Celebrities and influencers are praising alkaline water. One source, Health Smart Site, lists Jillian Michaels, Jack Nicholson, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, and Magic Johnson among its proponents. Such sites point to benefits like fat loss, lubricating joints, and even curing cancer.
While some studies suggest that an alkaline diet may be beneficial in some ways, is alkaline water better for you than, say, regular tap water? Who wouldn’t prefer water that offers them increased energy, detoxifying properties, and superior hydration?
What is Alkaline Water?
In a previous post, we discussed a hot trend in the natural health market—alkalizing your blood. The theory is that if you consume enough alkaline water or food you will change your blood pH, improving health and reducing disease.
Alkaline water has a higher pH level than tap, filtered, or other bottled water. It is believed that alkaline water can neutralize the acid in your body. Pure water has a neutral pH level of 7, while tap water can vary slightly because it contains minerals. Alkaline water has a pH level of 8 to 10. The deviation can be due to minerals occurring naturally, say in spring water, or an ionization process. Some proponents of the blood pH idea supplement their alkaline water with more alkaline foods as well–fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
However, we previously revealed that what you eat or drink has little to no effect on your blood pH. So, is there any reason to try alkaline water?
Are There Benefits to Alkaline Water?
Staying hydrated is crucial to overall health. So I would never discourage anyone from drinking ample amounts of water. I especially recommend drinking some when you first wake up, 30 minutes before meals, and during exercise. So if the alkaline trend has people more conscious of their water intake, great! But I don’t want to see them get scammed by something expensive–and which comes in single-use plastic bottles–if they don’t need it. So are there benefits to alkaline water?
Tanis Fenton, a registered dietician from the University of Calgary, told the New York Times that the acid in a person’s stomach quickly destroys the alkalinity of the water long before it reaches the bloodstream. Besides that, if your blood were not within a normal pH range, you would show serious adverse health effects!
Some studies, however, appear to show positive results. In 2012, researchers Koufman and Johnston published findings in Annals of Otology, Rhinology, & Laryngology. They showed that water with a pH of 8.8 deactivated pepsin in vitro. Pepsin, when activated by acid, plays a role in GERD. The researchers concluded, “the consumption of alkaline water may have therapeutic benefits for patients with reflux disease.” However, Scott Gabbard of The Cleveland Clinic argues that those in vitro results would not translate into the human body.
A 2016 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition looked at the hydrating effects of high-pH water following intense exercise. They measured several biomarkers for hydration is athletes who drank either neutral water or alkaline water. The latter showed faster recovery following exercise. A little digging, however, will reveal that this study was funded by the makers of Essentia… you guessed it, a bottled alkaline water. Other studies suffer the same tarnish to their integrity.
Risks of Too Much Alkalinity
Changing the blood pH by any significant margin is nearly impossible and, even if it were achieved, the results might not be so welcome. An excess of alkalinity in your body can cause a host of gastrointestinal and other issues including nausea, vomiting, hand tremors, muscle twitching, and confusion. Alkalosis can reduce calcium in the body, ultimately impacting bone health.
As with anything, it takes many large, reproducible scientific studies to demonstrate the truth. At the moment, evidence of alkaline water’s “miracle” properties are scant and questionably funded.
The reality is, it’s probably not the pH in the water or the food that improves health. Hydrating and eating a nutrient-dense diet improve a wide range of health conditions.
If you’re not already, try eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and a protein source along with plenty of drinking water. Add supplements where you might need a boost in certain vitamins or nutrients. Whether or not you drink alkaline water, it won’t matter if your overall diet is primarily processed foods, empty calories, and sugar. So my advice? Don’t be too quick to buy into marketing hype.
Please feel free to contact me to schedule a telemedicine consultation or office consultation at our Integrative Medical Center in Metamora, Indiana. I will be glad to help you.
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