Alkaline Water Benefits And Risks

[toc]What exactly is alkaline water? Essentially, it’s water that has a greater pH number than its standard 7. What that means is that the water you’re drinking has a pH number 8 or 9, but that doesn’t exactly mean it is completely beneficial to your health.

While having a little more alkalinity than regular water does, it doesn’t always mean that the water you’re drinking has the ionising properties that are necessary to balance out the acids or free radicals that may be present in your body.

Alkaline water needs to contain the right amount of alkaline minerals, and negative oxidising reduction potential (-ORP) to act like antioxidants which are found in foods like fruits and vegetables. (Healthline, n.d.) It is why some people claim that alkaline water is good for health and the body in general, as it helps with reducing the signs of aging, cleansing your colon, boosting your immune system, weight loss and reducing the risk of cancer.

However, studies have been varied, and there is very little to no data about the efficacy of alkaline water, so the claims that have been made cannot be fully verified, although, there are some studies that suggest that alkaline water can be helpful for certain health conditions. Here are some of the benefits and risks of drinking alkaline water.

Bone Health

Studies have suggested that bicarbonate and calcium rich alkaline water can help with bone resorption, whereby old bone cells are broken down and are replaced by new ones, which can improve the integrity of the bone. Essentially, it can help with strengthening the bone, because it contains calcium which creates new bone cells that are stronger. Of course, the water also needs to contain other minerals which can increase mineral density in the bone.

It should be noted that, in the studies, the effect from alkaline water was very small, and does not prevent osteoporosis, a condition where the bones that are developed are brittle and weak. Also, drinking alkaline water means that the urine of the test subjects was more alkaline, and that paradoxically less calcium was being excreted, which can cause kidney problems, such as kidney stones and constipation.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is caused by the acidic content of the stomach being flushed back up the food pipe. If this happens often and for a long time, this can cause damage to the oesophagus, and develop the disease gastroesophageal reflux disease. By drinking alkaline water, you are essentially balancing out the pH of these acids and reducing the effects the acid has on your food pipe and throat. 

However, the studies that support this theory, were conducted in test-tubes and controlled environments, thus they were not conducted on humans, so more studies and tests need to further validate these finding. Moreover, the acidic content of the stomach must remain present, so that food can be broken down, and any bad bacteria that may enter the body can be killed. Therefore, drinking too much alkaline water can be detrimental to the digestive system.

Blood Pressure, Cholesterol And Viscosity

There have been studies, particularly in Shanghai, where it’s been proven that drinking alkaline water can help lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. This is because of, once again, the acidity of free radicals in the body. Because alkali minerals neutralise the acid, the oxidative stress, caused by the acidic free radicals, is reduced. Therefore, particles like cholesterol that run freely in the body won’t oxidise and turn into fatty build up in blood vessels.

Moreover, studies have shown that alkaline water can improve blood viscosity, which can reduce strain on the heart, thus preventing heart disease. However, these studies cannot be completely validated, because the test subjects that participated had varying blood viscosity measures. More research into blood viscosity needs to be done to properly consider the efficacy of alkaline water.

What Are The Risks?

While drinking alkaline water may help with certain health conditions, and preventing certain complications, in the long run, there are some side effects and risks to drinking alkaline water, and even more so, having an alkaline-rich diet. One of the more obvious side effects that alkaline water causes is related to digestion.

As alkaline elements raise the pH of the acid in your stomach, which is vital to help break down food and kill bad bacteria, it may cause a wealth of problems in the digestive tract, such as introducing pathogens into the blood stream, ineffective absorption of nutrients and constipation.

Not only that, an excess of alkali in the body may increase the risk and even cause alkalosis, a disease where the body’s natural makeup has too many neutral or base materials, compared to its acidic content. This usually causes symptoms like nausea and dizziness and can naturally occur from a lack of carbon dioxide or an increase in bicarbonate.

You can develop alkalosis naturally as well by being in high altitudes, hyperventilation, overuse of diuretics, antacids, and laxatives. By adding alkaline water, or even having an alkaline-rich diet, you will be overexposing your body to alkaline material that will cause an imbalance for your body.

Eventually symptoms will start to show, such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hand tremors
  • Muscle twitching
  • A tingling sensation in the extremities and face
  • Confusion

Furthermore, you may even reduce the levels of free calcium in your body, which is vital for bone health and bone development, despite previous claims that alkaline water may help bone structure. Too much alkaline materials will dissolve the calcium in your blood, rather than use it to help retain your bones’ integrity.

It is also good to remember that just as acids can corrode, so too can alkalis, and in studies conducted in rats, there have been signs where it affects their growth and development. Some rats showed signs of delayed growth and weight loss. Others, particularly the female rats, developed fur that was thin and dull, and grew in patches. Also, some rats developed discolouration in their oral mucosa or tongue.

The general consensus amongst scientists and those who’ve conducted research on alkaline water and alkaline diets is that there is no real evidence to support the idea that alkaline water can be beneficial to your health. While it is currently speculation, and theoretical, it is not highly recommended that going on an alkaline diet will help improve health.

Should I Drink Alkaline Water?

If you wish to start drinking alkaline water, you can, but the best way to start is to start small. You should start drinking alkaline water in small doses, and increase it incrementally, and slowly, so that you don’t overwhelm your body’s systems with alkaline minerals.

Where Can I Get Alkaline Water?

Alkaline water is available in many grocery stores worldwide. It’s sometimes called “ionised water”. You can also find natural mineral water, which may have a slightly higher pH level than normal water, and some manufacturers may even add the pH number of the water, onto the label.

You can even make alkaline water yourself, by buying ionisers in large chain shops, or by squeezing lemon or lime juice into your water. Although lemon is acidic, it can create alkaline by-products, once digested and metabolised. Alternatively, you can add pH drops or baking soda into your drink to make it more alkaline.

Natural Or Artificial

Before drinking alkaline water, be sure you’re drinking the right type. Although there isn’t enough data to support health claims made about alkaline water, it is generally considered safe if you drink natural mineral water, which has a slightly higher pH level than regular drinking water. There really is no limit to how much you can drink if the alkaline water is natural.

However, if you’re drinking artificially alkaline water, it is best to be safe, and restrict your intake. Artificial alkaline water will have a higher pH level than natural mineral water and may contain contaminants that will seriously harm your body. They may also lack the necessary alkaline minerals vital to sustaining your body’s natural pH balance, and instead they may be more harmful than helpful to your body. 

In Summary

While, in theory, alkaline water can have health benefits, from decreasing blood pressure, blood cholesterol and improving acid reflux and bone strength, it is not highly recommended by scientists, health professionals or medical practitioners.

Of course, drinking natural mineral water, which is slightly more alkaline than regular drinking water, is good for you, and can increase the number of minerals in your body, if you’re buying artificial alkaline water, it is best to restrict your intake, as it may contain contaminants and be more alkaline than is recommended.

If you’re still worried about what alkaline water can do to your body, speak to your local doctor or physician. Chances are, they’ll know whether it is safe for you to drink alkaline water, or not. Also, there is not real data concerning alkaline water and medication, so it is always advisable to check with a medical expert first, before including alkaline water into your diet.