Alkaline Water: Is it Healthier? A Look at the Benefits and Evidence – 80 Twenty Nutrition

Alkaline Water: Is it Healthier? A Look at the Benefits and Evidence

Most of us know that drinking water is important to health. Water makes up most of our bodies, and staying hydrated is necessary for every single bodily function. But could water be even better if it’s alkaline? Alkaline water is receiving lots of attention right now – fans claim it can do everything from slow the aging process to prevent chronic disease and help your body absorb nutrients. Is alkaline water healthier, or is it all hype? Here’s everything you need to know!

Is alkaline water healthier? Everything you need to know about alkaline water benefits, evidence, and more from registered dietitian Christy Brissette of 80twentynutrition.com

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What is alkaline water?

The term “alkaline” refers to the water’s pH level, which is a measure of how acidic or basic something is on a scale of 0 to 14. Substances with a pH level between 0 and 7 is considered acidic, a pH level between 7 and 14 is considered basic. Regular water usually has a neutral pH of 7, while alkaline water usually has a pH between 8 and 9.5.

Is alkaline water healthier? Everything you need to know about alkaline water benefits, evidence, and more from registered dietitian Christy Brissette of 80twentynutrition.com

What does alkaline water do?

Advocates claim that drinking alkaline water can help balance the acidity in your body. As I discussed in my alkaline diet review, lowering the acidity in your body is supposed to make you less prone to disease and improve your overall health. Alkaline water is also claimed to help slow the aging process, remove toxins from your body, and improve your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The scientific evidence to back up these claims is seriously lacking. There’s no data proving its effectiveness for removing toxins (your body does a great job at doing that on its own – that’s why you have a kidneys and a liver!), slowing aging, or curing cancer (yes, that’s a real claim that’s been made about alkaline water).

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However, there are a few studies that suggest the usefulness of alkaline water for some conditions.

Does alkaline water work for acid reflux?

One study in 2012 found that alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 effectively denatured pepsin, an enzyme activated by stomach acid that contributes to acid reflux. Many antacid medications are aimed at inhibiting the release of pepsin, which has been shown effective for reducing symptoms of acid reflux in rats. Alkaline water’s ability to denature pepsin (which would then keep it from causing acid reflux) has only been proven in a lab, not with humans, so there’s no certainty that it will relieve symptoms, but it might be worth a shot if you experience acid reflux symptoms frequently.

Is alkaline water healthier? Everything you need to know about alkaline water benefits, evidence, and more from registered dietitian Christy Brissette of 80twentynutrition.com

image: Pixabay

Should athletes drink alkaline water?

A study published in 2016 found that alkaline water rehydrated athletes after exercise better than “normal” water. For this study, 100 participants exercised until they were dehydrated, and then drank either alkaline water or water with a normal pH. Those who drank alkaline water showed about a 6% decrease in blood viscosity two hours after exercise while normal water-drinkers showed about a 3% decrease. With lower blood viscosity, blood flows more efficiently, so more oxygen can be delivered throughout the body. Because of this, alkaline water could be helpful for recovery for serious athletes – but it’s not like the regular-water group didn’t get rehydrated at all, so don’t fret if you can’t afford to down a $10 bottle of alkaline water after each elliptical session.

How is alkaline water made?

There are two types of alkaline water: artificial and natural.

Artificial alkaline water is made by passing water through an electric ionizing machine, which essentially separates acidic and alkaline molecules, then filters out the acidic ones.

Natural alkaline water passes through rocks or soil and picks up minerals along the way, changing its pH. Natural spring water is typically alkaline and contains minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and bicarbonate.  

Is alkaline water healthier? Everything you need to know about alkaline water benefits, evidence, and more from registered dietitian Christy Brissette of 80twentynutrition.com

image: Thad Zajdowics via Flickr

You can buy ionizing filters to create alkaline water at home from regular water, but these machines simply separate out acidic molecules without adding any essential minerals. There’s no research comparing the effects of natural and artificial alkaline water, but if you’re going to spend the money on alkaline water either way, you may as well get the mineral boost and buy the natural stuff.

The bottom line: should you spend the money on alkaline water or filters?

In short: I wouldn’t spend extra money on alkaline water, especially if the cost would mean you drink less water than you would without an alkaline filter or stash of alkaline bottles.

Worldwide, about 1 in 9 people lack access to clean drinking water, so living in a country with easy access clean drinking water is nothing to scoff at. Let’s appreciate our access to clean water before we get too caught up in what pH level our water needs to be for maximum health benefits. Water will keep you hydrated whether it’s alkaline or not, and drinking “normal” neutral-pH water won’t adversely affect your health. My recommendation is to focus more on drinking enough water (which most of us don’t do anyways) and less on how alkaline your water is. Water needs are very individualized, but as a general rule of thumb: drink ½ to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75-150 ounces of water daily.

Alkaline water may be beneficial for people with acid reflux or for serious athletes, so if it fits in your budget, give it a shot and see if it helps. If you’re reaching for alkaline water for detoxifying, anti-aging, cancer-curing, chronic-disease-preventing benefits: just skip it. Alkaline water won’t override a poor diet or make-or-break your health, so turn your focus towards eating a nourishing, balanced diet, and drinking plenty of water – whether it’s alkaline or not.

Have you ever tried alkaline water? What did you think?

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