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Alkaline Water: Benefits and Risks

What is alkaline water?

You may have heard some of the various health claims about alkaline water. Some say it can help slow the aging process, regulate your body’s pH level, and prevent chronic diseases like cancer. But what exactly is alkaline water, and why all the hype?

The “alkaline” in alkaline water refers to its pH level. The pH level is a number that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale of 0 to 14. For example, something with a pH of 1 would be very acidic, and something with a pH of 13 would be very alkaline.

Alkaline water has a higher pH level than regular drinking water. Because of this, some advocates of alkaline water believe it can neutralize the acid in your body. Normal drinking water generally has a neutral pH of 7. Alkaline water typically has a pH of 8 or 9.

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Benefits

Does it really work?

Alkaline water is somewhat controversial. Many health professionals argue against its use, saying there isn’t enough research to support the many health claims made by users and sellers. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular water is best for most people, as there is no scientific evidence that fully verifies the claims made by supporters of alkaline water.

However, there are a few studies that suggest alkaline water might be helpful for certain conditions.

For example, a 2012 study found that drinking alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 may help deactivate pepsin, which is the main enzyme that causes acid reflux.

Another study suggested that drinking alkaline water may have benefits for people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

A more recent study that included 100 people found a significant difference in whole blood viscosity after consuming high pH water compared to regular water after a strenuous workout. Viscosity is the direct measurement of how blood flows through the vessels. Those who consumed high pH water reduced viscosity by 6.3 percent compared to 3.36 percent with standard purified drinking water. This means blood flowed more efficiently with alkaline water. This can increase oxygen delivery throughout out the body.

However, more research is needed beyond these small studies, specifically into some of the other claims made by alkaline water supporters.

Despite the lack of proven scientific research, proponents of drinking alkaline water still believe in its many proposed health benefits, which include:

  • anti-aging properties (via liquid antioxidants that absorb more quickly into the human body)
  • colon-cleansing properties
  • immune system support
  • hydration, skin health, and other detoxifying properties
  • weight loss
  • cancer resistance
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Risk factors

Possible side effects and risks of alkaline water

Although alkaline drinking water is considered safe, it may produce negative side effects.

Some examples of negative side effects include the lowering of natural stomach acidity, which helps kill bacteria and expel other undesirable pathogens from entering your bloodstream.

Additionally, an overall excess of alkalinity in the body may cause gastrointestinal issues and skin irritations. Too much alkalinity may also agitate the body’s normal pH, leading to metabolic alkalosis, a condition that may produce the following symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • hand tremors
  • muscle twitching
  • tingling in the extremities or face
  • confusion

Alkalosis can also cause a decrease in free calcium in the body, which can affect bone health. However, the most common cause of hypocalcemia is not from drinking alkaline water, but from having an underactive parathyroid gland.

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How it’s made

Natural or artificial?

Water that is naturally alkaline occurs when water passes over rocks — like springs — and picks up minerals, which increase its alkaline level.

However, many people who drink alkaline water buy alkaline water that’s been through a chemical process called electrolysis, which uses a product called an ionizer to raise the pH of regular water. Makers of ionizers say that electricity is used to separate molecules in the water that are more acidic or more alkaline, and that the acidic water is then funneled out. Still, some doctors and researchers say these claims are not backed by quality research.

A study published by the World Health Organization cautions against drinking water with low mineral content on a regular basis.

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Where to get it

Where do you get it?

Alkaline water can be bought in many grocery or health food stores. Water ionizers are sold in many large chain stores as well.

You can also make your own at home. Even though lemon and lime juices are acidic, they contain minerals that can change the composition of water. Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime to a glass of water can make your water more alkaline. Adding pH drops or baking soda is another way to make water more alkaline. It’s important to use distilled water when making alkaline water because tap water or bottled water may have other additives.

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Takeaway

Is it safe?

The issue that many health professionals have with alkaline water is not its safety, but rather the health claims that are made about it.

There’s not enough scientific evidence to support the use of alkaline water as a treatment for any health condition. Medical experts warn against believing all the marketing claims.

Drinking natural alkaline water is generally considered safe, since it contains natural minerals. However, you should use caution with artificial alkaline water, which likely contains fewer minerals necessary for good health than its high pH would have you believe. Overuse may leave you deficient.

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