Beware of the “Alka-lie”
by Jack Barber
It’s an all-too-common misconception that guzzling “alkaline” water is the key to perfect health even though claims about the health benefits (or safety!) of this water are not supported by any credible evidence. This pH myth has created a thriving market of potions and gadgets for a trusting public willing to believe the “Alka-lie”.
Some have even gone so far as to say that drinking pure distilled water is harmful because it can be slightly acidic. It is important to note here that reverse osmosis (RO), de-ionized, rain and many spring waters are also mineral free, and have the same lower pH properties as distilled. The truth of the matter is the unique properties of mineral free, ultra pure drinking water actually make the pH measurement totally meaningless! This may sound too simple, but read on…
Water Chemistry 101
For a basic explanation, the pH level is a quantitative unit of measure representing the acidity or alkalinity of the substance. Any substance that lowers the pH is an acid. A base is a sub- stance that raises the pH. Buffers are substances that enable a substance to resist pH change when an acid or base is added.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with a pH of 7 being neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic, and a pH greater than 7 is alkaline. The pH scale is logarithmic, so for every one unit of change in pH there is a tenfold change in acidity or alkalinity. This means a solution with a pH of 3 is 10 times more acidic than a solution with a pH of 4 and 100 times more acidic than one with a pH of 5.
In contrast, it would require considerably more acid or base to change the pH of buffered water with the same pH. The differ- ence is the presence of buffers or dissolved solids making it resistant to change.
In other words, the pH of distilled water is like a pendulum that can easily be moved with a feather, compared to high TDS water that requires a mallet to move the pendulum.
When you drink distilled water, it immediately combines with the slightly acidic digestive enzymes in saliva and seconds later with very acidic digestive enzymes and gastric juices in your stomach without “activating any buffering systems” or affecting your pH in any way. In short, the extremely sensitive distilled water pH immediately adjusts to your body rather than your body adjusting to the distilled water pH. The much stronger hydrochloric acid in the stomach with a pH of 1 is about 100,000 times more acid than any slightly acidic distilled water with which it combines. That renders the pH of distilled water completely irrelevant!
It is also a fact that as soon as alkalized water hits the highly acidic gastric fluid in the stomach, its alkalinity is gone. Even though the pH of alkalized water is altered in the acid environment of the stomach, it can still have a long-term effect on the digestive system. The stomach always contains some gastric juices and is always acidic. The enzymes that the stomach lining secretes are specially designed to work best in a strongly acid solution. So, every time you drink alkalized water, your stomach produces more acid to compensate for the dilution of gastric juices. The constant ingestion of alkalized water can create an abnormal digestive condition in a previously healthy gut.
Furthermore, drinking alkalized water along with meals can dilute the natural acidity of the digestive tract and interfere with digestion.
As your food moves from your stomach into your small intestine, it goes through a door called the Pyloric Sphincter. The level of acidity in your stomach determines when that door opens and closes. If you don’t have enough stomach acid, the door stays closed and all that partially digested food has nowhere to go. It sits in the stomach and produces gas. With the door to your small intestine closed, all that gas has nowhere to go but up. The gas pushes open the valve between your esophagus and stomach, and the acid spills into your esophagus which causes all those unpleasant symptoms of acid re-flux. The putrefaction of undigested food and accumulation of toxic waste can create numerous health problems.
Maintaining normal stomach acidity is also necessary to protect against bacterial and viral infections. The acidic environment destroys any organisms that may be ingested in both food and water.
Altering this acid environment leaves you wide open to intestinal infections. At least half of everyone over 60 suffers from some level of low stomach acid. This can be compounded by the consumption of alkalized water which adds up to one of the worst things you can do for your health.
Evidence Supports Distilled
The Mayo Clinic responded to the alkaline water hype: “Some proponents say that alkaline water can neutralize acid in your bloodstream, boost your energy level and metabolism, and help your body absorb nutrients more effectively. Others say that alkaline water can help you resist disease and slow the aging process. However, there’s no scientific proof that any of these claims are true.”
