Alkaline Water Benefits and Risks (Explained by a Dietician)

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There are many bottled water companies that claim “alkaline water” has added benefits compared to drinking water. Some claim that alkaline water can neutralize acid in the body, enhance hydration, improve bone health, promote weight loss, slow aging, and potentially boost your immune system.

Reading these claims you may feel like you found the fountain of youth. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Let’s take a deeper dive.

📌 Key takeaways

  • Alkaline is just like all water, except its pH is higher
  • There is limited evidence to support additional health benefits from alkaline water
  • Further research is needed in this area to determine the benefits of alkaline water
  • No matter what water you drink, make sure you drink enough water. It’s essential!

💧 Importance of Water

Water is an essential nutrient for our bodies and helps our body perform many vital functions including lubricating and cushioning our joints, maintaining a normal body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells, and gets rid of excess waste through urine, bowel movements, and perspiration.

But does it really make a difference in what kind I drink?

🚰 What is Alkaline Water?

From your grade school science classes you may remember that water is a compound made of 2 hydrogens and 1 oxygen. Just like all water, alkaline water is made of these molecules, however with alkaline water the pH is greater than 7 on the pH scale.

Alkaline water from water ionizer

What is the pH Scale?

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 and essentially tells us how “basic” or “acidic” a substance is. Any substance with a pH of 7 is considered to be a neutral pH, while a level 7 or more is what we call basic or “alkaline”.

On the flip side, a pH level less than 7 is considered to be acidic. Orange juice for example sits around a pH of 3 (acidic – pH less than 7) vs. baking soda sits at about an 8 (alkaline – pH more than 7) on the pH scale.

🆚 Normal Drinking Water vs. Alkaline Water

Drinking Water

The National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs) also known as the secondary standards are what we call non-enforceable guidelines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency.

These guidelines state that drinking water should fall between a pH level of 6.5 and 8.5. Even though these are the guidelines, normal drinking water generally lands between 4.5 and 5.5 – varying upon location.

Alkaline Water

Alkaline water is water with a pH level greater than 7. Alkaline water typically lands at a high pH between 8 and 9. You have probably seen these bottled waters marketed to you or even purchased them in the past due to their claimed health benefits including companies like Smart Water and Essentia.

Ph scale

📥 How is Alkaline Water Made?

Artificial Alkaline Water

To make alkaline water, companies typically will add alkaline minerals to alter the pH while some may also change the chemical makeup of the water via a process called electrolysis.

This is done through a device called an “ionizer” to make what we call alkaline ionized water.

Another way you can change the pH of water is by adding pH drops or baking soda to make the water more alkaline.

Natural Alkaline Water

Alkaline water can also be naturally occurring. This happens when water passes over rocks and some of the minerals begin to accumulate in the water as erosion does its work.

In natural alkaline water, minerals are what increases the pH level. Spring water tends to be more alkaline because of this.

✅ What are the Benefits of Alkaline Water?

Supporters of high pH water will claim a variety of health benefits, however the research is quite controversial. While overall the research does not support the health claims of drinking alkaline water, some studies demonstrate potential benefits including:

Reduction in Acid Reflux

There are a few studies that propose alkaline water deactivates an enzyme involved with producing hydrochloric stomach acid called pepsin.

This protein is thought to be a major contributor to acid reflux. By deactivating pepsin this could potentially improve acid reflux symptoms.

Drawbacks of this study include that it was done “in vitro” or in a petri dish and not actually studied in humans.

Man drinking alkaline water

Improved Stool

One small study from 2018 compared the effects of alkaline water consumption to purified tap water and found that the participants consuming alkaline water had improvements in stool and gastrointestinal symptoms.

However it is challenging to draw conclusions with such a small sample size (60 people).

Improved Blood Viscosity

In a separate study conducted in 2016 one hundred healthy adults consumed either alkaline water or regular water after strenuous exercise.

