One thing we can all agree on is that water is absolutely necessary for our wellbeing, whether you’re working out or not. Water helps to keep our bodies hydrated and we should drink plenty each day. Recently, there’s been a lot of noise about alkaline water, with some factions claiming that it’s more beneficial to our bodies than plain water. Is it a one-hit-wonder food trend or does it live up to the hype? We sought to find out and this is what we discovered.
What Is Alkaline Water?
The major difference between regular water and alkaline water is the acidity level. Alkaline water has a lower concentration of hydrogen ions, making it less acidic than plain water. The higher pH balance is due to the higher percentage of dissolved solids, including magnesium, calcium, silica, potassium, and bicarbonate. On the pH scale, alkaline water measures around 8 or 9, making it less acidic and more basic (alkaline) than plain water. On the other hand, regular water has a pH range of around 7, which is right in the middle of the pH scale.
According to Stephen Lower, Ph.D. professor emeritus of chemistry at Canada’s Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, the human body has different pH levels depending on which part you’re referring to. Likewise, the pH level can change significantly from one section of a single cell to another. The reason behind this fact is that each organ requires a different pH range to perform some of its core functions. The human body’s mechanism has various systems that help to regulate blood pH, thereby preventing fatal health conditions, such as heart failure.
Possible Benefits and Side Effects of Alkaline Water
Advocates of alkaline water claim that it has several health benefits in the human body. These include:
- It’s more hydrating than regular water. They claim that it aids in digestion and leaves you with supple skin.
- It has detox effects and improves your overall health.
- Neutralizes pepsin and stomach acid, therefore helping to treat acid reflux.
- It lowers cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure.
In a study titled “Acid-base balance and hydration status following consumption of mineral-based alkaline bottled water” published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, it was concluded that participants who drank alkaline water showed an improved acid-base balance and hydration status compared to those who drank tap water. That said, drinking alkaline water can cause some health risks. For instance, it might lower the natural stomach acidity, which helps to kill bacteria and prevent other harmful pathogens from entering your bloodstream. Other possible side effects of taking alkaline water include:
- Skin irritation
- Hand tremors
- Upset stomach
Does Alkaline Water Really Work?
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding alkaline water and its purported benefits to our health. One recent study discovered that drinking alkaline water after a workout reduced blood viscosity by about 6.3% compared to 3.36% with regular purified drinking water. Blood viscosity means the measurement of how efficiently blood flows through the vessels. This study shows that drinking alkaline water after a strenuous workout can actually improve the flow of blood, subsequently boosting oxygen delivery throughout the body. However, the study was conducted on only a small number of participants and more research is needed to get substantive outcomes.
Another 2012 lab study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, suggested that alkaline water neutralized pepsin, an enzyme that damages the esophagus in patients with acid reflux. The findings suggested that alkaline water could be used to treat acid reflux. However, since this was a lab study, an actual study on humans was required to prove these findings.
Is Alkaline Water Safe?
Although alkaline water may taste bitter compared to your standard tap water, it’s generally safe to drink. However, people with kidney disease should avoid drinking alkaline water to prevent complications. You should also know that using alkaline water to make coffee, tea, juice or any other drink will influence the taste. But just because it’s safe, doesn’t mean you should replace your regular water with alkaline water. There is still so much to learn and before researchers come up with concrete proof supporting the use of alkaline water, it’s recommended that you stick to tap water.
In a nutshell, alkaline water has yet to show strong evidence supporting the health claims. And since your body has its own way of balancing your pH level, it’s safe to say that drinking regular tap water is sufficient to keep your body healthy and hydrated. For overall health and wellbeing, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
All images by Shutterstock