Alkaline water is high on the pH scale, which means it’s “basic” — the opposite of acidic. This is part of the reason many people think drinking alkaline water may provide certain health benefits. But is that really the case?
Read on to learn about the potential benefits of alkaline water, what the scientific evidence says and why pH in water really does matter — but perhaps not for the reasons you think.
What Are The Potential Benefits of Alkaline Water?
The most important thing to know about alkaline water benefits is that they’re mostly marketing. All these advantages sound great on paper, but according to the scientific community, “more research is needed to verify these claims” and “there isn’t much […] to support them.” Yes, there are a few studies identifying a potential health benefit or two — but even these aren’t hard evidence due to differences in their findings and research processes.
On the other hand, drinking alkaline water doesn’t pose any health risks for most people. That means you could try it out and potentially experience benefits like:
Some people believe that drinking water with a higher pH level is better for overall hydration. However, scientific evidence doesn’t necessarily support this — and neither do recommendations from North American water organizations.
For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says drinking water should fall between 6.5 and 8.5 on the pH scale. The Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality recommend a slightly higher range: 7.0 to 10.5. (It’s important to note that these are often called “secondary standards” specifically because water outside these ranges doesn’t have noteworthy health effects — positive or negative.)
Because alkaline water is basic, some supporters say it can positively affect your blood pH by neutralizing acid. More research is needed to verify this and similar claims.
A related study found that high-pH alkaline water may improve blood viscosity, or how efficiently blood travels through your veins, after strenuous exercise. However, these findings must be researched further before the scientific community fully accepts them.
If you have digestive issues, you may have heard that normal water isn’t doing the trick and that alkaline minerals could help. Unfortunately, the reality is that your stomach acid makes this a moot point. Even a highly alkaline diet is neutralized by these gastrointestinal juices.
This is part of the body’s natural balancing act — an ongoing effort to regulate your pH levels. It’s also the basis for many scientific rejections of alkaline water benefits. The average person has a pH level of 7.4, and your internal systems — including your lungs and kidneys — work hard to keep it that way. As such, alkaline water may not have much of an effect at all.
Protecting Bone Density
In one study of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, researchers found that alkaline water may be able to improve bone density. Although the outcome is promising, keep in mind that this is a single study of a very specific group and doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will experience the same alkaline water benefit.
If you dig deep enough, you’re likely to hear that alkaline water can have all kinds of additional benefits. Other claims include that it:
- Supports the immune system
- Increases energy
- Prevents cancer
- Limits the effects of aging
- Supports weight loss
Remember, these aren’t promises or even scientific facts. In reality, they may just be claims to help sell bottled water.
Does Alkaline Water Have Side Effects?
As we mentioned earlier, alkaline water doesn’t have many noteworthy positive or negative effects. So, does it have any effects at all? Here are a few potential outcomes:
- Hydration: Whether you’re sipping fancy, ionized alkaline water or regular drinking water, hydration is hydration. Many potential benefits of alkaline water may just be benefits of getting enough H2O overall.
- Overhydration: On the other hand, drinking too much alkaline water — or any water at all — can potentially cause overhydration. This is particularly applicable to athletes and those with chronic kidney disease, though; most people should worry more about the much more common dehydration.
- Small pH shifts: Excessive consumption could be enough to slightly alter your pH. While this may be interesting to think about, you probably wouldn’t even have time to notice before your body shifted things back to normal.
- Digestive changes: While alkaline water may not have a significant effect on your digestion, it can rarely cause mild stomach upset.
- Skin irritation: Differing pH levels may cause dry, itchy skin in some people.
The key takeaway is that alkalinity doesn’t have much impact on your body and overall health. However, that doesn’t mean there are no side effects.
Sure, it’s not quite the same — but as it turns out, your home can feel the impact if your everyday tap water has high pH levels. That’s because alkaline minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, can also increase your water’s hardness. This leads to a host of irritating issues, including:
- Mineral buildup
- Soap spots on dishes
- Stiff laundry
- Reduced water pressure
- Lower efficiency of water-using appliances
Noticing these or other water issues?
Try our Water Solutions Finder.
When so many water problems are related, it’s important to know the story of your water quality — and for that, you’ll need to take a closer look at what comes out of your tap.
What Makes Alkaline Water Unique?
You can get alkaline water in two ways: naturally or from an ionizer.
Natural Alkaline Water
If your alkaline water is truly natural, that means it picked up alkaline minerals from the environment before reaching its final destination — whether that was your kitchen faucet or a single-use water bottle. For example, if your water ran over limestone at some point in its lifespan, it may be alkaline because this rock type itself is alkaline.
Ionized Alkaline Water
If your water is ionized, that means it passed through an ionizer and experienced a process called electrolysis. The idea is that electricity separates acidic and alkaline molecules — although researchers say the process is still being studied. This may be called “artificial alkaline water” and is how many bottled water brands offer higher pH.
Other Alkaline Water
You can get alkaline water in other ways, too — for example, from a reverse osmosis water filtration system with an added mineral boost cartridge. This is the best of both worlds, because a single system filters your water and gives you control over the pH. Just keep in mind that the original pH of your tap water can impact the final outcome.
Less comprehensive options include standalone alkaline water pitchers or machines. The problem is that these systems may not check all your water quality boxes, and they generally don’t provide all the comprehensive filtration benefits of reverse osmosis, either. Similarly, it’s best to avoid relying exclusively on alkaline water in single-use bottles, as that plastic can be bad for the environment and your budget.
What’s Your Drinking Water’s pH Level?
The questions around alkaline water may never be fully put to rest, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on controlling your drinking water’s pH. There are plenty of systems and solutions that put you in charge of everything from filtration to flavor.
The first step is a water quality test. A local expert can help uncover your water’s pH and hardness levels, potential contaminants, best softening and filtration solutions and more.*
Ready to get started? Schedule your free, in-home water test and consultation today.
*Contaminants may not be present in your water.
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