Beyoncé sings its praises, and NBA athletes swear by it, too: alkaline water is claimed to be a beauty tonic and replenishing secret ingredient. But can alkaline water deliver on these promises?
What is alkaline water?
Alkaline water is a ‘basic’ water, meaning it has a pH level between 7.1 and 14. The pH scale measures the concentration of hydrogen ions, and thus indicates the acid and base content of a liquid.
There are three parts to the scale:
pH level 0 – 6.9 = acidic
pH level 7 = neutral
pH level 7 – 14 = basic/alkaline
Alkaline water is supposed to help your body neutralize hyperacidity or to prevent an acid-base imbalance in your body. The ideal pH value of alkaline water is somewhere between 8 and 9.
The idea seems great. In principle, alkaline compounds in the body are responsible for buffering acids in the blood. Alkaline water also does this thanks to its high mineral content: it contains calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium in optimal amounts necessary for the acid buffer.
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Different functions in the human body require different pH-values. While the pH value in the stomach is particularly low, allowing stomach acid to decompose our food, the pH value of the blood is normally between 7.35 and 7.45 – i.e. clearly in the alkaline range.
In a balanced diet, we naturally include acidifying and alkalizing foods. The body always strives to keep the pH value as stable as possible within the normal range. It has various buffer mechanisms for this. If you eat acidic foods, the acid is neutralized by the alkaline stores. These in turn are replenished by alkaline foods.
Alkaline water and an alkaline diet with lots of fruits and vegetables help to maintain your body’s acid-base balance. But by the way, which foods are alkaline is not always as clear-cut as you think – lemons, for example, do not turn you acidic. Learn all about alkaline foods here.
Important to know: Acidosis can lead to complaints such as fatigue, stomach problems, or muscle and joint pain, to name a few. But this does not mean that the more alkaline, the better. A permanently higher pH-value is also a problem: dizziness, micronutrient deficiency, and hyperventilation can be consequences. Normally, your body knows how to regulate its own pH levels. If you have any concerns about this, talk to your doctor.
What water is considered alkaline?
Plain water has a pH value of 7, which means it’s neutral. According to the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the pH value of drinking water ranges between 6.5 and 9.5, meaning it is slightly acidic – to alkaline. The exact pH-value of water varies depending on its origin, cleanliness, and the tap it’s coming from. Usually, regular water has a pH-value of 7.
You can find alkaline water in nature, particularly in springs, as spring water absorbs many minerals from the ground. Special healing waters are also often alkaline. You can buy both in supermarkets. Most alkaline water is sold in glass bottles instead of plastic to avoid possible BPA exposure.
How does drinking alkaline water work?
Alkaline water is said to have many benefits and effects on your body. It’s said to regulate the acidity of the body, reduce oxidative stress, and help in the treatment of diseases caused by, among other things, hyperacidity of the body. There are, however, no representative scientific studies to date that prove the health claims of alkaline water.
Experts have their doubts mainly because of the low buffering capacity of water. While blood can use the body’s own base stores to regulate the acid and base contents on its own, water can quickly absorb the pH value of any surrounding fluids. This means that as soon as water mixes with stomach acid, it becomes acidic.
Too much alkaline water is even considered unhealthy: it is said to dilute stomach acid, adversely affect pepsin function, and thus reduce the breakdown of proteins from food. Because of this, you should avoid alkaline water with a pH value higher than 8.
Proponents of alkaline water swear by making their own at home using special water ionizers. Since the devices are expensive and the health benefits of alkaline water haven’t been scientifically proven, we’d recommend that you try simple home remedies instead. You can test whether your water is really alkaline with pH test strips from the pharmacy.
You can make alkaline water yourself by adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to normal water or by mixing 200ml of water with the lemon juice from half a lemon.
You can also use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to make your own alkaline water: Mix 600 mg of sodium bicarbonate with 250 ml of tap water and stir until the sodium bicarbonate has completely dissolved.
Boiling water for about 5-10 minutes also influences the concentration of hydrogen ions and shifts the pH value into the alkaline range.
To make it precise and easy, you can buy special pH drops to stir into a certain amount of tap water.
There is no scientific evidence of any health benefits of alkaline water.
A healthy body regulates its acid-base balance on its own.
A balanced diet with few animal foods and plenty of alkaline foods is healthier than drinking alkaline water.
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Ignacio, R.M.C.; Joo, K.-B.; and Lee, K.-J. (2012) “Clinical effect and mechanism of alkaline reduced water,” Journal of Food and Drug Analysis: Vol. 20 : Iss. 1 , Article 33.
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Magro, M., Corain, L., Ferro, S., Baratella, D., Bonaiuto, E., Terzo, M., Corraducci, V., Salmaso, L., & Vianello, F. (2016). Alkaline Water and Longevity: A Murine Study. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2016, 3084126.