Alkaline Water: Benefits and Risks

Some people swear by it. But what is alkaline water, and should you be drinking it?

There’s a variety of “purified” or healthier-sounding waters available on the market today. Distinguishing between them can be complicated, so we’re here to give you the facts.

Have you heard the words “alkaline water” thrown around, but are confused as to what that actually means? At first, you might be skeptical, and we understand that. We were too, until we dug a little deeper.

All it refers to is the pH level of water and how that translates to our health when we drink it. There are many claims around alkaline water, some make sense, others not so much.

As it turns out, this type of water might be able to offer you a thing or two, but first, let’s see what the science has to say.

What Is Alkaline Water?

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We classify water as “alkaline” according to its pH level.

pH is the measurement of how alkaline or acidic a given substance is, on a scale of 0 to 14. A neutral pH is 7, to put things in context. Anything below that is acidic, anything above that is considered alkaline.

For example, blueberries have a pH between 3.1 to 3.4, making them on the acidic side, whereas a pH of 7.6 to 8.0 for eggs is slightly alkaline (1). Water typically has a pH ranging from 6.5 to 8. To create what is known as alkaline water, we need to raise that number.

Some companies use a process called electrolysis to do that. With the help of an ionizer, they send an electrical current through the water. When that happens, molecules within the water separate into acids and bases. The acidic water is then filtered out, leaving you with a higher pH water (2).

Is Alkaline Water Good for You?

Is Alkaline Water Good for You? Icon

The answer to this depends on who you ask. Many alkaline water manufacturers will answer with a resounding, “yes!”

But, what exactly leads them to believe this?

This stems from the theory that too much acidic foods or drink in one’s diet can lead to illnesses, including cancer.

It also goes along with the idea that a “negative acid load” (read: more alkaline substances) can have a positive impact on one’s health (3). Better blood pressure and regulating strokes could be potential side effects here.

Some studies have found, however, that an alkaline diet, in general, may offer positive outcomes, but not because it’s alkaline-based, per se. Instead, it’s because individuals consume more fruits and vegetables this way, which many happen to be alkaline (4).

Eventually, we hit a wall, though. The current research available on the supposed benefits of using alkaline water is slim at best, nil at worst. Companies promote it heavily, regardless of this fact.

At the same time, it doesn’t seem that alkaline water is all that harmful. Sure, we can’t say for sure that the benefits are realistic, but this doesn’t mean it’ll hurt you to try it out.

Potential Benefits of Alkaline Water

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Fans of alkaline water are many, including famous celebs such as Beyonce.

Some even install alkaline filters on their shower and kitchen sink, like Miranda Kerr does (5).

Based on the claims around the potential benefits, we can see why. Proponents of alkaline water include the following in their list (6) (7):

  • Could clean the colon.
  • May boost the immune system.
  • Potential for weight loss.
  • Possible resistance to cancer.
  • May have anti-aging properties.
  • Improved kidney health.

Again, a few of these benefits are in relation to consuming an alkaline-based diet, in general. These aren’t specific to alkaline water.

Eating healthy foods rich in magnesium, like spinach, for example, will also help you absorb vitamin D (8). Spinach is considered alkaline as well.

One study shows that mice reacted positively to the consumption of alkaline water, indicating that it helped with gut health (9). This may mean that it could have a healthy impact on human intestinal health, too.

Other researchers have also pointed to a possible link between alkaline water and the deceleration of the aging process (10). This would be due to the supposed antioxidative nature of the liquid. The result is a possible suppression of free radicals, which are molecules that can lead to disease (11).

If you struggle with any of the bulleted points above, we recommend speaking to your doctor about alkaline food and water as a potential supplemental treatment.

Safety First

While it’s tempting to add alkaline water into your diet straight away, it’s better to get medical advice beforehand, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

How Much Alkaline Water Can I Drink?

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This is another contentious topic; let’s take a closer look.

Too Much Alkalinity

While there’s no scientifically-backed answer to “how much is too much?” overdoing alkaline water could potentially lead to negative side effects, including but not limited to, something called alkalosis.

This is simply a term meaning “too alkaline.” When your body’s tissues and fluids are in this state, a variety of symptoms could develop, including:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Twitchy muscles.
  • Tingling in face or extremities.
  • Confusion.
  • Weakness.
  • Cramps.

Furthermore, alkalosis can result in a decrease in calcium, which could inadvertently affect your bone health over time. It must be stated, however, that alkalosis is most commonly caused by other conditions such as metabolic disorders (12).

The body has several sophisticated mechanisms in place to ensure that pH throughout the body is at the level it needs to be, no matter what. Alkalosis is a medical condition associated with the failure of these mechanisms; it’s highly unlikely, even impossible, to get this condition from drinking alkaline water alone.

Nevertheless, to avoid potential problems, we recommend sticking to your standard of eight to 12 glasses of water per day, and beyond that, switching to regular filtered water.

Other Side Effects

Aside from alkalosis, other side effects of drinking too much alkaline water may include the following (13):

  • Flu-like symptoms.
  • Runny nose.
  • Softer, darker stools.
  • More gas.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Reduction in stomach acid.

Experts in alkaline water do recommend starting slowly, so the body can adjust to the pH over time. These symptoms may fade once you’ve adapted, if they were there to begin with. Additionally, it’s thought that these side effects are simply signs that your body is detoxifying — unfortunately, there’s no scientific evidence to back that up (14).

Mineral Deficiency

Another potential side effect is mineral deficiency. Because alkaline water is purified, it’s stripped of many essential nutrients and minerals, including calcium and magnesium.

