The Alkaline Water trend picked up steam when Beyonce revealed that she drinks alkaline water on tour in 2013. Now, Alkaline water is more popular than ever, with one company, The Alkaline Water Company inc reporting $32.2 million in revenue for the 2019 financial year. But, should you be alkalizing your water? Why is alkaline water supposedly better than regular water?
What is Alkaline Water?
Alkaline water is water that has been put through a process to raise the pH, to roughly 8 or 9.
Regular water is a neutral liquid with an average pH of 7. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic, and 14 being the most alkaline or basic. The lower the pH of a liquid the higher the acidity, for example, orange juice has a pH of 3.5. The opposite can be said for alkaline or basic liquids, which have a pH higher than 7.
How to make alkaline water at home
Alkaline water can also be made at home with common household ingredients such as lemon juice or baking soda.
Some kinds of alkaline water are naturally occurring; water that passes over rocks pick up minerals which can make the water more basic. However, most commercial alkaline water has been processed. Store-bought alkaline water is usually made by electrolysis which is a mechanical process. Electrolysis is a method in which an ionizer uses electricity to separate water molecules that are acidic or basic and flush out the acidic water.
Pure water on average is neutral with a pH of 7, but tap water can vary depending on environmental factors and where you live. The EPA recommended that water suppliers maintain the pH of water between 6.5 and 8.5.
Why do people drink alkaline water?
There are many rumored benefits of alkaline water such as its anti-aging properties, the prevention and treatment of cancer, and even a means of treating acid reflux and osteoporosis. With celebrities like Beyonce and Tom Hardy advocating for the health benefits of alkaline water, many are eager to try it for themselves.
However, the health benefits of alkaline water are yet proven by science, and there are limited studies on the drink. So what are the myths surrounding alkaline water, and are they holding up?
Myth 1: Alkaline water prevents diseases such as cancer
The idea that alkaline water can ward off diseases such as cancer, comes from the principle that cancer tumors cannot live in an alkaline environment. When someone has cancer, the cells in the infected area become more acidic, but this does not mean that cancer cells are inherently acidic. While cancer cells do not thrive in an alkaline environment, human cells do not thrive in an alkaline environment either which is why our body does not naturally have a high pH to begin with.
There is very little research to suggest that alkaline water or alkaline substances can treat or cure cancer. Even though cancer creates an acidic environment surrounding the growth, this does not alter the pH level of the whole body, and what we eat cannot change this either. Alkaline water will end up in the stomach, which is highly acidic with a pH of 3, then travel through the digestive system, which means that it will come out the same pH as the rest of our body in the end.
Myth 2: Alkaline water is anti-aging
Alkaline water is a source of antioxidants as many variations of alkaline water are derived from mineral waters, which is where this anti-aging myth that alkaline water comes from.
Antioxidants disarm free-radicals that move around the body causing harm to DNA as they are unbonded elections seeking for something to bond with. This can accelerate the aging process and even bring on illness. Antioxidants are ranked by the ORAC for their ability to disarm these free-radicals, and by extension, can help prevent premature aging.
While alkaline water might have antioxidants, food sources like teas, acai berries, and dark chocolate are also antioxidants. Unlike alkaline water, these foods contain other nutrients that play a role in antioxidant utilization in the body.
Another reason for the belief that alkaline water is anti-aging comes from the fact that staying hydrated is essential for healthy youthful skin. For those who are elderly, prone to dry skin, or already have a low-water intake, water can improve skin condition and maintain normal skin health.
Alkaline water can even dry out skin, and make acne worse. This is because the skin is naturally acidic to kill bacteria, so making the skin more neutral or basic can reduce its ability to kill acne-causing germs.
Myth 3: Alkaline water can treat osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bone density decreases so that the bones become fragile and porous, which means there’s a bigger chance of breaking or fracturing bones. It’s more common in postmenopausal women and older people. Followers of the alkaline water trend believe that acid damages bones, but there is no consistent evidence to suggest that a diet high in acidic foods causes osteoporosis.
The Royal Osteoporosis Society points out that alkaline diets can actually result in nutritional deficiencies, which deny bones of what they need to stay healthy.
Those with osteoporosis should consult their doctor and a dietitian before trying alkaline water. Adequate amounts of protein, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals can help maintain good bone health.
Myth 4: Alkaline water can treat acid reflux
The notion that alkaline water can treat acid reflux is grounded in logic. Acid reflux is a condition caused by stomach acid rising up the esophagus causing pain commonly referred to as heartburn.
A 2012 study concluded that alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 denatured pepsin, which is an enzyme in the stomach that helps digest food. As well as buffering acid capacity. Buffers can be acidic or basic and are used to help bring a pH to a neutral level, it is not uncommon for athletes to put baking soda in their water in an effort to offset the build-up of lactic acid.
The research on alkaline water as an effective treatment for acid reflux is still limited, but out of all the alkaline water myths, this is arguably the most credible.
Is Alkaline Water safe?
Even though many of the health benefits of alkaline water do not hold up, the bigger question is, is alkaline water safe to drink?
Trying to lower the stomach's acidity might not be in your best interest, as a pH of 3 is needed to begin the process of digestion as well as kill bacteria and pathogens. Those drinking alkaline water for heartburn should consult their doctor first. Alkaline water can also upset your stomach, and even dry outour your skin.
It’s important to note that while heartburn is easily corrected with use of over the counter antacids, overtime, acid exposure to the esophagus can increase your risk of certain cancers. Even with occasional heartburn, loop in your medical team about this condition that can have serious health implications.
Adding this drink to your daily routine may put your bank account in danger, alkaline water appears to be safe to drink. There are no reported risks or dangers of drinking alkaline water in moderation.
The Bottom Line
Alkaline water may be safe to drink, but the founder of the Alkaline Diet, and author of The pH Miracle, Robert Young, was sentenced to jail time in 2017 for practicing medicine without a license. It just goes to show that all diet fads of so-called miracle superfood trends should be taken with a grain of salt.
There aren’t many reasons as to why you should be alkalizing your water; there are plenty of other sources of antioxidants, and treatments for conditions such as acid reflux, osteoporosis, and acne available.