What Is Alkaline Water?

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

Alkaline water, as the name suggests, has an alkaline pH instead of the typical neutral pH for water. Marketers claim alkaline water can boost your energy, slow the aging process and hydrate you better than standard water. Scientific research to support these particular claims is lacking, but there are certain circumstances when drinking alkaline water may benefit you. Research suggests alkaline water may benefit people with acid reflux.

About pH and how Alkaline Water Is Made

The acidity or alkalinity of your water determines its pH. The pH scale runs from zero to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. A measurement below 7 is acidic -- the lower the pH, the more acidic -- and anything above 7 is alkaline, with very alkaline substances having a pH of 14. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not monitor the pH of water, but the agency recommends public water systems maintain a pH of 6.5 to 8.5. To make alkaline water, manufacturers use a device called an ionizer, which alters the chemical composition of the water, making it alkaline and less acidic.

Not Necessary for Most People

Marketers claim that standard water is acidic, rather than highly alkaline, and it's this acidity marketers claim is bad for you. Unless you have kidney or respiratory disease, however, your body maintains the proper pH balance all on its own, according to Cleveland Clinic. For example, exhaling carbon dioxide when you breathe prevents your blood from becoming too acidic. Too much alkalinity isn't a good thing, either. Over time, a high pH can interfere with normal digestion, since some aspects of digestion require an acidic environment.

Potential Acid Reflux Benefit

Preliminary evidence suggests that alkaline water might offer some benefits to people with acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when your stomach contents -- including enzymes and stomach acid -- flows backward up to your esophagus. This causes digestive enzymes from your stomach, such as pepsin, to come in contact with delicate tissues in your windpipe and cause damage. In a test tube study, researchers found that alkaline water, unlike standard water, neutralized pepsin and helped buffer acidity. The study was published in the July 2012 edition of the "Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology."

Room for Research

The pH of drinking water as it relates to human health is not a widely studied subject, leaving room for research into the potential benefits of alkaline water for people with certain health conditions. An animal study published in February 2014 found that the pH of water profoundly influenced the rate at which type-1 diabetes progressed in mice Acidic water caused high blood sugar in female type-1 diabetic mice compared to water with a neutral pH. The authors of the study proposed that the pH of water affected intestinal bacteria, which altered the immune response in mice with type-1 diabetes, contributing to their disease. If this is duplicated in humans, it suggests that alkaline water may slow the progression of type-1 diabetes. No human studies to date have demonstrated this benefit, however.

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