The standard American diet today is filled with refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, excess sodium, high fructose corn syrup, chemical additives, pesticides, synthetic hormones, processed foods and let’s not forget emotional stress and lack of sleep. These are all contributing factors to low-grade acidosis, an overproduction of acid in the blood — leading to an atmosphere where disease can thrive. Instead, consuming whole organic vegetables and fruits will make your body more alkaline and can shield you from acidosis, as well as help you lose weight.
However, your body can also become sick when the blood is too alkaline (not acidic enough). After all, the human body needs water to survive and can only go three days before completely shutting down.
I am sure you have seen a push lately to drink alkaline water, either in bottles or adding an ionizer to your tap at home. With so much new information claiming benefits and just as much new information claiming it’s false, what should you believe?
Let’s break down the debate and find out the truth.
What Is Alkaline Water?
Due to a higher pH level, alkaline water is supposedly less acidic than your basic tap water, which usually tests at a neutral 7.0 or less. It’s said that alkaline water offers more key minerals the body needs to function properly, such as calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium.
Alkalinity refers to an object’s pH balance (potential for hydrogen): Too many hydrogen ions means less oxygen is available to the cells, and leads to higher acidity. Fewer hydrogen ions mean more oxygen is available, leading to a more alkaline, or basic, state. There is no known disease that can survive in an alkaline state.
On average, your healthy pH levels should be approximately a 7.365 for the blood on a scale between 0–14, leaving the blood at a 60/40 alkaline-to-acid ratio.
Alkaline compounds buffer acids in the blood with four main minerals — calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium — that work together to keep the body healthy and running properly.
- Calcium strengthens our bones and supports a healthy circulatory system.
- Magnesium helps convert our food into energy and works to maintain muscle, nerves, heart and kidney function.
- Sodium controls blood pressure, balances fluids in the body and influences muscle movement.
- Potassium helps maintain muscle relaxation and contraction, which is extremely important around the heart, and also aids in digestion and fluid elimination.
The body works hard to naturally keep the blood tipping towards an alkaline state and will take from stored reserves whenever necessary to keep it balanced.
Alkaline Water Debate
There are two sides to every story and the alkaline water debate is no different.
Let me start by saying there hasn’t been enough research or lengthy studies performed to definitively confirm or reject either side. Meanwhile, some “articles” simply throw out claims that are merely trying to sell a product instead of being scientifically based.
Those in favor of alkaline water claim it provides a range of health benefits. Namely, that it boosts the metabolism, slows bone loss and the aging process, and metabolizes nutrients easier by neutralizing acid in the blood that causes disease. They believe low-grade acidosis may not always be detected with testing, leaving your body to suffer the silent consequences.
The opposing side agrees there might be benefits but is unsure whether the benefits come from the high-pH-level alkaline water itself or the minerals it contains. (1) Their warning to all? Be leery of astonishing health claims and keep in mind that all alkaline waters or home ionizers are not made equal.
Alkalizing the body and all of its organs is complex. If the root cause is unknown, opponents remind us, drinking alkaline water might not be the answer to your low pH levels problem. Plus, the human body wasn’t created to live in a constant alkaline state.
Remember that 60/40 ratio I mentioned earlier? Consuming high alkaline water on a continual basis can disrupt your body’s delicate balance, becoming detrimental to your health.
Scientific Studies & Research
Plenty of studies exist trying to confirm one side or the other. The important thing to look for in scientific information is a conclusion that represents both sides of the debate.
One study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition used an alkaline-dissolving supplement to create alkaline water with a 10.0 pH level. After four weeks, the study concluded that participants consuming the alkaline water did, in fact, show increased hydration and improved acid-base balance in the blood compared to those drinking regular water. (2)
Like most studies currently available, however, this study only tested for short-term viability, leaving out many factors, like diet or existing health-related issues.
Another study performed on 67 postmenopausal women over a span of 84 days concluded, “Short term consumption of magnesium bicarbonate supplemented spring water increased serum magnesium and urinary pH in postmenopausal women. There was no effect on bone metabolism or cardiovascular risk factors.” (3)
Even though this study proved some benefits, the eligible subjects needed to pass strict criteria excluding any postmenopausal women with physical or mental illness, vegans, vegetarians or women on special diets, smokers and those on certain medications.
The one study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry rarely seen or talked about is what happens to the body when there is too much alkaline, or alkalosis — which may cause numerous problems affecting your nervous system, reducing respiratory and brain function, and causing cell death. (4)
With such limited information available, it’s no wonder consumers are confused. What we do know is that too much or too little alkaline can cause serious harm to the body. Therefore, as with most things, moderation is key.
Alkaline Water & Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is most often caused when the opening between the stomach and esophagus doesn’t close properly, allowing stomach acids to travel upward. The enzyme pepsin is what causes most acid reflux or indigestion discomfort. However, usually the real culprit is low stomach acid or a leaky valve.
Pepsin is a gastric juice found in the stomach needed to break down and digest proteins. Without pepsin, proteins cannot be broken down to essential amino acids, which in turn starves the body and brain of important neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. (5)
A study published in The Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology suggests that drinking water with a pH level of at least 8.8 permanently deactivates pepsin and is, therefore, beneficial for those suffering from acid reflux. (6)
However, blocking pepsin acts as a temporary bandage to the real underlying problem, similar to the effect of antacids. If antacids make you feel better, does that mean that your body lacked antacids? No. In the same way, if alkaline water makes you feel better, it does not automatically mean the water, itself, was medically responsible.
MY ANSWER: Balance is Key
Balance is a key ingredient to life that most people find daunting at best. Whether it pertains to work, family, exercise or diet, finding that 60/40 is an uphill battle.
When it comes to alkaline water, keep in mind that a healthy, nutrition-rich lifestyle filled with plenty of whole, fresh foods is the best way to maintain a proper pH balance. Alkaline water cannot replace essential vitamins and minerals your body needs from food.
I do believe that most people are too acidic and in that case, adding in more vegetables and some fruit would help including:
- Lemons and limes
- Green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach
- Wheat grass juice
Also, an overabundance of alkaline water and foods over long periods of time can not only cause alkalosis, throwing your body off-balance and leading to serious health problems, but also inhibit production of pepsin, compromising the stomach’s ability to break down food and proteins.
Whichever your decision, I wouldn’t recommend running out and buying an expensive ionizing filter just yet; the detoxifying qualities it provides can be found in many other filtration systems.