For most people, water is water. Whether it comes out of a bottle or a tap, we tend to look at water the same. But the science of water is much more complex than many realize. Specifically, the pH of water is something that has a profound effect on how your body processes it. It’s not necessarily about getting enough H2O, but the quality of the water you’re drinking and where it sits on the pH scale.
Pure water is a perfect 7 on the pH scale, which runs from 0 to 14. The closer you get to zero, the more acidic something is. Lemon juice, for example, is about a 2 on the scale. Conversely, the higher you go, the more alkaline the liquid becomes. Ammonia is roughly 11 on the scale, for contrast. And while most literature on water quality will tell you that a perfect 7 is ideal for water, there’s a growing body of evidence that says slightly alkaline water is actually more beneficial for us.
Let’s take a look at what alkaline water is and why it’s beneficial, and how to get it if your water at home is closer to a middling pH of 7.
What is alkaline water?
Alkaline water is, of course, water that registers higher on the pH scale—generally from 7 to 9. As mentioned, 7 is completely neutral, so most “alkaline” water products register 7.5 and higher. It’s also important to stop at roughly 9 on the pH scale, since anything higher is going to be hard on your body.
What makes water alkaline? It comes down to the mineral content of the water. For example, you might be familiar with “hard” water, which includes high levels of iron or magnesium. To a degree, hard water is alkaline water. Most alkaline waters contain some measure of calcium, magnesium and/or potassium. It’s important to realize that hard water isn’t necessarily good for you. Too much of these minerals can be harmful. It’s all about balance.
The benefits of a little alkalinity
There’s some debate over the benefits of alkaline water from a scientific standpoint, although there are several promising studies and a wealth of anecdotal evidence out there to support it. Here’s what you can expect if you ratchet up the pH a couple of degrees:
- The alkalinity could offset heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux symptoms.
- There are links to alkaline water consumption and reduced blood pressure.
- Improved blood viscosity, leading to better oxygenation of organs and muscles.
And those are just the peer-reviewed studies. Many members of the scientific community are pushing for more research to better-qualify the effects of alkaline water on the body, in an attempt to qualify its benefits. Some purported benefits that have yet to be formally studied include:
- Digestive cleansing properties
- Anti-aging properties
- Immune system support
- Weight loss
- Better complexion and skin hydration
Many people also report feeling better hydrated and more alert when drinking alkaline water. For this reason, alkaline water is commonly referred to as “wetter water” or “water+.”
The science behind alkaline water
Where did the concept of alkaline water come from? To understand it, we actually need to understand the concept of body acidity and “oxidation reduction potential (ORP).”
Typically, cells don’t thrive in an acid environment—that’s the reason many people can’t drink lemon juice outright. The acidity is too much for the body and it rejects it. The problem is, the Western Diet is extremely acidic thanks to heavy use of sugars. Sugar is in just about everything we eat and, as a result, our bodies typically skew lower on the pH scale (more acidic). Our diets have a high ORP, which makes us prone to inflammation.
Because we’re made up mostly of water, the concept behind alkaline water is that it’ll counteract the acidity we’re often exposed to in an attempt to bring us closer to neutral—or at least back up from higher acidity levels. Alkaline water has negative ORP—which, despite the sound, is actually good for us. It means antioxidizing properties for our bodies.
How to get alkaline water
The easiest way to get alkaline water is to buy it. There’s bottled alkaline water, alkaline tablets you can add to water, and even alkaline filters that introduce a higher pH to your tap water.
You can also create alkaline water by ionizing your water, using a water treatment system. A simple yet effective way to create alkaline water is to add baking soda (pH 9) to tap water (pH 7), which can raise the pH of water by 1-2 points. Mix ⅛ tablespoon of baking soda into 8 fluid ounces of purified water.
Alkalinity doesn’t just come from water, either. You can also boost your body’s alkalinity by eating more vegetables. There’s even an alkaline diet that can help boost your body’s overall pH level.
However you get it, an infusion of higher-alkalinity water and foods into your body can help boost pH and make you less acidic. The results might be exactly what you need to feel better than you have in a while.