Like breathing air, drinking water is necessary for life.

All living beings depend on water for survival, with the average person unable to go for more than three days without it. Water can be found in almost everything—it makes up the majority of the Earth’s surface and most of our bodies. It’s no wonder why keeping it both clean and accessible is vital to our continued survival.

Water Is Elemental

A universal solvent replete with nutrients and other chemical substances, water is found in all life forms. It carries essential minerals from all over the world, on the ground, and into our bodies.

Since water is as dynamic as it is resourceful, its properties change as it moves across the planet. For instance, when water flows through streams and passes over rocks it collects alkalizing minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. As these minerals combine with water, they change its pH balance.

The pH, or potential of hydrogen, is a measurement of the acidity or basicity of water. The scale ranges from zero to 14, with seven indicating neutrality—which is the pH of pure water. A pH below seven indicates acidity, and a pH above seven shows basicity.

Acidic pH has been found in water rich in heavy metals. There are greater toxic effects at decreased pH than at neutral or high pH. For example, acid rain can leach metals—like aluminum—into groundwater, leading to increased dissolved metal concentrations. These metals become more bioavailable with elevated acidity due to increases in the free ionic form. Namely, the ions are charged, and therefore, more reactive.

Alkaline water is considered “basic” on the pH scale as it measures above seven. Proponents of alkaline water suggest it can neutralize the acidity of water. What’s more, some experts believe it can also neutralize the acidity in your stomach. For example, too much stomach acid can lead to acid reflux or ulcers, whereas too little of it can lead to indigestion. Balance is key to a healthy gut.

Alkalinity Of Water

Alkaline water has generated quite a buzz with megastars like Tom Brady and Beyoncé both raving about its benefits. If the G.O.A.T of football and Queen of R&B both advocate for alkaline water, can there be any truth to the hype? 

According to international water expert, Robert Slovak, it’s not so straightforward. As the co-founder of Water and Wellness and with over 40 years working as one of the world’s leading scientists, Slovak knows a lot about water. He says, “The pH of water is not an important indicator unless one knows another measurement and that measurement is the buffering capacity—its capacity to maintain that pH.” Slovak explains that feeling good about buying the typical pH 10 alkaline water doesn’t mean it will fulfill its promise once you drink it. Namely, it will virtually turn acidic in your stomach once you drink it. 

Slovak likens pH to temperature and uses the example of lighting both a fireplace and a match. “In both of those, the temperature is like a pH because the temperature that they burn at is exactly the same. Why can one heat your home and one cannot? The temperature is the same. Its heat capacity is different. And that’s what the alkaline community got away with and made millions on for decades. This was not intended to be a scam.”

It’s not that Slovak thinks that alkaline water doesn’t exist, but rather that it was a case of misinformation met with misinterpretation. “The buffering capacity is called alkalinity. It’s another property that describes its capacity. The alkalinity is meaningless unless you know the capacity.”

Alkaline Benefits

Other health experts, like certified dietitian, Samantha Lynch, of Vero Beach Nutrition, have seen the benefits of alkaline water in their patients. “For some people with acid reflux–whether it is acute or chronic–alkaline water can help alleviate the symptoms. It can ‘help put the fire out’.” However, Lynch says this all depends on a person’s medical history and she wouldn’t recommend drinking alkaline water as your only source of hydration.

There is also research to support her claims. A study in Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology found that “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.”

Another study found that symptoms of laryngopharyngeal reflux were improved with alkaline water and a plant-based diet. Those results were not significantly different from the use of medication to treat acid reflux

However, there are also alkaline water side effects if too much has been consumed. Lynch explains that excessive drinking of alkaline water may decrease bone density by altering how much calcium you absorb. It could also lead to nausea, vomiting, hormonal imbalance, and confusion. Drinking alkaline water is also not recommended for people with kidney disease.

Another disadvantage of drinking alkaline water is that in its bottled form it is quite expensive. The bottled water industry is projected to be worth about 334 billion dollars by 2023. For many, drinking large quantities of bottled water isn’t financially feasible, nor is it sustainable for our environment.

Other Options For Optimal Water

Robert Slovak is not very proud of the water industry. He says there is so much misinformation and hype, like a minefield for a consumer to get through. He asserts that less than 10 percent of homes end up with what he considers the ideal water purifier. It’s his mission to change that.

Slovak explains that there aren’t many things that can separate dissolved substances from water, especially dissolved elements like minerals and trace elements. The Earth’s natural water cycle purifies water by distillation. This method evaporates water from the ocean and condenses it over the mountains. “That’s why the rain doesn’t have any salt in it. That’s called the hydrologic cycle and that runs the earth in terms of water.”

There is another method Slovak describes that you can do at home.  “There are distillers you can buy that heat the water on your stove or the kettle and you collect it–the steam–and you condense it and can drink it and the impurities are left behind and that’s distillation.” Essentially, man copied nature’s method.

Reverse Osmosis

Slovak and his brother had a dream of getting water for the world so that no one would die of thirst or water contamination. He became more determined after a visit to Brazil opened his eyes. Though Brazil is one of the most mineral-rich places in the world, without clean water, they couldn’t process any of it. This taught them how to come up to the 20th century in terms of water.

“Typically when we say we’re purifying water and using distillation we normally and automatically include activated carbonated filtration as a sidekick to it,” says Slovak. In the late 1950s and 60s, some engineers and scientists at the University of Florida discovered a unique method that used membranes to separate dissolved substances. Those substances couldn’t be separated any other way but by distillation. 

Thus, they discovered this new method called membrane separation. “This can also remove virtually every category of contaminant from water. Membrane separation is the major category for a more specific form of it called reverse osmosis. And reverse osmosis is the most powerful one in that it can remove every contaminant.”

The Quest For Perfect Water

In a perfect world, our water would also be perfect. However, just as there are chemicals that nourish us and our planet, there are also those that poison and pollute. Eighty percent of the world’s population faces a water supply and security threat. These findings are based on a recent study from the journal, Water Remediation, on water pollution, health, and remediation. What is more, only 0.036 percent of water is accessible for use, as freshwater resources have become unavailable because of water pollution.  

It seems trivial to debate over alkalinity or purification systems when the fortunate have access to both and the vulnerable do not. Since having clean drinking water is fundamental to survival, perhaps there’s a better solution. View water choices as you would other aspects of healthy living. 

Like many things in life, balance is key. Robert Slovak agrees. “One of the most powerful of all methods is best in the hands of nature because nature balances it.” Maybe the real quest is a search for balance: learning to treat our bodies the way we would our planet, and treating our planet the way we would our bodies. Now that is just so basic.

Tami Bulmash is a certified Alexander Technique teacher and has devoted the past 20 years to the study, research, writing, and teaching of postural health. She is the author of “iPosture: A Closer Look at the Lifestyle Practices of Schoolchildren” and co-author of Amazon #1 Bestseller, “Heart and Soul”. For more information, visit her website at Body and Posture.

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