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What is Alkaline Drinking Water?

By Darrell Laurant
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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Alkaline drinking water is water that has a greater number of oxygen ions, increasing its pH. Proponents claim that it can increase stamina, reduce aging, and prevent cancer, among other benefits. An equally vociferous opposition calls the water a scam.

Water molecules are composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. Under normal chemical processes, one in approximately 10 million of these molecules will ionize, which means splitting into hydrogen and oxygen ions. Hydrogen ions are acidic, while hydroxyl (oxygen) ions are alkaline. Water will take on the pH value of whichever ion is most abundant.

According to one alkaline drinking water advocate, the higher number of hydroxyl ions helps to neutralize the acidic hydrogen ions, which in turn reverses the aging process. It's not clear which ions "win," however, and although advocates talk about "restructuring" water electronically, it is difficult to pin down exactly how this is done. Other proponents talk about processes being used to lower the "millivoltage" of the water, in other words, lowering its potential energy. This apparently makes the water simpler and more beneficial.

On a more down-to-earth level, those who espouse the virtues of alkaline water point to the acidity of some popular beverages, such as coffee and most sodas, and say that drinking an alkaline liquid can help restore the body's pH to a more benign and beneficial balance. Some medical professionals claim that it is not possible for foods to change the acidity of anything in the body except for urine, however.

These professionals point out that the stomach is naturally acidic, which is how it is able to break down foods, while the fluids in the intestine must be alkaline to prevent damage from the acid. It is the kidneys, they point out, that regulate the pH of the bloodstream, not the outside influence of drinking water. Regardless of this information, alkaline drinking water has spawned a cottage industry ranging from machines that purport to "ionize" neutral water to squeeze bottles of water that are prescribed in very small daily amounts.

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Discussion Comments
By anon992146 — On Aug 17, 2015

I don't think that water needs to be neutralized. Hydroxide is very different from pure oxygen, and pH is measured only by the concentration of hydrogen ions, not OH-. Water will always dissociate into H+ and OH-. H+ ions are extremely important in your body. Without pumps in cell membranes, cells would not be able to make energy and perform any other processes.

By anon338486 — On Jun 14, 2013

I recommend looking up people like Dr. Susan E. Brown and her research into osteoporosis related to over acidity of the body. The body tries very hard to maintain a very narrow blood ph of about 7.4, and it will go to the lengths of even leaching alkaline forming minerals like calcium and magnesium from the body to do so, or breaking down muscle to get glutamine to make ammonia (very alkalizing).

It's the acid accumulation in the tissues which cause more immediate damage and issues, and which the body has a harder time correcting.

Of course, the stomach is meant to contain a lot of acid! But ironically enough, often in those whose bodies are chronically acidic in the tissues, and where the bones and muscles are being broken down, there is too little HCL in the stomach which leads to problems--like inefficient absorption of B12, inefficient break down of proteins (especially complex ones like in meat or dairy).

There is research out there which supports the acid alkaline theory. However, if one has already formed a belief system about it, one tends to see what one wants to.

How do I know there is something to it? At the end of the day I care less about the vaunted scientific knowledge about it, and more about observable effects in my own laboratory: my body. When I have a disciplined and more alkaline forming diet, I can be around any number of people with a cold, flu, etc. and not get anything for years. I worked at a school and was in close contact with a lot of children with various infectious pathogens and went over two years without even a hint of the common cold.

Back when I ate more "normally," or rather the standard American diet (truly sad), that would not have been the case and I experienced getting sick every few months or so on average.

Why would this be different? I believe it's due to the increased oxygenation of my body, and overall greater balance and nutrition density which leads to a stronger, healthier body and increased immunity functions.

A closed mind and unwillingness to experiment are your loss, and my gain. Sadly, too many make mainstream science their major religion. Studies and research are definitely important and of value, but so is your own experience. Neither science nor mainstream medicine know all there is to know about the human body. Experimentation and experience can help to fill in the rest.

By the way, to be more clear, I'm not talking about "alkaline water" so much as dietary alkalinity, which happens primarily through mineralization of foods. I don't have much experience with the former, but I have 12 years of experience with the latter.

By WaterBlogged — On Feb 15, 2012

There is no evidence that alkaline water can actually cause a meaningful change in the body’s pH or have any effect on health. There are many reasons besides actual effectiveness to explain why people report health benefits from drinking alkaline water, and these are available online.

You might also want to check and see if any alkaline water machines are certified to reduce harmful contaminants.

If anyone actually tried alkaline water or regular water for a period of time without knowing which was which, there would be no difference in health effects noted. The processes used by those peddling the product to explain how alkaline water works in the body is chemically and physiologically incorrect.

There is also absolutely no peer reviewed evidence to support even the most basic claims that alkaline water can alter the pH of the digestive system, blood or cellular environment or have any specific, measurable effect on health.

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