Alkaline water, also known as ionized water, is a beverage that is neither acidic nor neutral on the pH scale, having a level above 7. It is available through commercial or home systems and is also sold in bottles. This substance has drawn high praise and is touted by some individuals as cure for a wide range of medical conditions, but it also has many critics and requires more research before benefits can be confirmed.
Although it can be slightly acidic depending on its source, water usually is considered neutral on the pH scale, having a pH of 7. Alkaline water has a pH of approximately 8. The exact pH level depends largely on the brand or the equipment used to alkalize the water.
This liquid is available from a number of different sources. Most commonly, people add an alkalizer to a tap water system, such as a kitchen sink. The other alternative is to buy bottled versions. While this may be the more expensive option over time, it is a simple way to get the product quickly.
To function well, the human body can be neither too acidic nor too basic. Natural mechanisms allow the body to get rid of both excess acids and accumulated bases. Some people believe that diet is a major way to influence the pH balance of the body, therefore effecting physiological functioning and overall health. They believe that, when the body is too acidic, alkaline water can correct the imbalance.
Proponents of this beverage claim that it can be a treatment for asthma, heartburn, indigestion and a host of other ailments. Slowing the aging process is another supposed benefit. It even is said to keep cancer at bay. Another general assertion is that alkaline water can prevent the illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses, because according to advocates, most bacteria and viruses thrive in acidic environments.
Some believe that the stated health benefits of alkaline water are overstated, and that it has little to do with stabilizing or reducing acidity in the body. In fact, some argue the stated health benefits are simply a fabrication of those in the industry and are doubtful at best. In short, they are only mentioned in order to make money.
Chemists say water is not conductive enough to go through any significant ionization. Also, alkaline beverages naturally cause the stomach to produce more digestive acids to keep the stomach's pH balance around 4. Sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate, both bases, are biproducts of this process and do enter the bloodstream, so any increase in the body's pH from alkaline water is somewhat indirect. The fact that the stomach responds to taking in alkaline foods by producing more acid means that too much basic food or drink can disrupt healthy digestion.
As long as the buffering systems of the body are working properly, pH increases should not be significant. Even so, having to compensate all the time for a diet that is overly alkaline can tax the buffering systems that eliminate acids and bases. Eventually, the body might have a hard time regulating the acid-alkaline balance.
Experts also point out that viruses and bacteria thrive in an enormous range of environments, depending on their classification. Stomach acids play a role in eliminating pathogens that could cause illness, but they do not kill 100 percent of harmful organisms. Similarly, moving the body to a basic condition does not eliminate the risk of getting sick completely. It merely shifts which types of organisms survive to cause illness.
A simple, non-medical reason for rejecting manufactured alkaline water is that, in most industrial regions, water is already slightly alkaline. Water treatment officials often alkalize water to at least 8 to prevent the erosion of piping.
A major issue with this kind of water is that simply not enough research has been done to show conclusively that that the benefits proponents assert actually exist. Even if many of the claims are true, the only people who really would benefit are individuals who already have trouble keeping their body alkaline enough, or people who already have some problems with their natural buffering systems. The decision to use the product therefore is still highly personal. It is a good idea for a person to alert his physician to the type of water selected, as this can influence other recommendations and treatments the doctor prescribes.