The study found a remarkable difference in whole blood viscosity after drinking the alkaline water post exercise.

Since viscosity is a measure of how efficiently the blood travels through the vessels, it is argued that this could improve the delivery of oxygen to the rest of the body.

Related Article: Exploring the Potential Oxygenated Water Benefits

Anti-Aging Effects

In another mouse study, mice were provided alkaline water or regular water for ten months. After 10 months, they tested blood, bone marrow and ovaries of the mice for a variety of different proteins, telomeres and telomerase activity.

The study demonstrated that the mice that consumed alkaline water had improvements in aging even at the molecular level.

📌 Limitations of the Research

While these studies have shown promising results, there is still more research needed to substantiate the benefits of alkaline water.

When it comes to research it is important to look at the whole body of literature vs. a few single studies.

Additionally, more human studies need to be done since the majority of the studies available are conducted in vitro or in mice (in vivo).

Even though the literature is lacking evidence to support these claims, supporters of the high pH water continue to market these other health benefits:

  • Neutralizing acid in the bloodstream
  • Colon-cleansing properties
  • Support immune system
  • Improves hydration and skin health
  • Detoxifying properties
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Reduce cancer risk

👀 Are there Risks of Drinking Alkaline Water?

There might not be much evidence to support the benefits of drinking alkaline water, however it doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad for you.

For the most part unless you have kidney disease there are no known detrimental effects of drinking alkaline water. The worst side effects known is it may cause dry or itchy skin.

In fact, all water is good and honestly? Most of us don’t drink enough of it! To maintain proper hydration it is recommended to consume about 12 cups of water daily.

Whether you get it from bottled water or tap it doesn’t really matter.

Pouring alkaline water into a glass

🤔 What Does This All Mean for Me?

When we look at the science there isn’t enough evidence to support the beneficial effects of drinking alkaline water.

While some claim that alkaline water can neutralize our blood pH levels, this isn’t really the case. The body is very particular about regulating its environment, including blood pH levels.

In fact, our bodies have an amazing filtration system already in place to do this for you! Our kidneys and lungs do most of the work to regulate our blood pH levels.

The kidneys excrete bicarbonate through our urine while our lungs expel carbon dioxide when we exhale.

Typically our body likes our blood to be around a pH level of 7. A simple example is when our body senses our blood is too acidic, the body will compensate by breathing out carbon dioxide.

Unless we are acutely ill or have a chronic disease that is impacting the function of our kidneys or our lungs (or both) the body does a miraculous job of keeping our blood at the desired pH level.

Not only that, but when any time we have a meal our stomach releases a variety of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid. Since stomach acid is more acidic than alkaline water, it essentially brings down the pH of the alkaline water before it could benefit you the way some may claim.

When it comes down to it, the biggest thing is making sure you drink enough water!

The research supports the importance of adequate consumption of water for overall health. At the end of the day, if you want to consume alkaline water because it tastes better to you, then go for it – just recognize you are likely paying a hefty fee for no additional health benefits.

❔ Frequently Asked Questions:

Are there any dangers in drinking alkaline water?

There are no known dangers in drinking alkaline ionized water.

Is it okay to drink alkaline water daily?

The research has shown that it is not detrimental to drink this type of water, however if you drink daily you may experience dry or itchy skin.

Who should not drink alkaline water?

Individuals with chronic kidney disease should exercise caution while drinking alkaline water. Consult your health care provider to determine what is right for you.

  • Roxanne Trotter
    MS, RDN

    Registered Dietitian Roxy, fueled by her love for food and wellness, tackles misinformation head-on. Her Master's in Human Nutrition and diverse experience (weight management, hospitals) equip her to translate complex health topics, especially those related to water quality. Through her own practice (Nutremedies LLC) and writing for Water Filter Guru, Roxy empowers readers with accurate, evidence-based information, helping them make informed choices for a healthier life, one sip at a time.

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