Globally, there has been a recent shift towards health products and ‘nutraceuticals’ in an effort to either improve health or restore health. Changes in lifestyle, dietary preferences and the lack of physical activity have impacted health of individuals greatly. This has nudged the less informed to seek remedies in unproven products, with hopes of enjoying overnight benefits. Online sources of information have added to the confusion with a significant percentage of misleading information finding its way to the devices of individuals looking for a quick fix. The following sections debunk the claimed health benefits of alkaline water in addition to listing out the possible alkaline water side effects. This will help users take a more informed decision before purchasing products based on hearsay and carefully crafted sales campaigns.
Overview of alkaline water – what exactly is it all about?
To put it in simple terms alkaline water has a high pH level, when compared to normal water and is part of special alkaline diets that are promoted worldwide without scientific basis. Water is either plain/normal, acidic or alkaline and each category is known to have its own effects on the body and physiological actions/reactions. Most sales pitches and claims about the benefits of alkaline water are essentially linked to the sale of machines that turn water alkaline – such as ionizing machines that are expensive, without relevant outcomes. Alkaline is bitter to taste, and the effects of alkaline water include the formation of crusting in pipes and appliances that carry or store the water. Water that is acidic may have a corrosive effect on metals and has the power to slowly dissolve the metals over a period of time.
Essentially the pH level of water is around 7 and this considered as neutral pH levels. The inclusion of certain chemicals and gases will result in changing the pH level of water, and it could either become more acidic in nature or alkaline in nature. Water that is acidic will have a pH level below the new neutral level – for instance, the pH level of vinegar is 3, battery acid is 1 and lemon juice is 2, urine or saliva or milk is 6. Unsurprisingly, the pH level of rainwater is acidic, due to the infusion of environmental carbon dioxide. On the other side of pH neutral water are the alkaline substances such as baking soda – 8, milk of magnesia – 10, oven cleaner – 13, soap water – 11.
The claims revolve around the theory that alkaline water is a healthier option, which can be considered as partly true, but the truth ends there. The narrative built around these claims are the sales pitch, that needs to be understood fully before deciding to purchase alkaline water. Water that is either too low in pH level or too high in pH level is not a healthy option and can cause certain imbalances in the body.
How does the digestive system treat water that is acidic or alkaline?
One of the strongest and scientifically supported reasons that run counter to the narrative about the health benefits of alkaline water is the body’s natural digestive system that takes care of the pH levels. For instance, healthy kidneys perform the tasks of balancing the pH levels. When there is an increase in pH levels in the blood, the body works towards neutralizing it by expelling or eliminating carbon dioxide, thereby balancing the pH levels. Similarly, most liquids and food that passes through the digestive system encounter digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, which neutralizes the intake. Certain actions also result in re-acidification of alkaline substances, and therefore the claim that alkaline water will straightaway deliver health benefits falls flat.
However, in the case of individuals with poorly functioning digestive systems or kidneys, the processes may not work as efficiently as required, and this may require medication or holistic treatment, but only under the close supervision or monitoring by specialists.
Claimed benefits of water with the right alkaline levels
The right alkaline levels certainly presents benefits and helps bodily functions. However, achieving this is not as simple as drinking water with high alkaline content. Before we look at possible alkaline water side effects here is a quick look at the compilation of benefits of the right alkaline levels.
#1 Blood glucose levels and blood pressure
Controlled studies on group of participants showed that intake of the right amount of alkaline helped to lower blood pressure levels. Additionally, the recorded benefits included a decrease in blood glucose levels, and the combination of controlled BP and sugar levels helped to improve health considerably. Participants also reported regulation of lipid levels, in addition to a positive impact on the cardiovascular health.
#2 Impact on patients with GERD
One of the commonly reported ailments in modern life is GERD, the acid reflux condition that is responsible for causing long term damage to the throat, the larynx, in addition to heartburn. Patients with the condition are typically known to suffer long term and the right balance of alkaline intake has been known to help relieve the conditions. Alkaline water with the ideal pH levels of around 8 are known to have a positive impact on enzymes that are linked to GERD. By neutralizing and decreasing the acidity levels in the stomach, alkaline water can help individuals with the condition. But it is important to note that acid has specific and important functions in the body, and a complete reduction or neutralizing of stomach acid can negatively impact functions.
#3 Impact on bones
Studies have indicated that alkaline water has a positive impact on bones and individuals with osteoporosis. One of the reasons for poor health or degenerative bone health is bone resorption. Tis refers to the process wherein the bone cells break down, to be replaced by new bone cells. Bone resorption and lesser mineral density are known to be two factors that have a negative impact on the health of bones. Studies looked at the impact of alkali water rich in calcium, and demonstrated that it delivered a positive outcome when compared with water that was more acidic with calcium.
#4 Effect on cancer
Studies have also looked into the effect of alkali water on cancer, with mixed results. Most of the studies that are used for the purpose of pushing the agenda of alkali water sales have not clearly demonstrated the link between alkali water and the effect on cancer. However, one study showed that water with the right alkali levels helped to improve the outcome of chemotherapy on patients. In other words, the alkali water acted indirectly by helping the chemotherapy drugs to work better, or facilitated the mechanism of action to deliver desired outcomes.
Possible alkaline water side effects
With the background information about the potential, claimed, proven and unproven benefits of alkali water listed out, it is time to look at the possible undesirable outcomes. It is necessary to add here that all medications, supplements, herbal formulations, natural remedies and alternative medicines come with the possibility of unwanted effects. The actual effects could differ from person to person, and depends on the intake level, the presence of other conditions, the age, body weight, overall health and the use of other medications. While some are known to experience mild or moderate effects, mothers are known to experience strong or adverse effects. The mild effects typically resolve in a short period with any treatment or medication. However, the strong and adverse effects may sometimes require urgent medical attention. There is another category of patients who are known to be free from all side effects, and may enjoy the benefits from the desired outcomes of the formulation without any complications. Here is a look at commonly reported side effects of alkali water.
Lack of nutrient intake
The biggest problem that could be faced by individuals with special alkali diets is the lack of adequate nutrient intake. For instance, an individual on a special alkali diet is more likely to avoid diets that are rich in certain nutrients. This may result in a fresh problem, instead of helping patients fix the existing problem.
Studies indicate that increased alkali intake in laboratory animals resulted in delayed growth, while some ended up with lesser activity. This indicated that despite the claims of offering possible health benefits, alkali water ended up with negative outcomes.
Common effects of excess alkaline in the body
There are certain documented effects attributed to excessive alkali levels in the body. For instance, the individual may end up in a confused state due to excessive alkaline levels. Similarly, there is also the possibility of abnormal or unusual trembling of the hands, apart from some kind of strain in the muscles. There are reports of individuals feeling dizzy at times, while many are known to vomit and have feelings of nausea. A distinct tingling sensation in the face, or the hands and the feet is another possible outcome of high alkaline levels in the body. Finally, individuals on special alkali diets that result in excessive intake of alkaline may experience muscle cramps for an extended period. This can be easily discerned as most muscle cramps are not known to last for a long time.
Overall effect of alkali water
There is inadequate information on record to clearly claim substantial benefits from alkali water. While it is necessary to restore pH balance, it is necessary to seek medical recommendations about the use of certain supplements and nutraceuticals. Alkali water has also been touted to offer benefits to individuals trying to lose weight. This is a wholly unproven claim, as there are no records or studies to prove that alkali water, by itself helped in weight management.