Is alkaline water good for you? Truth and myths of alkaline water.
What is water pH?
To get familiar with the recent trend of alkaline water you need to understand some fundamental acid-base chemistry. Alkaline water has a higher pH than other sources of water. The scale for pH ranges from 0 to 14. So, what is pH? It measures the concentration of free hydrogen ions in a solution. Presence of many hydrogen ions making solution more acidic, more acidic solution therefore has a low PH. Solutions with small number of hydrogen ions are not acidic and have a higher PH these solutions are called alkaline.
What is alkaline water?
Alkaline water is water that is slightly basic (basic means alkaline). Usually, regular drinking water is neutral with a pH of around 7, alkaline water, in contrast, usually has a pH of 8.5. What makes it less acidic? It contains more basic minerals such as calcium, magnesium, or bicarbonate. These compounds bind to free hydrogen ions in the solution, lowering these ions quantity in the water, therefore making it more basic. Natural alkaline water sources are usually springs or a reservoir of natural water underneath the earth's surface. The rock structures surrounding the water have minerals, such as calcium or magnesium, that leak into the water, increasing the pH.
Human body fluids pH
Different organism fluids have different pH values. The range of saliva is 6.5 – 7.5, stomach pH is in 1.5 – 3 range, while the intestine is slightly alkaline with a pH 7 – 8.5. Blood pH has the most constant value in the body 7.35 – 7.45, slight deviations, for example, 6.9 will lead to coma, followed by death, if left without adequate medical help. Different organs function at their own optimal level of pH. For example, the enzyme pepsin requires low pH to act and break down food, while the enzymes in the intestine require high pH or alkaline environment to function.
Main myths of alkaline water
"BOOSTING ORGANISM METABOLISM"
Alkaline water has shown no effect on an organism’s metabolism. The only benefit of drinking this water may be related to the sufficient hydration people achieving trying to drink as much as possible.
The human digestion system is designed to neutralize any excess alkalinity of any food or liquid. In simple words, your stomach will re-acidify alkaline water before it can do anything. If you have the hypo-acidic stomach (not sufficient production of gastric acid, which is causing digestion issues), with the excessive amount of alkaline fluids you will get yourself into more trouble. Pepsin is an important digestion enzyme that breaks down proteins simply won't work in an alkaline environment. This enzyme failure will result in protein malabsorption. Protein deficiency will affect a number of systems in your body, such as immune, cardiovascular, muscle-skeletal systems.
There currently isn’t any scientific evidence to support that idea. It’s nearly impossible to alter the pH level of your blood by eating or drinking certain foods or liquids. Your body naturally balances its internal pH level. Cancer cells do produce lactic acid, but it’s level usually is insufficient to alter the pH level of the body.
"SLOWING DOWN THE AGEING PROCESS"
A study published in 2016 looked at the effect of consuming alkaline water on 150 mice over a period of 3 years. Results suggested that those who drank alkaline water had signs of greater longevity, in other words, they aged less and were more likely to live longer. However, results from another animal study, showed that prolonged alkaline water intake may cause growth retardation with severe impact on vitality. These results are opposites and indicate that you cannot rely on a single study.
"ALKALINE WATER LOWERS BONE RESORPTION "
Many people approach us believing that if they drink slightly acidic water the minerals from their body and bones are “sucked out” to neutralize it. There is little evidence to support this statement, some researches been done to prove increased bone resorption due to an increase in acidic food intake. However, it was proved with following researches that with a normal calcium intake the acidic dietary charge has no effect on bone resorption. When you drink any water (whether it is alkaline or slightly acidic) your stomach acid turns it even more acidic and tries to make it the same pH (between 1 and 3). This is why when you ingest water that is too alkaline you may result with something called the lazy stomach syndrome as the high pH is constantly bringing your stomach acid pH higher than it is supposed to be to function normally.
Do I benefit from alkaline water intake?
There have been no empirical studies showing that alkaline water has health benefits. In addition, as you already know, once alkaline water hits your stomach, the gastric juices will neutralize it. This makes any resulting benefits unlikely.
Your body does it better
The human organism is the most wonderful mechanism, if there is an imbalance, our bodies will balance everything out. Unless you have certain conditions such as a kidney or respiratory disease, your body maintains a healthy pH balance on its own. For example, if your blood gets too acidic, your body brings it down by breathing out more carbon dioxide. Remember, if you are healthy, under usual circumstances, your stomach will neutralize the excessive alkalinity of any liquid or food, therefore it is just the matter of choice drink or not to drink alkaline water. The main idea for healthy living is to stay hydrated.
Is hydrogen-rich water the same as alkaline water?
The simple answer to this common question is no, it is not. Hydrogen-rich water does not have a set pH as it entirely depends on the water used. The electrolysis process which creates hydrogen water does not alter the pH. The purpose of hydrogen-rich water is to activate anti-oxidation enzymes in your body which defeat free radicals produced by the normal essential metabolic processes in the human body (more about molecular hydrogen in a future post ).
The Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition published the study results were individuals with potential metabolic syndrome were studied. The consumption of hydrogen-rich water for 8 weeks resulted in a 39% increase in antioxidant enzymes and a 43% decrease in thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS – these substances cause oxidative stress).
For the higher hydrogen concentration it is important to consume hydrogen-enriched water as soon as possible after it is generated (within 60 minutes after H2 gas was produced), as hydrogen is a smallest molecule in the world and it will escape through the plastic and glass by that time.