We Need Water but Which Water?Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
If you have a good dentist, he probably told you to avoid acidic beverages to prevent tooth decay. “Cut back on the sodas and drink more water,” he might have said. But I bet he never told you to avoid certain kinds of water.
Yes, water too can be acidic and may be bad for your overall health - not only your teeth.
And medical professionals, like your dentist, are being encouraged to educate their patients about the existence and popularity of acidic water.
According to a recent study, they are to be “aware of the potential acidity of popular bottled drinking waters and educate patients accordingly.”
So what type of water should you drink?
Credible research suggests that you probably should be drinking a special type of water - alkaline water- because it may be better for your overall health.
What is alkaline water?
Alkaline water generally has a higher mineral content than plain water. The higher mineral content gives it a higher pH level than water without those minerals. The pH measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. It is usually measured on a scale of 0-14, with 14 being the most alkaline and 0 being the most acidic. A level of 7 is considered neutral. Anything above a 7 is considered alkaline and, similarly, anything below a 7 is considered acidic.
To put all of this in perspective, 0 is the value of concentrated hydrochloric acid and 14 is the value of sodium hydroxide (otherwise known as lye or caustic soda). Pure water is neither alkaline or acidic. It is neutral, with a pH of 7.
Why do we need to drink alkaline water?
A combination of an increase in age and an acidic diet may make it necessary for many people to drink alkaline water. Let me explain a bit more.
To survive, humans require a tightly controlled pH level in the blood (serum) of about 7.4 (a slightly alkaline range of 7.35 to 7.45). The serum is the watery portion of blood that separates from the red-blood cells, white-blood cells and clotting proteins. (Put another way, it is blood plasma with the blood cells and clotting proteins removed but all other proteins and electrolytes remaining).
Under normal conditions, the body does a very good job of regulating the pH range of approximately 7.35 to 7.45 in the serum or extracellular fluid. It generally uses the lungs to get rid of carbon dioxide and the kidneys to otherwise regulate the acid and alkaline levels.
However as we age, our organs, including our kidneys, may experience a decline in efficiency and functional ability. The reduced functioning of the kidneys may contribute to metabolic acidosis by reducing conservation of HCO3 (an alkaline substance) and excretion of acid.
“With advanced age and reduced renal capacity, the tendency for people to suffer from low-grade acidosis increases, which might explain the rapid, overall health deterioration that comes with greater age,” according to a recent and extensive report on the health effects of alkaline diet and water.
In addition to age, acid forming western diets (which usually include sodas, processed sugars and meats), may induce low grade metabolic acidosis. Sufficient amounts of nutrient-rich foods, which contain minerals, are usually not consumed in the western diet. These nutrients must be present in our bodies in certain amounts to preserve optimal pH balance.
This combination of aging and diet may cause very small decreases in blood pH that may still be within the normal range, but this still may be troublesome.
“Within that range, the system equilibrates nearer the lower end rather than the higher end of normal.” However, if the duration of the acidosis is prolonged or chronically present, even a low degree of acidosis can become significant,” the report says.
Prolonged, chronic acidosis may lead to decreased pH and chronic diseases like fatigue, bone disease and kidney stones due to “repeated borrowing of the body’s alkaline reserves."
And even healthy younger adults who typically consume western acid forming diets are susceptible to low-grade metabolic acidosis, which worsens with age as a result of the declining kidney function.
“With metabolic acidosis, the body’s ability to excrete toxins also declines. To overcome those defects, it is recommended that people consume foods that are higher in alkaline substances and alkaline water as well as avoid an acidic diet and acidic water (ie, water low in minerals) as they grow older.”
Some health benefits of alkaline water?
Alkaline water contains minerals that are beneficial to our health such as magnesium and calcium. Water with higher levels of magnesium is associated with a lower incidence of urinary stones. Water with higher levels of calcium is associated with higher bone densities and reduced likelihood of certain kidney stones.
Other potential benefits of drinking alkaline water include a reduction in bone loss and osteoporosis, tooth decay and diabetes. It may even help improve blood flow.
Athletes may benefit from drinking alkaline water. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that “athletes hydrated with alkaline, low mineralized water demonstrated favourable changes in hydration status in response to high-intensity interval exercise with a significant decrease of specific urine gravity, increased urine pH and more efficient utilization of lactate after supramaximal exercise.”
An additional study from the NIH found that electrolyzed, high pH alkaline water may also help with recovery and rehydration.
But keep in mind, you can overdo it.
Remember, too much of a good thing can be bad.
Drinking excessive amounts of alkaline water may produce negative side effects.
Some examples of negative side effects include the lowering of natural stomach acidity, which helps kill bacteria and expel other undesirable pathogens from entering your bloodstream.
Additionally, excess alkalinity in the body may cause gastrointestinal issues and skin irritations. Too much alkalinity may also agitate the body’s normal pH, leading to metabolic alkalosis, a condition that may produce the following symptoms:
- Hand tremors
- Muscle twitching
- Tingling in the extremities or face
Alkalosis can also cause a decrease in free calcium in the body, which can affect bone health. However, the most common cause of hypocalcemia is not from drinking alkaline water but from having an underactive parathyroid gland.
It might therefore be necessary to routinely test your pH level if you drink alkaline water regularly. You can accomplish this with pH strips which provides the pH level of your urine or saliva.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.