What Does Alkaline Mean?
The term alkaline refers to a position on the pH (potential for hydrogen) scale that measures the concentration of hydrogen ions in a given substance. The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14, with 1- 6 being acidic (having more hydrogen ions), 7 being neutral, and 8-14 being basic or alkaline (having less hydrogen ions). Everything that you eat or drink registers on this scale. Water, sugars, and starches are neutral at 7; dairy, meat, and alcohol are acidic; and fruits, vegetables, and legumes are alkaline. Alkaline substances contain hydroxides of alkali metals and ammonium that form salts by neutralizing acids. You may remember experiments with these substances in science class; alkaline turns red litmus paper blue.
What is Alkaline Water?
Alkaline water normally registers between 7 and 10 on the pH scale. The typical bottled waters like Aquafina, Dasani, and Smartwater register between 5.0 and 7.0. Evian and Essentia are more alkaline registering at 7.2 and 9.5, respectively. This kind of water, also erroneously known as ionized water, has fewer hydrogen ions, which means more oxygen and higher alkaline. Water with a neutral pH cannot be ionized through the process of electrolysis. Alkaline water contains compounds like bicarbonate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and silica. An ideal source of alkaline water is natural spring water, which has a pH between 8 and 9 on the scale.
Spring water naturally collects minerals from rocks as it flows along its path, becoming more alkaline as it travels. The four principle minerals collected are calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Calcium contributes to bone and the circulatory system. Magnesium maintains heart, kidney, muscle, and nerve functions when it converts food into energy. Potassium affects muscle contraction and relaxation, the heart, fluid elimination, and digestion. Sodium affects blood pressure, bodily fluids, and muscle movement.
7 Health Benefits of Alkaline Water
For every claim that alkaline water is a miraculous concoction that cures whatever ails you, there is a naysayer present and counting the ways that it doesn’t work. Perhaps you should meet these parties somewhere in the middle, like pure water, and take a look at alkaline water in a practical light. Though alkaline water is certainly not a cure-all, it is only fair to acknowledge its possible benefits.
1. Acid Reflux
This condition causes that awful burning in your chest if you are a sufferer after you eat certain foods. It can affect your breathing and is worse than regular heartburn or acid indigestion because the stomach acids actually back up into the esophagus. If you experience these phenomena more than twice a week, then you suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. According to the 2012 study conducted by the Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, researchers found that alkaline water can be used as a temporary treatment for this condition. Drinking water with a pH of at least 8.8 brought relief by buffering acidic activity. It also concluded that alkaline water deactivates the enzyme pepsin, which is a key element of GERD.
2. Antioxidant Benefits
Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, a professional science journal, published results in 2006 that supported the claim that, as a natural antioxidant, alkaline water can neutralize free radicals that are harmful to the body. When added to vitamin C, alkaline water displayed potent antioxidant activity. These free radicals can potentially be converted into oxygen to produce energy or oxygenate tissue. This also contributes to better hydration which improves skin health and appearance.
3. Strong Bones
The British Medical Journal published an observational study in 2014 that correlated ingesting large quantities of milk with a higher risk of bone fractures in women. Alkaline water was cited as a safer source of calcium than dairy products. A more specific study published in Bone in 2009 found that alkaline water dramatically reduced PTH and S-CTX, two markers associated with bone loss, in 30 female participants. Alkaline water has also been associated with preserving bone density, which helps fight against osteoporosis.
This process is necessary for removing or curbing the accumulation of toxins that are harmful to the body. Excessive toxins in the bloodstream contribute to bloating, chronic fatigue, lethargy, mental confusion, inflammation, and sensitivity to food. Researchers who studied inhabitants of an area in Sweden saturated with alkaline-rich water found that 43 women were able to resist the absorption of heavy metals such as mercury. The study was published in Ambio in 2003.
5. Gut Health
Since the majority of the human body’s immune system is associated with digestion, then a healthy gut is essential to staying well. Not only does alkalized water supposedly provide extra hydration, two monthbut it also contains an abundance of antioxidants which can lend a helping hand in combating colds, flu, and more serious health problems like stomach viruses or illness from contaminated foods. Consumption of alcohol and spicy foods, stress, overeating, and other habitual behaviors result in excess production of stomach acids. This activity contributes to the destruction of good bacteria, nausea, and vomiting, as well as builds a fiery breeding ground for stomach ulcers and acid reflux disease. Alkaline water can help to temporarily neutralize these ill effects, and promote a healthier digestive process.
6. Good For Heart
A study published in 2004 in BMC Public Health suggested that ionized water was connected to lower blood pressure in participants with low levels of magnesium and calcium. It also seemed to improve symptoms in common with high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart disease when consumed over a three to six month period.
7. Weight Loss
A preliminary study on obesity published in Original Internist in 2011 found that participants averaged a loss of twelve pounds when they drank two liters of alkaline water per two-month period. Rats observed in a year-long study published in Experimental Pathology in 2001 were given water with various pH balances. The rats that were given the water with the highest pH levels lost the most weight. Toxins that accumulate in the body can manifest in weight gain as they are stored in fatty tissue. Alkaline water consumption helps the body to reduce acidic build up, and process and excrete these materials out of the body.
Alkaline Water Side Effects and Warnings
- No matter how beneficial an idea, product, process, or service, too much of anything never works out well. If you can consume too much water with a neutral pH, and you can, then you can certainly drink too much alkaline water. Biologically, at a certain point, all that you consume becomes acidic in the end.
