If you have any connections in the natural health and wellness or the fitness world, you’ve probably heard about the hydration craze that is Alkaline Water. Everyone is drinking it! Miranda Kerr, Beyonce, Mark Wahlberg, Martha Stewart, Demi Moore, Brad Pitt, even the LA Lakers! But hold up, what’s this all about?
Let’s start at the beginning. What does “alkaline” even mean? When we are talking about the 14 point pH (potential [or power] of Hydrogen) scale, something that is alkaline is a base, and it falls above 7 on the scale (7 being neutral). This includes things like baking soda, hand soap, cucumbers, and avocados. On the other end of the scale you have things that are acids (or “acidic”) which rate below 7. This includes substances like vinegar and bleach, and fruits like pineapples and oranges. Ok. So alkaline is the opposite of acidic. Simple.
So now that we know what alkaline is, how do we make our water alkaline? WIthout getting too bogged down into the science of electrolysis and ionization, there are products on the market called Water Ionizers or Alkaline Ionizers. They run a small electrical current through the water, separating the acidic and alkaline parts of the water from each other. The alkaline water is kept and consumed, and the acidic water is discarded. These ionization machines can cost anywhere from a few hundred on up to several thousand dollars.
So why would anyone go to the trouble and expense of hacking up their water? There are a lot of people with amazing things to say about the benefits of alkaline water. The basic concept is that by drinking alkaline water, you help balance out acidity in the body. Other health claims include neutralizing free radicals, slowing aging, super hydration, increased energy, soothing acid reflux, boosting metabolism, increasing nutrient absorption, preventing disease, and generally making you feel amazing! So the million dollar question is… does it work? The only way I know to really get to the heart of that question is to take opinions, sales pitches, and hollywood icons out of the picture and look at the science. I promise not to get too technical here, so bear with me.
The first thing we have to take a look at is something called “Acid-Base Homeostasis.” It’s the body’s natural, incredible, extremely strictly regulated acid and base chemical balancing system. Your body uses a whole series of buffers and controls to regulate the blood pH level, keeping it at precisely 7.35 to 7.45. If your body lets your pH level go outside those acceptable bounds, it stops functioning correctly. So incorrectly, in fact, that death could eventually occur! That’s why it works so hard to maintain “acid-base equilibrium.” Fortunately for us, not even fancy water can make a notable change to that balance.
While what you consume can very minorly affect your blood’s pH (as can vomiting, endocrine, lung, and kidney function, or infection), the body immediately starts working to bring the pH back to that sweet spot. There is no healthy or easily obtainable way to achieve long-term alterations to your blood or body pH. And from my years of research into the chemistry and biology of the human body (and also common sense) I can say with full confidence, you shouldn’t.
Another internet claim in regards to the science behind alkaline water is that it contains many small “clusters” of water molecules. The theory is that these clusters make the water more stable and allows you to absorb all the vitamin and mineral goodness that your body needs more easily. But if you actually look into water clusters you will find that, while they are definitely a scientifically proven thing (and in 2004 some scientists won several awards in that specific field of study), their implications in regards to the touted benefits of alkaline water are, in the words of several different authorities, “bogus.”
While there’s not a lot of science to back up the health benefits of alkaline water (and by that, I mean that there is none), there is anecdotal evidence that suggests that it is more hydrating and provides a boost of energy. Ask anyone who’s a proponent of alkaline water and they’ll tell you how amazing it makes them feel! Why? Who knows. It may be placebo, but if you feel amazing, does it really matter? Whether it’s actually doing something or not, it’s not hurting you, and it’s definitely a better choice than sports drinks or sodas! Whether you’re an alkaline water, a water with lemon (lots of good science here), or a bottle of name brand water kind of person, the important thing is you’re hydrating like a champ!
These facts and opinions are those of a certified Master Herbalist and Dipl. Natural Health Consultant, and Reiki Master Teacher, and are for educational purposes only, and not intended to replace consultation with your qualified healthcare practitioner.