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Alkaline water systems are fashionable – along with juicing and quinoa. Are they just part of a media hyped fad destined to fade into obscurity? Or can they give us real health advantages?
What, if any, are the benefits of drinking alkaline water? We’ve taken a look at the evidence, and consider various alkaline water systems below…
Most tap and bottled waters have a pH of around 7, where a figure lower than this is more acidic, and above this more alkaline. Artesian well water containing natural bicarbonate has a pH of over 8, and in some cases this can go as high as 9.5. But, is this good for you? And does it help with the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn? We look at some benefits of drinking alkaline water.
Alkalising Health Industry
There’s a huge industry centred around health claims which maintain that alkalising the body is a good thing. Indeed, there are proponents of the belief that an acidic bodily environment causes a host of chronic diseases, including cancer. For example, the Budwig centre in Spain is an alternative cancer treatment clinic in Spain which promotes alkaline approaches to managing the disease. However, be careful – there is much controversy surrounding the efficacy of alkaline treatments.
Alkaline water systems, from alkaline bottled water to concentrated water drops, have sprung (excuse the pun) up to meet the demand, and we’ll take a look at these below.
Water IS Good For You!
In any event, let’s not forget it’s good to drink more water of any type; apart from the generalisation that it’s beneficial to stay hydrated for a variety of reasons including alertness, reduction in stress and to avoid kidney stones, there is some evidence that measurable health benefits can be detected.
For example, 20,000 men and women in the Adventist Health Study were studied and those drinking five or more glasses of water a day had about half the risk of dying from heart disease compared to those who drank two or fewer glasses a day.
A Harvard study of 48,000 men found that the risk of bladder cancer decreased by 7% for every extra daily cup of fluid one drinks. So a high intake of water—like eight cups a day – may reduce the risk of bladder cancer by about 50 percent.
Authorities from Europe, the U.S. Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization recommend for women to drink 4 to 7 cups of water a day, and men 6 to 11 cups²
For acid reflux control in particular, the simple, mechanical action of diluting the refluxing acid in the esophagus brings some relief, though excessive dilution of the stomach acid itself at mealtimes could have a negative effect on heartburn. The lesson here is to drink in between meals, not at mealtimes. Take a look at this video:
Alkaline Water Systems – The Evidence
So, water, in general and in moderation is good for reflux sufferers (avoiding mealtimes), but what about alkaline water.? A number of studies suggest it has distinct benefits:
- A 2001 study in the “Shanghai Journal of Protective Medicine” found drinking alkaline water for 3 to 6 months lowered cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure levels.
- A 2010 study published in “The Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine,” concluded that participants who drank alkaline water showed an improved acid-base balance and hydration status compared to tap water.
- Dr Greger in NutritionFacts.org references a 2011 study which demonstrates that, compared to a control group drinking regular water, young adults drinking about a quart of alkalinized water a day dropped their bad cholesterol 10% within two months. And older women may achieve a drop of nearly 15%. It even helped their blood sugars³
- In a small study in 2012 alkaline water with pH of 8.8 has been shown to inactivate pepsin (the enzyme associated with the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach), thus neutralising reflux, and acting as an effective acid buffer:
“Unlike conventional drinking water, pH 8.8 alkaline water instantly denatures pepsin, rendering it permanently inactive. In addition, it has good acid-buffering capacity. Thus, the consumption of alkaline water may have therapeutic benefits for patients with reflux disease.”¹
So, The Benefits of Alkaline Water Systems
It would seem there is a good body of evidence supporting the contention that drinking alkaline water may be good for you. Here are 5 benefits of alkaline water systems:
- Drinking more of any type of water may help with one’s general health due to the hydrating effects in the blood and organs, countering heart and bladder disease.
- Alkaline Water in particular may bring particular health benefits, including lower cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
- Alkaline Water may help especially with hydration and acid based balance.