- Consumption of alkaline water is meant to be a temporary remedy that may be used for consistently short periods of time, but should not be a full-time endeavor. Though studies seem to show that it is beneficial in many cases, it is a temporary solution for short-term care. In other words, it is meant to be and works best when used to treat symptoms or aid in the treatment of conditions or illnesses, and not to be a cure for the underlying source of the problem or disease. For this reason, you should always consult a physician to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Though the pH is an indicator of alkaline content, it does not indicate what actual minerals are present. Be aware of what you are actually ingesting. Since alkaline water is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the actual pH level and mineral content may not be accurate.
- Since the human body is a master at controlling pH in the body, the effects of alkaline water consumption do not last long. For example, if you suffer from GERD, then drinking alkaline water can help to alleviate the pain and discomfort temporarily. You would have to repeat the process as needed to maintain the effect. Again, this will not cure you of GERD.
- The idea that the lower end of the pH scale, acidic, is unhealthy and the higher end, alkaline, is healthy is just false. Different parts of the body possess different pH levels, but the overall ideal level for your body is between 7 and 8. Having a pH level on either extreme is not good.
- Though there is no indisputable proof that alkaline water absolutely lives up to all of the claims supporting its good qualities, there is absolutely no proof that it does actual harm.
Recipe: How to Make Alkaline Water at Home
Since alkaline water is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, you may want to consider keeping a close eye on what is actually in the water you are drinking. Making your own alkaline water is possible in many ways.
- Adding mineral powder to neutral tap water may alkalize water enough for your particular purposes.
- You can simply add pH drops to your neutral tap water.
- You may purchase an ionizer to process neutral tap water through electrolysis. This is more expensive and the laws of chemistry state that this process is not possible, but many swear by it and claim that it is more beneficial as it actually reduces the number of molecules in the water.
- You can alkalize water by adding one teaspoon of baking soda, sea salt, and coral calcium powder to a half gallon of distilled water in a gallon container. Add the juice of a whole lemon and shake contents. Be aware that this also increases your sodium intake.
- Since most fruits and vegetables register on the base or alkaline side of the pH scale, you may also want to consider making drinks using these foods along with alkaline water. Leafy green vegetables, lemons, and limes are higher on the alkaline side of the pH scale than most other fruits and vegetables.
No matter which process you decide to try, pH strips should be used to determine the actual pH of whatever you are about to drink.
How Do You Reduce Acidity in Your Body?
Besides drinking alkalized water, you can do many things to curb the build-up of acid in your body. Keep in mind that not everybody needs to counter acid to maintain balance in their system. It is not a matter of changing the acidity in your body, which can’t be done with food or drink, but rather a matter of helping your body to maintain itself. You want to encourage your body to function as it was intended.
Your stomach pH lies somewhere around 3.5 and should remain there. After all, its purpose is to dissolve and digest food so that the nutrients may be distributed throughout the body. You really do not want to go trying to fix something that isn’t broken. This does not mean that you cannot eat foods or do things that promote good acidic and alkaline pH levels where they need to exist.
- Alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, fatty foods, meat, processed foods, refined flour and sugar, and carbonated drinks are not only acidic foods but are bad for you in general. Although they can’t affect the pH of your blood, they can certainly affect your stomach acid. So, ingest them sparingly or avoid them altogether, especially if you suffer from GERD.
- Even the most alkaline foods, usually peaking between 9 and 10 on the pH scale, cannot compete with the even more acidic pH level of stomach acid at 3.5. Remember that all food and drink ingested eventually become acidic in end, but alkaline foods seem to be the most beneficial foods to eat. Dark leafy greens (cabbage; kale; collard, turnip, and mustard greens; and spinach) and watery green vegetables (celery and cucumber), sprouts and sprout grasses have been known as healthy foods for quite some time. They are great at helping to maintain your normal pH levels throughout your body.
- The same goes for foods that are next down the line on the pH scale, weighing in somewhere between 8 and 9. These include bitter fresh herbs (cilantro and parsley), almonds, pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, radishes, and most leaves of lettuce (arugula, endive, green and red, romaine).
- Low alkaline foods like cauliflower, coconut (fruit and water), avocado, cooked vegetables, and flax, also fit in the sweet spot of foods that are good for your pH balance.
- A surprising number of foods fit into the slightly acidic category between 6 and 7. These foods are also ideal, being nutritionally sound and safe to eat in significant quantities. They include most nuts and legumes (beans, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts), grains and sprouts (alfalfa, soy, lentils), cooking oil (canola, grape seed, corn, sunflower), sweeteners other than sugar (honey, syrup, molasses), tart fruits (berries, dates, figs), sweet fruits (cherries, mangoes, strawberries, oranges), watery fruits (apples, grapes, melons), fish, and organ meats (liver, kidneys, heart).
- Try to eat as fresh and as raw as possible. This means shopping more frequently and avoiding canned, frozen, or processed foods.
- Physical activity promotes optimum circulation, which in turn promotes a more regulatory overall system. It reduces stress, which can cause acid levels to increase, and provides an outlet for your stored energy.
- Try to cook your food done, not to death. Your vegetables should not be limp or mushy, and your meat should not be dry and hard. Limp and mushy vegetables have not only lost their texture, but they have also lost most of their nutrients. Though everything ends up acid in the end, the nutrients gained from vegetables still contribute to the pH of organs and tissue throughout your body. Hard and dry meat make your stomach work harder to digest them, so don’t stir the acid pot and cause yourself pain and discomfort when your stomach has to do what it must do to function.
- Believe it or not, deep breathing exercises practiced on a regular basis reduce acidity. The expelling of carbon dioxide is a proven method of dispelling stress and maintaining your body’s normal pH levels.
- If you’re feeling especially gassy or sense heartburn coming on, a simple solution of sodium bicarbonate, a baking soda and water solution, can give you immediate and satisfactory relief.
All in all alkaline water is not a magic bullet, but it can help to keep you balanced, and balance is the name of the game.