In spite of all the warnings, many people want the best health without the sacrifices needed to achieve it effectively and safely. We all love the idea of a quick fix. What better way to correct years of poor nutrition, zero exercise and chronic dehydration than by simply drinking “magical” alkaline water. Hucksters prey on these consumers, selling their useless products which may have severe long- term side effects. According to reputable scientific sources, “alkalized/ionized water” is nothing more than sales fiction.
The popular “alkaline ionizing” gizmos, according to scientists, are not only “medically baseless and worthless,” but possibly dangerous. Four Japanese studies have been published in peer journals and independently verified showing that alkaline water caused pathological changes in heart cell muscles and increased the risk of heart attack in laboratory animals. These results raise very serious doubts about the safety of drinking “alkaline” water.
The wide range of pH values needed throughout the body is exquisitely balanced, primarily through a complex system of buffering and breathing. There are, however, some simple things you can do to maintain a naturally healthy pH. Just eating more fruits and vegetables, practicing deep breathing, and drinking plenty of pure hydrating water will enable your body to more easily remove toxins and acid wastes. Other factors such as lack of exercise, emotional stress, medication, coffee, alcohol and smoking can adversely affect the internal pH of your body over an extended period of time. Improving your health is not a quick-fix but a slow, cumulative process consisting of numerous lifestyle choices.
Dr. Andrew Weil, nationally known nutritionist, author and Founder of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Arizona, has stated, “For reasons I don’t understand, any number of myths—- some quite extreme—-have grown up over the years about distilled water. As far as acidity goes, distilled water is close to neutral pH and has no effect on the body’s acid/alkaline balance.”
As a Harvard Medical School graduate, Dr. Weil is eminently qualified to evaluate the health claims of alkaline water. He says, “The health claims for water ionizers and alkaline water are bogus. Save your money. You should consider the fact that alkaline water is common throughout the western states, but to my knowledge, it has not protected anyone from the diseases and disorders that occur elsewhere in the U.S.”
The late Dr. Carey Reams, world renowned expert on body pH, was trained in mathematics, biophysics and biochemistry and had six PhDs to his credit. Dr. Reams is best known for developing the Biological Theory of Ionization, a system to measure energy in the body by measuring and balancing the pH which he used in his practice for over ﬁfty years with astounding success. The best water to drink according to Dr. Reams is distilled! And it is still being used today by those who practice his system of pH balancing.
We believe the evidence clearly shows that any discussion regarding the “acidity” of distilled water or the “beneﬁcial” pH of alkaline water is useless, especially considering the unique properties of distilled water. Some common horse sense, coupled with biochemistry 101, exposes this “Alka-lie.” It is our sincere hope, therefore, that this exposé will settle once and for all any unfounded concerns about the pH of distilled water so you can freely enjoy this pure elixir of life without any “pH paranoia.”
“The Question of Acid and Alkali Forming Foods” by James A Tobey, PhD, American Journal of Public Health
Dr. Andrew Weil, www.drweil.com
“Acid or Alkaline?” by Gabe Mirkin, MD, www.drmirkin.com
“What Could Be So Fine… As To Be Alkaline (Warning: Irony) by Dr Aust Spleen, http://draust.wordpress.com
“Alkaline Water: Does It Have Health Beneﬁ ts?”, Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com/health/alkaline-water/AN01800
“Inﬂ uences of Alkaline Ionized Water on Milk Yield, Body Weight of Dam in Rats”, The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, Vol. 23, No. 5, 365-371, 411-417, 1998 and Vol.22, (2), 141-152, 1997
“Degradation of Myocardiac Myosin and Creatine Kinase in Rats Given Alkaline Ionized Water”, The Journal of Veterinary Medical Sciences, 60 (2) : 245-250, 1998
“Why Does My Water Have A Low pH?” by Joseph F Harrison, PE, CSW- VI, WQA View
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