- For reflux sufferers in particular, alkaline water has been shown to effectively inactivate pepsin, thereby protecting the body’s cells which could be damaged by the stomach’s acid – eg in the esophagus. There seems to be a lot of empirical and anecdotal evidence that some reflux sufferers do benefit from alkaline water.
- It tastes better! This is purely a subjective but widely held, point of view.
Alkaline Water Systems
Alkaline water systems come in various forms, including bottled mineral water, drops and sticks which are added to tap water, and filter jugs. This review excludes any systems which require plumbing into the kitchen.
In the UK, the popular brands of alkaline bottled water are imported from Iceland. ICEIS – Natural Alkaline Water (pH 8.8) has an overall score of 4 out of 5 stars, and one reviewer states “I have LPR (with acid refluxing into my throat and causing voice problems and throat spasms). I use this water to gargle with regularly throughout the day it neutralises the pepsin and really helps with my symptoms. Definitely recommended if you suffer with this condition.”
Icelandic Glacial Water scores 4.4 out of 5. A silent reflux sufferer who reviewed this product is evidently trying a range of things to find relief, but, he says ” I’m personally positive alkaline water is helping me”.
Alkaline Water Drops
An alternative alkaline water system to bottled water, and certainly a cheaper way, is to alkalise tap water. One method of doing this is to use drops. The Alkazone Alkaline Ph Booster Drops have 48 reviews, scoring 4 out of 5 stars. One reviewer said “as a reflux sufferer, these are great. I now don’t travel without my alkaline drops“
Alternatively, alkaline water can be generated using a purifying stick, which contains “Tourmaline, maifanite, anion energy stone, p ball and far-infrared negative potential particles”. Generally, these are well received by purchasers – one of the more popular ones is the HailiCare 3 Pcs Alkaline Water Filter Purifier Stick with 31 reviews, scoring 4.1 stars out of 5.
An even cheaper alternative alkaline water system is to use a water jug and filter. An outstanding product is the Phox Water Alkaline Filter with 4.1 out of 5 stars and 250 reviews (at the time of writing).
We decided to test this jug for ourselves to see what the benefits of drinking alkaline water may be. (Disclosure: we received a complimentary example of this product from the supplier for testing as part of this review).
First impressions were very good. The jug has a solid, quality feel, and is an attractive addition to any kitchen worktop. Our only initial grouse was its size; it is too big to fit into a standard sized refrigerator door. However, its large size and capacity – 3.5 litres – means it doesn’t need filling too often.
It is easy to fill, having a flip up type lid which avoids having to take off the top, and facilitates one handed filling.
It also has an easy to read usage counter, which indicates when the filter needs to be changed.
I have to admit to be being sceptical about the benefits of drinking filtered water – we’ve tried it in the past, and for a variety of reasons (mainly we didn’t notice a great deal of difference in taste!) the jug has ended up in the cupboard, unused. However, in this case we immediately tasted an improvement in the taste of the water; it tasted silky smooth compared to our tap water. Admittedly this taste difference has diminished over the nearly 2 months we’ve been using the jug, but that’s to be anticipated as the filter loses its effectiveness. We still use it in preference to the tap, and consider it has distinct advantages over other alkaline water systems.
As for the effects on reflux, I can say definitively my reflux has certainly improved over the last few months. I am drinking significantly more water as a result of the better taste, and I’m mindful of the positive research results on reflux, as shown above.
So you pays your money and takes your choice. There are at least 5 benefits of drinking alkaline water we’ve found, and there may be more (tell us in the comments section below!), so what’s the best way of obtaining it, and which is the best alkaline water system in your view?
Bottled water is clearly a more expensive way, but it is more convenient. A regularly filled filter jug may be the best compromise. We will certainly continue to use the Phox water jug given the taste and wider benefits.
Whichever method you choose to get your alkaline water, I believe it could well help with reflux, but probably only as one element of an overall plan which includes a number of the lifestyle changes mentioned elsewhere on this site.
Here’s a summary of the key messages:
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