Alkaline Water Might Be Destroying Your Gut

By Gwen Farrell··  6 min read
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Alkaline water has long been marketed as regular water’s hotter, sexier sister.

From boosting energy to flushing out toxins better than boring, regular water, alkaline water has been touted for years by supposed experts as the best option for us when it comes to hydration. But in reality, alkaline water might be the health industry’s biggest scam. 

See, when we think of soda, we all know the health risks: obesity, tooth decay, elevated blood sugar. But no one thinks to warn you of the potential side effects of water. After all, isn't all water good for you?

The Alleged Benefits of Alkaline Water

Alkaline water is just another product in a long line of heavily marketed scams pushed by the health and wellness industry. Along with other supplements like pressed juices and probiotics, alkaline water is billed as the most effective way to “cleanse and detoxify” our bodies (spoiler alert: our bodies already detoxify fine on their own because we have kidneys).

You might be wondering what makes it supposedly much better for us than regular water. Alkaline water has a pH higher than that of 7, the neutral balance on the pH scale, making it less acidic than regular tap water. Because of its abundance in compounds like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and a few others, it’s regarded as superior to regular tap water. The process of creating alkaline water either uses a machine to change the pH of the water or has the nutrients added to it. Some believe alkaline water can neutralize acidity in the bloodstream, or help eliminate free radicals throughout the body, or even metabolize nutrients more thoroughly. 

Alkaline water is billed as the most effective way to cleanse and detoxify our bodies.

Despite the many, many claims surrounding the alleged benefits, we have yet to see conclusive evidence or data supporting the majority of these benefits. That hasn’t stopped savvy advertisers from pushing alkaline water on consumers as “miracle” water which not only “starves” cancer cells, energizes our metabolism, and detoxifies our bodies but also hydrates us better than regular water.

Overpriced, Underdelivers

Not only is alkaline water itself a scam, but the apparent advantages also amount to little more than creative marketing.

There may be extra electrons in alkaline water compared to regular tap water, but that doesn’t mean free radicals will be eliminated or that it conclusively does the job better than the regular stuff you get from your sink or filter. Alkaline water is nothing more than the regular stuff dressed up in frills to look fancier, and as it turns out, so are its biggest proponents.

One of those was Robert O. Young, a doctor who wrote The pH Miracle, in which he recommended that people drink water with no less than a pH of 9.5, among other things. Young led retreats that cost thousands of dollars for participants to attend, and touted the benefits of a “pH balanced diet,” the main tenets of which have since been effectively debunked. As it turns out, Young’s credentials were a lot like that of the shiny claims surrounding his diet – false. His P.h.D was falsified – he actually had no college degrees at all – and he was later convicted for practicing without a medical license.

Four class-action lawsuits were filed in 2018 against four separate brands over their alkaline water claims.

That’s just the beginning of the scamminess surrounding alkaline water. Four class-action lawsuits were filed in 2018 against four separate brands – 7 Eleven, Essentia Water, Trader Joe’s, and Core Hydration – for misleading consumers with grandiose claims of superior hydration and more balanced, alkalized water. In the Trader Joe’s suit specifically, which targets the brand’s alkaline water allegedly having a pH of 9.5, the claim alleged that the alkaline option was no different in hydration or pH than any other bottled or tap water.

Even Worse, It Could Be Damaging Your Gut

Your body operates on certain pH levels to keep everything running smoothly, and different parts of your body operate optimally at different pH levels. For example, your gastric pH should be between 1.35 to 3.5 (very acidic) in order to digest your food properly, as well as break down bacteria and other pathogens that may be present in your food.

Now, enter alkaline water. Remember, alkaline is the opposite of acidic – meaning that once alkaline water enters your stomach, it can actually change the acidity of your stomach acid. Without sufficient stomach acid, you’re not able to digest your protein properly, which can lead to fatigue, bloating, and acid reflux.

Studies have also linked acid suppression to a decrease in your ability to absorb minerals and vitamins as well as hypergastrinemia, which is associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer. Other, less obvious, side effects can include asthma, allergies, skin disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, osteoporosis, and depression.

What Should We Be Drinking?

Most experts (the ones with actual degrees at least) all agree: alkaline water is far from what it’s cracked up to be. The product has yet to effectively prove the majority of its claims on a large scale, and worse, it could be causing consumers health problems they're not warned about. Many nutrition, diet, and scientific professionals generally agree that, especially after filtering it for taste and purity, there’s really nothing wrong with hydrating with regular water.

Alkaline water’s biggest fans may advocate for its detoxifying qualities or ability to curb the growth of cancer cells, but they're leaving out a big part of the picture. 

Closing Thoughts

Alkaline water isn’t really anything special – just another peddled product with no real benefits that’s billed as the miracle product to cure all our ailments. It’s a scam, to be sure, but in reality, isn’t the entire health and wellness industry?

This industry, which more often than not thrives on claims filled with hot air and pseudoscience, usually targets its consumers by pointing out their flaws, as any effective marketing trope does. Everyone wants to be skinnier, healthier, fitter, and more attractive, and all of that has been propped up by the pervasive cultural power of influencers and social media. 

Alkaline water is the apparent hydration choice of every skinny, sexy influencer, and the wellness industry gives us the opportunity to be just like them, influencers in normal, average bodies. Everything the wellness industry peddles is built on false fulfillment and false claims and benefits, but remarketing something as simple as water makes this product in particular the industry’s biggest scam.

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