Confused about what exactly it is? Let's back up for a sec: Every single food and drink has a pH level—and so does the human body. pH levels range on a scale of 0 (very acidic) up to 14 (very alkaline or basic). Some experts believe that certain foods like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar can make the body more acidic, which potentially creates an environment ripe for cancer and other diseases. And thus the thinking goes that the more alkaline your body is, the less likely you are to experience illnesses and disease.
With the "more alkaline = good" mindset, people have started to promote processing their water (which normally has a pH of about 7) to be more alkaline (between 7.5 and 9 pH) and believe that drinking it can help balance out their body's pH levels. Pro-alkaline water drinkers credit it for giving the body a boost for protecting against inflammation—and all the brain fog, digestive issues, and disease that can come with it.
But take these exciting claims with a hefty dose of side-eye. An RD recently told the New York Times that alkaline water is more marketing than merit. And there aren't a lot of peer-reviewed studies out there definitively proving any benefits, so...
Still curious about it? Totally hear you. Instead of shelling out $8 per bottle on this stuff, here's how to make alkaline water yourself—along with all of the actual potential benefits and downsides you might experience drinking it.
Scroll down to see how alkaline water might affect your health—and how to make your own at home.
As previously mentioned, the jury is still out on alkaline water, but there might be some ways it benefits the body:
1. It's hydrating. Okay, this one is pretty obvious, but...like other types of water, alkaline H20 hydrates the body, and hydration is essentially the key to everything. Getting your fill will give you energy, help your digestive system run smoothly, and make your skin all glow-y and dewy. It's just not proven to be more effective at doing this than regular water.
2. It could protect the body against free radicals. Quick chemistry lesson: Free radicals are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron. In non-science speak that means they're unstable and roaming around inside the body looking for another electron to pair up with. They can damage the DNA, potentially leading to small problems (like wrinkles) and big probs (like cancer). The biggest way to combat free radicals is by filling up on antioxidants—and alkaline water has been shown to have some antioxidant effects on the body.
3. It could contribute to longevity. In one study, mice who consumed alkaline water lived longer than mice that didn't. Scientists were unable to pinpoint exactly why, but there was a correlation. More research needs to be done—especially, you know, on humans—but the results are food for thought.
4. It may be beneficial to people with reflux problems. If you experience heartburn or other indigestion on the reg, you know how painful it can be—just the thought of spicy foods can make you lose your appetite. But one study found that a power combo of the Mediterranean diet and drinking alkaline water can help ease symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux (a form of reflux where stomach acid travels up the esophagus and down the back of your throat) as effectively than medication.
5. It may promote healthy digestion. Drinking water in general aids in helping food move through the digestive tract, but researchers have found that alkaline water in particular can be pretty effective at keeping things...ahem, moving through the gut—at least in rats.
Of course, drinking or eating a lot of anything can have some negative side effects, even something as harmless-seeming as alkaline water:
1. It could mess with your stomach acid. Even though the whole point of gulping down alkaline water is to balance the body, if you drink excessive amounts of it, you could get hypochlorhydria—aka a deficiency of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. When that happens, your digestive system doesn't work as well as it could (it can't properly digest food or kill harmful bacteria). So if you're exclusively drinking alkaline H20 and something feels "off," it's something to think about.
2. It could cause muscle twitching. Drinking too much alkaline water can cause metabolic alkalosis. This basically means that your body's pH has been totally thrown out of whack, and comes with scary side effects including vomiting, muscle twitching, and tingling. Seek medical help immediately if you experience these symptoms.
3. It could affect your skin and eyes. While most alkaline water has a pH in the 8 or 9 range, going too basic with your water (like, over a pH of 10) could irritate your eyes and worsen existing skin issues, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Okay, now that you're aware of the pros and cons, here's how to brew your own batch of alkaline water. There are a few different methods out there (all resulting in your alkaline water), so it all comes down on preference and budget.
1. Use an ionizer. One way to raise the pH in your H20 is to use a water ionizer, which works by using electrolysis to separating the acidic and alkaline components of the water. The machine is about the size of a toaster—and ranges in price from several hundred dollars to a few thousand—and is basically an electric water filter that hooks up right to your faucet. It's pricey, but once you have it hooked up, all your water will be pH-optimized.
2. Use an ionized water filter. A cheaper solution to consider is an ionized water filter, which works similarly to other filtered systems. The filters have a little pouch of essential minerals, which ups the pH levels of the water.
3. Add pH drops. One of the easiest ways to DIY your own alkaline water is to use pH drops, which are made of purified water and alkaline minerals.
4. Add baking soda. Baking soda is the pantry staple that just keeps on giving. Adding just half a teaspoon to a gallon of water is all you need to raise its pH. (Just be wary of drinking baking soda water while on medication, because its impact on your stomach acid could affect how certain drugs are digested in your body.)
Overall, the most important factor to keep in mind is that hydration is important—period. Making sure your water supply is alkaline isn't nearly as important as getting enough to drink. Bottoms up!
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