with alkaline (or ionised water), very little scientific research exists to back it up. This leads to huge divides in opinion.
Dr Otto Warburg, who received the Nobel Prize for his work on cancer in 1923 is often cited in this area.
In his book ‘The Metabolism of Tumours’, he maintained that all forms of cancer are characterised by two basic conditions: acidosis and hypoxia (lack of oxygen).
More recent research also maintains a common feature of tumours is acidosis caused by hypoxia.
Dr. Keijiro Kuwabara of Japan, who has been successfully treating diabetes with alkaline water for some time, supports the hypoxia theory and states…
When you drink alkaline water, you are drinking water with excess oxygen, not in the form of O2, but in the form of OH – which is very stable because it is mated with positively ionised alkaline minerals. Two of these hydroxyl ions can form a water molecule (H2O) and give out one oxygen atom. The alkaline mineral is used to detoxify poisonous acid compounds. When that happens, the hydroxyl ion is freed to supply excess oxygen to the cells to prevent the development of cancer. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002, vol.76
So the suggestion is that creating a less acidic environment and providing the body with more oxygen via alkaline or ionised water may both be beneficial.
According to this site:
Ionised water is very alkaline (if your ioniser makes the water alkaline), has a high redox potential (i.e. it is a good antioxidant because its ORP value is very negative), and it has its water molecules in smaller clusters than normal water. All of these things help inhibit the spread of cancer and aid in killing cancer cells, directly or indirectly.
If this is so, ionised water is know for it’s powerful antioxidant (detoxifying) properties, because of it’s high molecular hydrogen content. Antioxidants are believed to counteract and prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, which are thought to be a contributory factor in cancer.
Alkaline water, arthritis and gout
Many forms arthritis and gout are the result of acid accumulation in the joints. The blood cannot easily carry these acid wastes out of the joints, so they tend to accumulate, causing irritation and inflammation.
Mainstream medicine has no effective treatment for these conditions, except suppressant drugs, which sometimes make make the body even more acidic.
Drinking alkaline water may be an effective way to help flush these acid accumulations from the body.
10 – Alkaline water may improve digestion
We’ve already seen that alkaline water may help with acid reflux, with research suggesting it may inactivate pepsin, a key digestive enzyme associated with acid reflux.
On this site, Dr Susan Lark suggests alkaline water may also reduce digestive problems such as heartburn, irritable colon, Crohn’s disease and colitis, conditions associated with over acidity.
Research in Japan also suggests that alkaline water may have positive effects on digestive health and ionised water is sometimes prescribed for mid digestive upset.
11 – Alkaline water may help prevent diabetes
Alkaline water is common place in Japan and is commonly used in many hospitals.
Which perhaps makes it less surprising that Dr. Keijiro Kuwabara been clinically treating diabetes with alkaline water there for some years.
He reported one case where a 49 year old man was diagnosed as having insulin-independent diabetes mellitus. With just one month’s use of alkaline water, the sugar count came down to virtually an undetectable level.
The theory behind this is that the pancreas plays an important role in helping to maintain the balance of alkalinity in the body. Over time, the pancreas can get worn down working to keep pH levels in balance. In turn, this can lead to the pancreas struggling to maintain other functions too, one of which is the maintenance of proper glucose levels.
Are there any alkaline water side effects?
As with anything, balance is key.
The World Health Organisation cautions against drinking alkaline water with a pH higher than 11, as it may irritate your eyes, skin and mucous membranes or cause gastrointestinal problems.
And if you have a kidney condition (or taking medication that alters kidney function), some minerals in alkaline water could start to accumulate in your body.
Ingesting too much alkaline water could also deplete stomach acid levels to low levels or even lead to alkalosis.
Where to buy alkaline water
You can purchase alkaline water in a number of ways.
Alkaline bottled water
Alkaline pH drops
Alkaline pH drops are reasonably priced and easy to use. Simply add a few drops as per the product instructions to alkalise your drinking water.
Alkaline water pitchers
Alkaline water pitchers are another affordable way to drink alkaline water. They generally cost around $50. An advantage of these is that they often also come with a built in carbon based filter as well. So as well as alkalising your water, the pitcher will also filter out some of common pollutants in tap water, such as chlorine or lead.
Alkaline water machines or ionisers
The most expensive, but also most versatile option is to buy an alkaline water machine or ioniser.
You can even make your own alkaline water by adding some lemon juice or a spot of bicarbonate of soda.
Always consult a medical professional for advice if you are unsure whether alkaline water is right for you.
The Benefits of Alkaline Water – A Final Word
The heath benefits of drinking alkaline water is an area that continues to divide.
If you need scientific evidence to conclusively confirm the debate one way or the other, it simply isn’t there.
There is however, extensive anecdotal evidence of people claiming to have used alkaline water to remarkable effect. Age old traditions such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have also long advocated the importance of maintaining an alkaline balance within the body, as a preventative measure to disease.
The suggestion that alkaline or ionised water is a sole miracle cure for cancer or other diseases, is perhaps misleading and oversimplifying things. Alkaline water is not a substitute for essential vitamins and minerals your body requires from a healthy diet. Nor is it a substitute for exercise or emotional wellbeing.
There is, however, a very strong suggestion that, in tandem with a healthy, balanced, nutrition-rich lifestyle, it may certainly help.
At the end of the day, certainly at the moment anyway, only you can decide.