Alkaline Water Side Effects, Myths, and Health Risks
Some suggest that drinking alkaline water lowers acidic pH levels throughout the body and protects against cancer, premature aging, and chronic diseases. However, there's a profound lack of scientific evidence that alkaline water benefits health.
In fact, research suggests that regularly consuming highly ionized alkaline water can increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, and dysbiosis and may lead to serious metabolic electrolyte imbalances.
Let’s look at why consuming artificial alkaline water isn’t the best choice for your health.
What is alkaline water?
The pH scale is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline water is. It essentially indicates the amount of free hydrogen in a liquid and ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being a neutral pH, below 7 being an acidic pH, and above 7 being an alkaline pH.
The more hydrogen a solution contains, the more acidic it becomes. While plain drinking water typically has a pH of 7, most alkaline water has a pH level between 8 and 9.
Alkaline water vs. normal drinking water
Pure water that contains no acidic or alkaline compounds has a neutral pH of 7.
To be alkaline, water must either contain alkaline minerals or have been treated with a water ionizer, an appliance that ionizes water with an electrical current to change its chemical charge.
Natural alkaline water passes over rocks or through sediments and picks up minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium which raise the water’s pH level and make it alkaline.
In contrast to naturally alkaline water, ionized alkaline water doesn't contain any minerals and has been artificially altered to achieve a higher pH.
While many people claim that alkaline water is a cure for a wide range of ailments and believe that cancer can’t live in an alkaline body, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support these proposed health benefits.
Watch the video below to learn why drinking alkaline water can lead to health problems.
What is the purpose of drinking alkaline water?
The alkaline diet is based on the idea that certain foods can affect the body's pH balance and that consuming primarily alkaline water and foods—Including fruits and vegetables—and avoiding supposedly acidic foods—including meat and dairy—supports health and prevents certain diseases.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence for the health claims surrounding the alkaline diet, many people believe that consuming alkaline foods and drinking alkaline water combats the effects of an acidic diet, slows bone loss, and raises blood viscosity, a blood marker linked to hydration.
While drinking some ionized water from time to time is unlikely to cause health problems, water ionizers are marketed as health products and advertised as the perfect source of alkaline water at home.
However, research published in Water suggests that these products lack quality control and can create highly alkaline water with pH levels greater than 10, increasing the risk of serious metabolic electrolyte imbalances.
Four side effects of alkaline water
Research published in the International Journal of Molecular Science suggests that regular consumption of water with too much alkalinity increases the risk of gastrointestinal issues, acid reflux disease, high blood pressure, and nutrient deficiencies and may lead to hyperkalemia, a dangerously high potassium level in the blood.
Here are four reasons why you should avoid drinking alkaline water.
1. Increased risk of microbial infection
The body relies on stomach acid and urinary acidity to protect from microbial infections.
“Stomach acid is the first line of defense to stop harmful bacteria, yeasts, or viruses from entering the digestive tract, and urinary acidity kills bacteria within the urinary tract,” says Dr. Berg. “Regularly consuming alkaline water can increase the pH of gastric acid and urine, making it less acidic and increasing your risk of gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections.”
2. Nutrient deficiencies
Stomach acid plays an essential role in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, and a lack of adequate stomach acidity can significantly lower the absorption of vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
And what’s more, acidic stomach content triggers the secretion of digestive enzymes in the small intestines needed to digest proteins and fats.
Drinking highly alkaline water raises the pH of stomach acid and reduces its acidity. This can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and the malabsorption of fat and proteins linked to digestive issues, including bloating, diarrhea, stomach pains, and gas.
The human digestive tract is populated by billions of beneficial bacteria, and there is plenty of evidence that a balanced intestinal microflora supports normal immune function, contributes to nutrient absorption, lowers inflammation, and may protect from colon cancer.
Because alkalinity neutralizes stomach acid, regularly drinking alkaline water increases the risk of harmful bacteria and yeasts entering the intestines, where they can grow and proliferate.
Overgrowth of harmful bacteria, also known as dysbiosis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, can have adverse health effects, including digestive issues and nutrient deficiencies, and is linked to brain fog, depression, inflammatory conditions, and obesity.
Another study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that drinking highly alkaline water can lead to elevated potassium levels in the blood, a condition known as hyperkalemia.
Most bottled ionized water has a pH of around 8.5. However, using at-home ionizers can unintentionally create water with an alkaline pH greater than 10, which has been linked to excessive blood potassium levels.
Although the exact reason why consuming highly alkaline water raises potassium levels isn’t fully understood yet, it appears that ionized water can lead to cellular injury and cause potassium to leak from cells into the bloodstream.
Hyperkalemia is a serious metabolic disturbance that can result in life-threatening heart arrhythmias and significantly impact kidney function. This explains why individuals with kidney damage are advised to avoid drinking ionized alkaline water.
If you regularly consume alkaline water and worry that it may impact your health, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider to discuss any potential symptoms or medical issues.
Staying hydrated is vital for health and well-being. However, if you try to balance your body’s pH level with alkaline water, you might inadvertently increase your risk of kidney disease, dysbiosis, and nutrient deficiencies.
To avoid the negative impacts of alkaline water, avoid ionized water. Instead, drink plain or spring waters that contain natural minerals, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
1. What is alkaline water?
Plain water has a pH of 7, and alkaline water is any water with a pH larger than 7.
Water becomes alkaline if it contains minerals with natural alkalinity, such as potassium, chloride, and magnesium, or has been iodized with electrical currents to artificially achieve a higher pH level.
2. What are the negative effects of alkaline water?
Alkaline water can neutralize important acids and disrupts the body’s natural pH balance.
Stomach acid, urine, and the large intestines have a natural acidity that supports nutrient absorption and protects from invading microbes. Imbalancing the body’s pH levels can lead to digestive issues, impact kidney function and increase the risk of microbial infections.
3. Is it OK to drink alkaline water daily?
Consuming alkaline water daily isn’t recommended as it can lead to weakened acids in the body, especially in the stomach, intestines, and urine, which lowers the body’s ability to protect from invading microbes and can reduce nutrient absorption.
4. When should you not drink alkaline water?
Individuals with low stomach acid, kidney disease, digestive issues, and recurrent urinary tract infections shouldn’t consume alkaline water. Highly alkaline waters can cause an electrolyte imbalance and lead to hyperkalemia, a dangerously high potassium blood level.
5. Can highly alkaline water hurt you?
While it’s unlikely that drinking some alkaline water causes significant health problems, regularly drinking highly alkaline water has been found to increase the risk of digestive issues, nutrient deficiencies, dangerously high potassium blood levels, and acid reflux.
6. Are there any benefits to drinking alkaline water?
Drinking naturally alkaline spring water that contains minerals, including potassium and magnesium, may support healthy electrolyte levels needed for normal physiological function. However, health claims that alkaline water increases bone mineral density, stops cancer cell growth, and boosts immune function are not backed by scientific evidence.