Like alkaline water itself, this downside of de-mineralized water is also highly contested. However, the World Health Organization does caution against it (15). The group warns that drinking too much demineralized water, without a nutritious diet in place, could lead to a mineral deficiency.

So if you’d like to consume alkaline water regularly, you need to ensure you’re still getting your vitamins and minerals from the food you eat.

How to Drink Alkaline Water

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You might just assume you’d drink alkaline water much like you sip your regular glass of H2O. However, professionals claim that how you drink it might make a difference.

Consider these different factors for drinking alkaline water:

With Food or Without?

Much like other vitamins and supplements, timing matters. Professionals recommend avoiding alkaline water 30 minutes before and between 1.5 and 2 hours after a meal.

This is because the stomach relies on its acidic nature to digest the foods we eat. With a bunch of alkaline water mixed into the equation, you may have difficulties digesting your delicious meal. No one wants bloating, do they?

Time of Day

They say you absorb alkaline water best on an empty stomach. When you wake up, go ahead and chug a glass to reap the potential rewards (16).

You can drink it periodically throughout the day, so long as it doesn’t interfere with meal time or any medications.

With or Without Medication?

Similar to the rules around food, you shouldn’t consume alkaline water within 30 minutes before or up to two hours after taking any medication (17).

It could have a potential reaction with the meds, making either or both useless. If it happens, don’t panic. The worse that would occur is that the body doesn’t absorb one or the other, so it’s not the end of the world.

Where Do You Find Alkaline Water?

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Alkaline water is either found in natural locations or created artificially with the help of filtration systems.

How you purchase and use alkaline water is up to you.

If you’re serious about the health benefits, a high-end ionizer or filter might be your best option. Would you rather test it out before investing? Purchasing bottles from the store could suit you better.

Using Ionizers

As we’ve seen, through electrolysis, the acidic and alkaline components separate and you’re left with water of a higher pH (18). This ionized liquid then comes through your faucet for you to consume. The acidic portion is filtered through a different hose and disposed of.

Natural Springs

This water forms when it passes over rocks, such as in a spring. The water then picks up minerals located on the surface and becomes alkaline in the process (19).

Special Filters and Faucets

For those that don’t want to invest in a water ionizer, faucet attachments and water filtration systems are also available.

Filters go from budget-friendly options, such as pitchers, to higher-end full-blown machines that you place under the sink. Maintenance is relatively easy here, with you needing to change the filters every few months, depending on the manufacturer.

Furthermore, personal water flasks are also on the market, and manufacturers claim they can alkalize your water immediately once in the bottle.

Store-Purchased Options

Many people take this route and simply purchase store-bought alkaline water.

One of the most popular options comes from Essentia. This is a pack of 12, 1-liter bottles and the water contains a pH of 9.5 or higher. The water is said to contain added electrolytes, which may be a good option after exercising to replace sodium lost through sweating (20). Packs of 24 are also available through the company.

Another popular product is from a company called Qure and packages include either 12 or 24 bottles. The company claims the pH is 10 and that the water lasts for up to two years if sealed.

The Curative Effects of Alkaline Water

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While many proponents of alkaline water and alkaline diets believe in the many supposed health benefits, there’s no hard evidence.

Two of the most radical beliefs are around curing cancer and helping with kidney problems.

Can Alkaline Water Cure/Prevent Cancer?

The theory is that cancer cells may die of starvation because they cannot thrive in an alkaline environment. Introducing an alkaline water plan or diet regimen could balance the body’s pH level, stopping or slowing the rate of cancer growth.

Cancerous cells do produce acid, but not enough to greatly influence the pH of the body (21).

Some further state that a specific diet won’t change your own pH drastically, though it can alter your urine’s pH shortly after eating (22). If that’s the case, that would then mean that your pH levels wouldn’t play a big role in curing or preventing cancer, anyway.

One study points out that, during their trial, they were unable to make any correlations between alkaline water and treating bladder cancer (23).

Can Alkaline Water Help Kidney Issues?

Again, most studies are discussing alkaline diets in general, not just the use of water.

Some researchers think that while correlations aren’t conclusive, the idea that “dietary acid load” could help fight disease shouldn’t be entirely dismissed either (24). Why? In this case, kidneys play a part in regulating the body’s pH, particularly in the blood. If their function declines, changing dietary acid load to reverse that could be plausible.

A study does mention that participants who took bicarbonate supplements over 5 years saw a slower kidney decline than others (25). Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, has a pH of around nine (26).

With that said, it seems more likely that alkalinity could play a part in regulating kidney function, but more studies need to be conducted to confirm this.

Summing Up

Summing Up Icon

Alkaline water is a fad that has some potential side effects such as enhanced hydration, altered pH levels, and more.

Unfortunately, not enough scientific evidence exists to back up the claims.

Furthermore, proponents push for quite radical curative effects as well that, again, aren’t substantiated by any peer-reviewed studies.

At the same time, alkaline water doesn’t appear to have any serious negative effects either. It’s suitable for most adults to drink throughout the day, except for before or after meals or medication.

Children over four can enjoy alkaline water in small doses, as can the elderly, but not more than two classes per day. Are you looking to provide it for your beloved pets? They might benefit as well.

If you’re serious about the alkaline water trend and have a medical condition you’d like to cure or alleviate, we recommend speaking with a qualified health professional. Good luck on your mission and let us know how it turns out!

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About the Author

Sylvia Jones

Sylvia Jones is a hands-on, DIY aficionado from Indiana. She is passionate about home improvement, gardening, and environmental conservation. In her spare time, you can find Sylvia getting involved in home improvement projects around the house with her husband, or spending quality time out in the yard.

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