Alkaline Water versus Alkalizing Water, Similar Name Big Difference
At Alkaline for Life® we have long championed the concept of “alkalizing” our body chemistry. Reversing today’s common low-grade metabolic acidosis and returning to a natural, slightly alkaline pH preserves both bone and muscle and enhances overall health. Our whole Alkaline for Life® diet, in fact, is all about consuming enough vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices to recover an optimally balanced pH. So, when someone asks about “alkaline water,” we jump at the chance to explain our perspective. Perhaps you will see why buying many of the trendy “alkaline waters” might not be a good use of your money, while treating yourself to natural, high-mineral spring water, or making your own “Real Alkalizing Water” is a great idea. Here’s the story.
What is Alkaline Water?
The pH of any fluid can be easily measured. You might recall from high school chemistry that the pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. Battery acid has a pH near 0; very alkaline drain cleaner registers near 14. Pure water is neutral at 7, and everything above that is classified as “alkaline.” Everything below 7 is classified as “acid.”
By definition then, “alkaline water” is a water that has a pH reading above 7.
The US Environmental Protection Agency suggests municipalities keep their drinking water at a pH of 6.5 to 8.5. When the pH of water reaches 8.8, the digestive enzyme pepsin is inactivated, decreasing the body’s natural production of hydrochloric acid (HCL), which is necessary for optimum digestion.
Does "Alkaline Water" Alkalize?
A high-pH alkaline water does not necessarily alkalize, and here is why. The degree to which a food or liquid alkalizes the body chemistry does not depend on the pH reading of that substance. For example, lemon juice is very acidic to taste and has a very low pH, yet it has an alkalizing effect once metabolized within the body. (1)
What’s important is not the original pH of the substance, but the net effect of the substance after it is metabolized in the body. Acids like citric acid from citrus fruits are metabolized in the body to produce bicarbonate, which is a strong alkalizing agent and helps us to alkalize. Other acids like hippuric acid found in cranberries enter the body as acid and leave the body as acid. Thus they are acid forming within the body.
Qualities of an Alkalizing "Alkaline Water"
The qualities that make a liquid alkalizing are the alkalizing form of certain mineral compounds found in that liquid. Most specifically, the alkalizing forms of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium are used by the body to buffer acids—they are alkalizing. What makes these minerals alkalizing is that they are attached to negatively charged anions such as carbonate, hydrogen carbonate, and ascorbate. Waters high in alkalizing mineral forms help alkalize the body. The major minerals in “alkalizing” water are bicarbonate, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
All in all, when it comes to mineral water, the alkalizing capacity of the water can be described in terms of its “total dissolved solids” or TDS. These solids are inorganic mineral salts of organic matter present in solution in the water. A truly alkalizing water will be labeled as having a significantly high TDS.
Natural Alkalizing Water
Time-honored healing alkalizing waters are the natural mineral waters from underground origins. The best known of these are the European mineral waters originating high in the Alps. These waters pick up mineral salts from the rocks and the earth as they forge their underground path down the mountains. The World Health Organization reports that the concentration of total dissolved solids from natural water sources has been found to vary from fewer than 30 mg/L to as many as 6,000 mg/L, depending on the solubility of minerals in different geological regions. According to European regulations, only water with at least 250 mg/L of minerals may be called “mineral water” and water with 500 mg/L or more may carry the additional designation of “high mineral content.” Natural mineral water must be bottled at the source to avoid any alteration in its chemical properties. And indeed, studies show (2) (3) (4) that natural mineral water is effective at reducing excess metabolic acids (i.e., alkalizing) and promoting bone and overall health.
Synthetic Alkaline Water
We can divide synthetic alkaline water into two general groups. The first group is filtered or otherwise purified water to which traces of minerals have been added. A second type of alkaline water, which can have a very high pH (as 9 or 10), is produced by electrolysis. This we can say is the most artificial of all alkaline waters. This process uses a machine to separate the hydrogen (acid forming) and hydroxyl (alkalizing) components of water. Two waters are rendered—one highly acidic and the other highly alkaline. The label on this “alkalizing water” bottle might detail that it was made by electrolysis. Such waters can have a pH of 9 or above, which is high enough to inactivate pepsin and decrease stomach acid production. In fact, the one medically approved use of these high pH waters that I can find is for the treatment of acid reflux in Japan and Korea. While proponents of “alkaline water” produced by electrolysis make broad claims about the health effects of such manufactured high pH water, to date the only official medical indication is for excess stomach acid. (5)
What not to look for when you assess the alkalizing capacity of “alkaline” water and what you should look for:
- Do not judge by the labeled pH of the water.
- Instead, look for the quantity of minerals and total dissolved solids on the label.
How to Judge the Alkalizing Effect of Your Water
Let me offer you this simple way to see if your “alkaline water” is helping you to alkalize—just put it to the test. Consume a fairly consistent diet and measure your first-morning urine pH every day for week. Then each day for another 5 or 6 days drink several glasses of your “alkaline water.” Again, measure your first-morning urine pH for the next week while drinking this water. If your urine pH was anything below 6.5 when you began this experiment and if it raised to 6.5 to 7.5 after drinking your “alkaline water” (and if the diet was the same all the time, which is hard to do), one could suggest that the alkaline water had an alkalizing effect. To do this with ease you might get my Alkaline for Life® Diet Starter Kit, which contains my book, The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide, and all the info and supplies you will need for measuring and optimizing your pH.
Alkaline for LIfe® Do-It-Yourself Hack: Make “Real Alkalizing Water” Right at Home!
Working with experts in the field we have developed an at-home method for producing high antioxidant “alkalizing water.” We use a special portable container that protects the anti-oxidant and alkalizing factors that keep your alkalizing water fully potent for the entire day. We call it the Real Alkalizing Water Kit© and it contains everything you need to produce a high antioxidant, portable Real Alkalizing Water.
- Brown, S. E. and L. Trivieri, Jr. 2013. The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide, 2nd ed. Square One Publishers, Garden City Park, NY.
- Bohmer, H., H. Müller, and K. L. Resch. 2000. Calcium supplementation with calcium-rich mineral waters: A systematic review and meta-analysis of its bioavailability. Osteoporosis International 11(11):938-943.
- Burckhardt, P. 2008. The effect of the alkali load of mineral water on bone metabolism: Interventional studies. The Journal of Nutrition 138(2):435s-437s.
- Wynn, E., M. A. Krieg, J. M. Aeschlimann, and P. Burckhardt. 2008. Alkaline mineral water lowers bone resorption even in calcium sufficiency: Alkaline mineral water and bone metabolism. Bone 44(1):120-124.
- Koufman, J. A., and N. Johnston. 2012. Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease. Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology 121(7):431-434.