Alkaline water is all the hype at the moment. Although there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the use of alkaline water as a treatment for any health condition, it touts health benefits including soothing acid reflux, being anti-ageing, preventing cancer, rejuvenating the skin, improving hydration, and the biggest one: balancing your body’s pH.
I want to reiterate that I don’t think drinking alkaline water is the worst thing in the world. If you desire, drinking it in small amounts every so often is fine. It’s when you begin regularly consuming large amounts that it can pave the way for potential negative health effects. I want to share some important information about this so you can make an informed decision about whether drinking alkaline water is actually worth it.
What is alkaline water?
Alkaline water is water that is less acidic than regular tap water. This means it is rich in alkalizing compounds, including calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate. Alkaline water has been separated into alkaline and acid fractions using electrolysis. This is a process by which chemicals and gases can change the chemical composition of water to make it more acidic or more alkaline. The most common way this process is undertaken these days is with a water ionizer machine.
Why alkaline water won’t change the pH of the entire body
The intracellular space in most people’s cells is more acidic these days. This acidosis effects normal cellular function and contributes to disease. Therefore it would seem logical to flood our body with alkaline water. But this actually doesn’t make sense in relation to human physiology.
Life on earth depends on appropriate pH levels in and around living organisms and cells. Humans require a tightly controlled pH level in the serum of about 7.4 – there is no single pH that applies to the whole body. Every single body fluid has a pH measurement that is specific to that fluid only. For example:
The human body has an amazing ability to maintain a steady pH in the blood which should fall between 7.34 and 7.45. The pancreatic fluid is very alkaline (7.5 – 8.0) to neutralise stomach acid and activate the pancreatic digestive enzymes. It seems the vagina needs a pH of less than 4.7 to help protect itself against microbial overgrowth. The intracellular fluid (fluid that exists within the cells) sits between 7.0 – 7.4. The pH of urine varies (4.6 – 8.0) depending on the need for balancing the internal environment. A neutral pH is 7.0. The stomach acid is acidic (1.35 and 3.5) on the pH scale which helps prevents pathogen exposure and aids in digestion. For example, Dr. Ramin explains:
“When one ingests alkaline water, this water mixes with the highly acidic gastric juice.” The result? Most, if not all of the alkalinity of alkaline water will be neutralised in the stomach. What’s more, explains Mueller, is that food and liquid we consume moves very quickly from the stomach to the duodenum (the part of the small intestine that immediately follows the stomach), which squirts bicarbonate, neutralising the acidic contents. This is one of the body’s built-in acid buffering systems. So, by the time the water is absorbed from the GI tract into the bloodstream, it has become neutralised as normal pH water, and is no longer alkaline or acidic. And beyond that, “Even if the extra alkaline found in ‘alkaline water’ was to make it into our bloodstream, it will simply be filtered by our kidneys and excreted in the urine,” he says.
So as you see, by drinking alkaline water, all you’re really doing is giving the body more (unnecessary) work to do. According to Adam Ramin, M.D.: “There is absolutely no need to tamper with this well functioning system in our bodies by drinking water that is alkaline”.
Potential dangers of drinking alkaline water
Lowers stomach acid
Over time, drinking alkaline water consistently will lower the gastric acid in your stomach. Once this becomes lower than it should be, you run into a number of serious problems, including the inability to absorb protein, fats and certain minerals, a higher chance of infection, and of food sitting in the stomach and being fed off by bacteria which should have been killed by the acid. All of this can lead to symptoms like bloating, burping, diarrhoea, gas, hair loss, heartburn, intestinal infections, nutrient deficiencies, undigested food in stool, upset stomach and weak fingernails.
Medical expert James Sloan also states that when you continue to neutralise stomach acid, you’re actually impeding your body’s own ability to create new stomach acid. This obviously creates even more serious issues over the long run.
Dr. Eric Berg explains that drinking alkaline water long term effects the absorption of electrolytes. He states the following:
“Your heart is the key organ that needs electrolytes in the right balance. If you’re going to neutralise the pH, and throw off the balance of electrolytes, it could create a problem for the heart.”
Wreaks havoc on the intestinal lining
Previous Medical Doctor and now Medical Expert James Sloan has a fantastic interview on the topic of alkaline water. He explains that to make alkaline water you first need to add in extra minerals like sodium, calcium or magnesium. This then makes magnesium hydroxides. What is magnesium hydroxide commercially? It’s milk of magnesia which is used as a laxative. Milk of magnesia burns the intestinal wall and causes an influx of fluid to the intestines. That’s not good for your intestines.
What is calcium hydroxide used for commercially? It is industrial lime used to make cement. What does it say on the bag? Do not get on your skin or in your tissues because it will burn your tissues.
All hydroxides are caustic and are corrosive to the human tissue.
He very importantly states:
“Think that drinking alkaline water is the same then as eating alkaline-forming foods? Think again. It’s very different. Chelated minerals from natural plant foods act as a buffer for acids, whereas alkaline water is based on hydroxides which are caustic and very damaging to the body.”
What you can do to help your body maintain a healthy pH
The kidneys play a major role in regulating the acid-base balance in the body. The lungs are also responsible for helping to maintain a healthy balance of pH in the blood stream. Not only this, but they are both essential for the removal of acidic waste from the body. Therefore it’s important to support the health of our kidneys and lungs.
In his book “Detox Miracle Sourcebook“, Dr. Robert Morse states that foods can be divided into two basic categories: foods that have an acid reaction in your body and foods that have an alkaline reaction. However, it’s important to note this doesn’t necessarily relate to the pH of the food itself.
Certain food components have a clear impact on acid-base balance and allow us to estimate the potential renal acid load. Typical high-animal protein Western diets produce non-volatile acids which must be excreted by the kidneys. With larger acid loads, the kidneys cannot keep up (cannot excrete sufficient acid into the urine), and metabolic acidosis ensues. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to protect and maintain the health of the kidneys. Alkaline-forming foods like fruits and vegetables have a negative acid load. Whereas meats, grain products and dairy have high acid loads and can actually negatively alter the structure of the kidneys.
Eating a plant-based diet rich in fibre and antioxidants with minimal processed foods have been shown to help maintain healthy functioning of the lungs. It’s also important to remember to breathe consciously by taking long deep breaths, as opposed to short shallow breaths. This ensures you’re releasing enough carbon dioxide, and prevents toxins from accumulating in the lungs.
Adrenaline is a hormone that is released when we are in a situation causing us to feel extreme emotions. This is a natural and necessary process, but an overexposure to adrenalin on a regular basis is corrosive and acidic and can disrupt almost all your body’s processes and cause other health issues. It’s important to focus on reducing stress when possible by practicing diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, exercising, taking time to do something you enjoy, and getting out into nature.
Overall, I suggest you stop worrying so much about your pH and focus on creating a lifestyle that will help your body easily maintain healthy functioning cells. Eat a diet based on whole plant foods, drink clean water that is naturally alkaline like spring water (you can even add some fresh organic lemon juice to it to naturally alkalise it even more), eliminate processed foods, reduce stress, exercise regularly, get out into nature, cultivate healthy relationships and do what you love.