best natural foods

Exactly what is alkaline water?

What is alkaline water?

To the promoters of alkaline water systems - mainly people involved in multi-level marketing - this water is a miracle drink that will cure practically every illness, from colds to cancer.

There are, however, detractors and sceptics. If you ask them "What is alkaline water?" they will say it is a bogus and a scam.

Who is right? I won't claim that I understand enough about water, water chemistry and human biology to give any definite answer. But my personal inclination is to agree with the detractors and sceptics.

pH balance

To understand the issue, we must first be familiar with the chemistry concept of pH balance, which measures whether a liquid is acidic or alkaline.

In the pH scale, the neutral point is set at 7.0. Less than 7.0 is considered acidic and more than 7.0 is considered alkaline. The entire scale ranges from 0.0 to 14.0, so very strong acids will have a pH close to 0.0 while strong alkalis will have a pH close to 14.0.

Based on this pH scale, it is straightforward to define what is alkaline water. It is water with a pH greater than 7.0. In practical terms, however, the people who market alkaline water systems usually refer to "alkaline water" as having a pH greater than 8.0.

Why is pH balance important?

The human body cannot tolerate great variations in pH. Human blood, especially, needs to stay within a very narrow range of between pH 7.35 and pH 7.45, that is, slightly alkaline. Once outside this range, the person falls ill and eventually dies.

Other body fluids can have greater variations. Urine is normally slightly acidic with average pH 6.0. Saliva can range from pH 6.0 (acidic) to ph 7.4 (alkaline) although acidic saliva is usually considered a sign of poor health while alkaline saliva is a sign of good health.

We need to maintain our body fluids, especially the blood, at slightly alkaline with pH about 7.4. There is no argument over this.

At the same time, there is broad medical agreement that many elements in the modern diet and lifestyle - including excessive consumption of sugar, meat. refined grains and food chemicals, as well as stress - tend to make the body condition acidic.

Alkaline vs alkaline-forming

Will drinking alkaline water help restore the body's acid-aklaline balance? Not necessarily.

Body chemistry is highly complex and we need to understand the difference between what is alkaline water and what are alkaline-forming foods and beverages.

Consider this... Lemon juice is very acidic with pH about 2.5. Yet drinking lemon juice will NOT make your body acidic. Instead, it makes your body alkaline. Because lemon juice contains minerals that, after digestion, make your body alkaline.

The same is true of most other fruit juices, as well as natural vinegars such as rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. They are acidic but they make your body alkaline.

What matters is whether a food or drink is acid-forming or alkaline-forming. It's the end result that is important, not so much whether it is acidic or alkaline in the begging.

The end result depends on what is present in the food or drink. To achieve an end-result is that alkaline forming, we need foods and drinks, including water, that contains minerals such as sodium, potassio=um, magnesium, etc.

But if you look at what is alkaline water, you will not always find these minerals. Using an alkaline water system, you can artificially create so-called "alkaline water" with ordinary tap water or even with distilled water that contains very little or zero minerals.

Natural vs artificial alkaline water

This brings us to the question of what is alkaline water found in nature and what is alkaline water created by alkaline water systems?

In natural, alkaline water is water with a high mineral content, more commonly called mineral water. Such water may have pH of between 7.3 and 8.0, depending on the source and the amount of minerals present. And yes, it is true that many people in communities known for their good health and long life drink mineral water that is naturally alkaline.

But what is alkaline water created using an alkaline water system?

This is, in fact, water that has undergone an electrical process - called electrolysis - that splits it up into two different streams. One stream, with high concentrations of negatively charged hydrogen ions, is called "alkaline water" while the other stream is called "acidic water".

Techically speaking, these are not genuine alkaline and acidic waters. In scientific language, the alkaline stream should rightly be called electrolyzed reduced water (ERW). The term "reduced" may seem puzzling but in chemistry, it refers to a process that is opposite of oxidation - that is, opposite of taking on oxygen ions.

Anti-oxidant effect

Understanding what is alkaline water in this way helps us appreciate some of the claims about this supposedly miraculous drink.

Because the water has been "reduced", which is the opposite of having been oxidized, it has powerful anti-oxidant properties. This is the main reason why the water produces some health benefits, not because the water is "alkaline".

A secondary benefit is that due to the presence of negatively charged hydrogen ions, the water molecules form smaller clusters compared with, say, the molecules of regular tap water. These smaller clusters are claimed to make the water more easily absorbed by cells. In turn, this is said to improve cell nutrition as well as cleansing - because it gets easier for water to carry nutriuents into the cells as well as to remove toxins from them.

From understanding what is alkaline water and how it is produced, these appear to be the two key benefits of alkaline water. nce of this H-minus ion which gives so-called "alkaline ionized water" its powerful antioxidant effects.  Due to the presence of the H-minus ion, the water also exhibits a clustering effect different from normal water or tap water, and usually shows a reduced cluster size and reduced surface tension. 

These two latter properties (reduced cluster size and reduced surface tension), which are also created by the presence of the H-minus ion, are also believed to have some beneficial effect upon the health of humans and animals.

Some alkaline water systems give the option to adjust the level of alkalinity, to as high as pH 11.0 or pH 12.0. Normally, when you drink such strongly alkaline water, you will experience a "burning" effect similar to drinking strong acids. (I found this out back in secondary school when, during science lessons in the laboratory, I accidentally sipped a small amount of sodium hydroxide.)

However, you will not feel anything when you drink so-called alkaline water even at pH 12.0. As mentioned, this is because the water from such alkaline water systems is not true alkaline water. In chemistry, it is described as being "weakly buffered".

What is alkaline water that is "weakly buffered"? First, it is water that will not damage body tissues, even at high pH levels, because its alkalinity is almost immediately neutralized by other substances that it comes into contact with.

More importantly, it means the alkalinity of the water is not sufficiently strong or well-buffered to have an impact on your body's acid-alkaline balance. It will not make your body alkaline.

Click here for more articles on the controversy over what is alkaline water.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Kindly leave a comment in the box below.


(5 articles)
Cooking oils
(23 articles)
Diet plans (13 articles)
Fiber (3 articles)
Fish (3 articles)
Grains (17 articles)
Pasta (10 articles)
Pasta recipes
(>40 recipes)
Salt (11 articles)
(11 articles)
Soy products
(14 articles)
Vegetables (1 article)
Water (6 articles)
More sections to come
Natural Cancer Cures
Flu treatments
Stop Trans fats

How much water to drink?
Best bottled water?
Alkaline water
- what is it?
Claimed benefits of alkaline water
Controversy over alkaline water
Distilled water - healthy or harmful?