Recently I was asked about the benefits of drinking alkaline water. Alkaline (ionized) water can be made by home water ionizers, and is available at some markets. Is this based on pseudo-science, or on rigorous studies? At the time, I hadn't a clue - now that I've looked into it, allow me to share my opinion.Let's recall a little basic chemistry: all water contains positive and negative ions. If the number of positive ions is greater than the number of negative ions, the water is considered to be acidic, and if the opposite is true, the water is alkaline. Pure water contains an equal number of positive and negative charges, and is considered neutral (pH = 7). Alkaline water usually gets its additional negative ions from materials such as magnesium, calcium or sodium. The theory is that drinking alkaline water causes the body's acid-base balance to lean toward alkaline, that this altered pH level can affect internal cell function, and that proper health starts with the correct acid-alkaline balance. Conversely, when our pH levels fall out of balance, we may experience low energy, fatigue, excess weight, poor digestion, and aches and pains. It is purported that this happens because in an acidic environment, bacteria, yeast and other pathogens can proliferate in the body. Eating too many acidifying foods like processed sugar, meat, dairy, coffee, and alcohol create such an acidic balance, and improper elimination of acids can cause a build up of yet more acid. Reestablishing the proper acid-base balance begins with a proper diet, which includes alkalizing foods such as vegetables, low sugar fruit, grains and hydration along with alkaline water. Proponents of alkaline water claim that it can neutralize acid in the body, boost metabolism and help the body absorb nutrients more effectively, and even prevent disease and slow aging. So, what does the research show? Most of the investigation so far has been conducted in Japan. One study involved 25 people with gastrointestinal problems including chronic diarrhea, constipation, and indigestion. The results showed improvement in those who switched to alkaline water. Another study was conducted on 20 people suffering from high blood pressure, and results also showed some benefit. Other positive studies likewise included extremely limited numbers of participants. Academic opinions on the subject of drinking alkaline water from within the United States are also limited. Mayo Clinic researchers took the position that most of us are well served with plain water. On the other hand, a researcher from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston does believe in drinking alkaline water to maintain good health. She recommends drinking water in the pH range of 7.4 to 7.6, using carbon and other osmotic filters. However, this researcher also warns of the dangers of buying alkaline ionizers due to inadequate water filtration, resulting in high levels of dangerous metals and other unwanted materials. The bottom line is that we are simply a long way from having conclusive evidence, one way or the other. For now, my medical opinion is to save your money, drink filtered tap or bottled water, and wait for more research to either support or refute the benefits of drinking alkaline water. Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.
********** Published: February 14, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 44