What Is Alkaline Water? (2024)

Alkaline water is a type of water that contains alkaline minerals. It has a pH above 7, which means it is less acidic than pure water. Many proponents of alkaline water claim that it can help with everything from improved digestion to disease prevention. However, research to support many of these claims is limited.

pH stands forpotential hydrogen. It indicates how much hydrogen is in liquids, and how active those hydrogen ions are.

pH is also a scale of how acidic or basic a liquid is. It is measured in a range that goes from 0-14, with 7 being neutral. pHs of less than 7 indicate acidity, whereas a pH of greater than 7 indicates a base.

The primary difference between alkaline water and regular water is its pH level. Regular water has a neutral pH value of 7, while most alkaline waters have a pH of 8 or 9.

Alkaline water has more alkalizing minerals like calcium and magnesium and a higher negative oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) than regular water. ORP measures a water sample's antioxidant potential, and lower ORP values are connected to higher antioxidant effects.

That said, it's essential to remember that even though negative ORP values are related to several health benefits, they may not indicate higher hydrogen concentrations, which are thought to be responsible for many of the potential advantages of alkaline water.

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What Is Alkaline Water? (1)

Benefits of Drinking Alkaline Water

While there are many claims about the potential health benefits of alkaline water, the research to support these claims is limited and often controversial.

Here is a look at the potential benefits of alkaline water that some studies have suggested.

Digestive Health

There is some evidence that certain types of alkaline water may support digestive health in some individuals.

One 2018 study in participants with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with diarrhea found those who consumed at least two liters of alkaline-reduced water (ARW) daily for eight weeks experienced improvement in symptoms and quality of life.

According to a 2021 review of studies, emerging evidence suggests that ARW possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat the following gastrointestinal diseases:

  • Gastritis (stomach inflammation)
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel disease

However, additional well-designed studies are needed to confirm these findings.

ARW is a type of alkaline water generally produced by electrolysis, which involves passing an electric current through water. ARW has an alkaline pH, high hydrogen content, and an extremely negative ORP.

Postmenopausal Health

Alkaline water may support bone health in postmenopausal women by increasing bone mineral density.

For instance, one 2021 study found that alkaline water can help maintain bone density, particularly in the spine, in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

The study's authors concluded that alkaline water could increase bone density and neutralize the adverse effects of acidic diets, thus preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.

In another 2022 study carried out in 304 postmenopausal women, it was concluded that those who regularly consumed alkaline water had significantly lower risk factors for metabolic syndrome, including:

  • Fasting blood sugar levels
  • Waist circumference
  • Ratio of triglycerides to HDL-cholesterol
  • Blood pressure

Furthermore, alkaline water drinkers were also found to have stronger handgrip strength and longer sleep duration than non-alkaline water drinkers.

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Hydration

According to a 2017 study involving 36 well-trained male soccer players, consuming 4 liters of alkaline water after exercise resulted in improvements in acid-base balance and overall hydration status compared to consuming the same amount of regular water.

In another 2016 study carried out on 100 middle-aged adults, alkaline water reduced blood viscosity by 6.3% after exercise-induced dehydration, whereas standard water reduced it by 3.36%. This suggests that alkaline water may improve blood flow and oxygen delivery after exercise more than regular water. However, the study did not find a significant difference in rehydration between the two types of water.

Alkaline water is generally thought to be safe. Drinking alkaline water every day is unlikely to cause any significant side effects. However, regularly consuming alkaline water with very high pH levels can be problematic.

Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia, or high blood potassium levels, is the most concerning side effect observed in human studies related to alkaline water. In particular, people with impaired kidney function who consume alkaline water with a pH greater than 10 are at a greater risk for the condition.

Researchers are still trying to understand the exact mechanism behind these effects. However, it is believed the condition may be attributed to tissue damage that occurs from metals leached into the water during electrolysis, which is the way that alkaline water is made.

Signs of hyperkalemia include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Severe hyperkalemia requires immediate medical attention and can result in death. Individuals with impaired kidney function should avoid alkaline water unless under close medical supervision.

Other Potential Safety Concerns

In addition to high blood potassium levels, other potential safety concerns are associated with consuming alkaline water with a pH above 9.8.

  • Impaired nutrient absorption: While it is unlikely to occur in healthy individuals, the regular consumption of large amounts of high-pH water can lead to impaired vitamin, mineral, and nutrient absorption.
  • Impaired growth and tissue damage: Animal studies suggest that drinking large amounts of high-pH water may cause poor growth, as well as tissue necrosis and damage.
  • Growth of harmful bacteria: High pH alkaline water may neutralize stomach acid, increasing harmful bacteria that the acidic stomach juices may have otherwise killed.
  • Excessive thirst: Consuming alkaline water with a pH greater than ten often leads to excessive thirst, potentially due to damage to the mucosal lining.
  • Acid Reflux: While some people notice improvements in acid reflux after drinking alkaline water, others report that it worsens symptoms.

A Quick Review

Alkaline water is often touted as a healthful alternative to regular water. However, the scientific evidence supporting many of its potential benefits remains limited. While further studies are needed, there is some evidence that alkaline water may help improve digestive health, support postmenopausal health, and improve hydration during exercise.

Although most alkaline water has a pH of 8 or 9, water with a pH above 9.8 may cause side effects, especially in individuals with kidney disease. As with all dietary changes, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before consuming alkaline water on a regular basis.

What Is Alkaline Water? (2024)

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