Alkaline water has pH levels above 8. On the 0 to 14 pH scale, 7 is considered neutral or pH balanced. Regular tap water typically has pH levels in the 6.5 to 7.5 range. Bottled water labeled “alkaline water” is less acidic than plain H20. Alkaline water pH is usually between 8.0 and 10.
There’s lots of hype surrounding alkaline water. Marketers who sell bottled alkaline water or household appliances called water ionizers that elevate the pH level of drinking water at home often make dubious claims. Many marketing claims about alkaline water’s supposed health benefits aren’t backed by science. For example, there isn’t scientific evidence that drinking alkaline water alkalizes the body, stops aging, or cures cancer.
Before investing in a water ionizer that makes alkaline water at home, read this article to learn what you need to know about the potential benefits of high alkaline water, why people drink alkaline water, and if alkaline water is better for you.
Why Drink Alkaline Water?
Despite lots of hype, there aren’t many science-backed reasons to drink alkaline water. That said, alkaline water may have therapeutic benefits for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Unlike regular pH-neutral water, the researchers found that consuming pH 8.8 alkaline water denatures one of the stomach’s digestive enzyme called pepsin, which seems to alleviate acid reflux symptoms. They also found that alkaline water with 8.8 pH levels had good acid-buffering capacity.
Contrary to some scientifically baseless marketing claims, drinking alkaline water can’t “alkalize the body” and won’t make your blood less acidic. Regardless of whether you eat or drink more alkaline foods or beverages, healthy human bodies automatically maintain acid-base balance (homeostasis) and keep blood pH levels between 7.35 and 7.45.
Because 7.0 represents a neutral pH level, blood’s healthy range of 7.35–7.45 pH is already slightly more alkaline or base. Our bodies keep blood pH around 7.4 because this acid-base balance is optimal for cellular health and membrane integrity. It’s unhealthy for serum pH levels to drop below 7.35 (acidosis) or go above 7.45 (alkalosis).
One reason not to drink alkaline water is because you believe it will neutralize your blood’s pH levels and make your body healthier. Even if alkaline water could make your blood more alkaline, this wouldn’t be healthy. Your blood’s most beneficial pH level will always be 7.35–7.45. Healthy human life requires tightly regulated blood serum levels around 7.4 pH.
Alkaline vs. Acidic
Alkaline is the opposite of acidic. Basicness (alkalinity) and acidity are measured using a pH scale that reflects potential hydrogen in water-soluble substances. On the 0–14 pH scale, substances with zero potential hydrogen (pH), such as battery acid, are highly acidic, and a pH 14 substance, like liquid drain cleaner, is highly alkaline, or basic. Another example is ammonia (11–13 pH) is very basic and vinegar (2–3 pH) is very acidic.
How Does Alkaline Water Compare to Regular Water?
In the United States, the EPA’s National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs) require public water systems to maintain 6.5 to 8.5 pH levels. Although pH levels of regular water vary from place to place, in general, any H2O with a pH level above 8.0 is classified as alkaline water.
Just as some municipalities have hard water and others have soft, some water supplies have higher pH levels than others. Notably, the pH level of well water can vary greatly depending on where the well is located.
The pH of bottled alkaline water sold in stores typically ranges between 8.0 and 10, whereas most regular bottled water will have pH levels in a neutral range between 6.5 and 7.5. Extremely alkaline water can taste more bitter than pH-balanced water.
Consuming any water-soluble substances on the extreme ends of the pH scale can be lethal. Safe drinking water can be slightly acidic with a pH just under 7 or slightly alkaline with a pH above 7, but it shouldn’t be higher than 10.
Side Effects of Alkaline Water
Drinking slightly alkaline water (7.0–8.5 pH) is considered safe and shouldn’t have any adverse side effects. However, consuming large amounts of highly alkaline water (9–10 pH) could give you an upset stomach. Very alkaline water may decrease gastric acid’s typical pH level (1.5–2.0).Also, after it’s metabolized, water with a high pH will make your urine more alkaline.
Drinking alkaline water before taking oral medications may disrupt how the body absorbs these pills or capsules because alkaline water can disrupt the stomach’s typical pH levels and alter how the digestive system metabolizes certain drugs. If you’re taking prescription medication, ask a healthcare provider if drinking alkaline water might cause negative interactions or side effects.
How to Make Alkaline Water
The easiest and least expensive way to make alkaline water is to add a pinch of baking soda to a glass of tap water. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) has a pH of about 9. Although adding baking soda to water boosts its alkalinity, consuming extra sodium bicarbonate may have negative health consequences, such as hypokalemia, hypochloremia, increasing sodium in the blood, or worsening chronic kidney disease.
Alkalizing fruits and vegetables can be added to tap water to make it more alkaline. An easy DIY way to make slightly alkaline water at home is to cut a cucumber into thin slices, add the slivers to a pitcher of tap water, and let it soak in the fridge for a few hours before drinking.
There are lots of different factory-made filters and ionizer machines that make alkaline water. Before investing in an expensive gadget that makes alkaline water, it would be prudent to test the pH level of your home tap water to see if it’s pH balanced or slightly alkaline already.
Some well water is too acidic and can benefit from being alkalized. If your house doesn’t get water from an EPA-regulated public water system that keeps pH levels between 6.5–8.5, spending money to keep your water supply at healthy pH levels is probably worth the investment.
Water with a pH value greater than 7.0 could technically be classified as alkaline water. Most commercial brands of alkaline water sold in stores have pH levels between 8.0 and 10. Although some research suggests that drinking alkaline water with 8.8 pH may help people with reflux disease, there isn’t scientific evidence that supports marketing claims that drinking alkaline water is healthier than regular, pH-neutral water.