Using alkaline water or diet has become a widespread trend in the US. I will explore this concept by describing how pH is measured and tested; the way western traditions define what acid food is; what it means to be acidic; the devices used, the effect of alkaline water use, what creates acidic blood and the perspective of minerals from Ayurveda.
HOW YOUR PH IS MEASURED
The acid/alkaline measurement is known as pH. It is described as an exponential scale from 0-14, with 7 being neutral. Anything above 7 is alkaline and anything below 7 is acidic. So that water with a pH of 5 would be 100 times more acidic than water with a pH of 7.
HOW THE WESTERN TRADITION MEASURES THE EFFECT OF FOODS
‘Acidic water or food’ is understood in allopathy to be food that has higher quantities of acid-forming minerals such as chlorine, sulphur, nitrogen and phosphorous. ‘Alkaline water or food’, on the other hand, is food that has higher quantities of alkaline-forming minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, manganese and iron. The test to determine the pH of a food has been this simplistic, and maybe inapt method: It is burned, the ash is dissolved in pH-neutral water and then measured with pH a test meter machine. People do not actually eat food in an ash state so the validity of this standard test seems questionable.
IS YOUR BODY ACIDIC?
The reasoning behind drinking alkaline water is the claim that having an acidic body is a cause of disease.However the human physiology cannot be completely acid nor alkaline. The stomach must be acidic to function properly, a woman’s vagina should be slightly acidic in order to keep bacterial infections away. The blood is slightly alkaline at a pH of between 7.35 and 7.45.
Diseases such as ketoacidosis or gout are related to increased acidity of the blood.
In the absence of oxygen, glucose undergoes fermentation to lactic acid. This causes the pH of the cell to drop from between 7.3 to 7.2 down to 7 and later to 6.5 in more advanced stages of cancer. In metastases the pH drops to 6.0 and even 5.7 or lower.
When we regularly eat an excess of acid-producing foods, and then release it in the blood, our bodies try to bring our pH into balance by drawing on alkaline nutrients in the body to digest and excrete the acid. So by eating too much acid-forming food we actually will suffer from alkaline-mineral depletion. Excessive acid from the blood is mostly secreted but when it all gets too much, it has to be stored in the body, waiting in line until it can be secreted by the kidneys. Where is it stored? In our connective tissue, including our muscles, tendons and ligaments. The collagen fibers of the body are basically acid storage units. If there is too much acid stored in these tissues, inflammation and pain can result leading to conditions like arthritis or fibromyalgia.
If there is excess acid in the stomach in the form of hydrochloric acid, it is actually stored in the lining of the stomach where it can lead to the formation of stomach ulcers.
STRONG AND WEAK ACIDS
Some acid-forming minerals form weak acids while others form strong acids. Weak acids like acetic acid in vinegar and the acids in most fruits and vegetables combine with water and are converted into carbonic acid which is broken down into carbon dioxide and excreted through the breath. These foods also contain a balance of alkaline minerals so in the end, although they are considered acidic when they go in, they actually contribute alkaline-minerals to the body.
Sulphur, phosphorous and nitrous, on the other hand, form strong acids - sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid and nitric acid. In order to be digested and excreted they need to pair up with sodium, potassium, magnesium or calcium to form neutral salts (like calcium sulfate) that can be safely excreted via the kidneys. Your body will leech these minerals directly from your bones, if it has to, in order to digest these acidic foods. There are other causes for osteoporosis, but you can see that consuming acidic foods can be one.
FOODS THAT PRODUCE STRONG ACIDS
The foods that release the most sulphur, phosphorous and nitrous into the body are… high-protein foods, that is, meat - especially beef.
There are many studies from around the world showing the more protein a society eats, the higher their rate of osteoporosis.
Other strongly acid-forming substances include pharmaceutical drugs, artificial sweeteners, processed food made from refined flour and refined sugar, soft-drinks, coffee, alcohol and processed hard cheeses.
The interaction of alkaline minerals with other substances in the body is very complex. For example, when we are in a stressed state, we have a low magnesium to calcium ratio in our cells. When we are relaxed, we have a high magnesium to calcium ratio. So, if our magnesium becomes low it can cause a state of stress.
Alkaline minerals are required for nerve transmission, muscle contraction (including our heart muscle), maintaining healthy blood pressure, maintaining the normal clotting of blood, regulating enzyme activity and enabling the distribution of oxygen and energy to our cells. They are also necessary for all of our metabolic functions - from our digestion through to our cellular metabolism. If alkaline minerals become depleted, ill health will most likely follow.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE ACIDIC
The saliva test is not the only way to test for acidity. These are some symptoms of acidity: low energy; joint pain; muscle pain or cramps; spasming muscles; gastritis or acid indigestion; headaches; excess mucous production; frequent colds, flus, and infections; irritability, stress or anxiety; weak nails, dry hair and dry skin.
Alkaline water filters and water ionizers both make alkaline water, but they use different methods. Alkaline water filters alkalize water by adding minerals to it. This system works great unless you have hard water, which is already saturated with minerals. Hard water won’t absorb the minerals from the filter very well.
Water ionizers work by ionizing the minerals that are already present in the water. Water ionizers work great with hard water (if you use a pre-filter) but can have a tough time ionizing soft water because it lacks minerals.
To obtain “alkaline ionized water”, also known as “electrolyzed reduced water”, water is put through an electrolysis unit that has a port into which either salt or calcium glycerophosphate can be added. This special water is promoted as having many health benefits. Running a current through the water allows it to be split into an acid and a base, the base being the alkaline water. The alkaline water will have a greater concentration of minerals, which can also include contaminant metals such as arsenic, copper, iron and lead. It is important that a filter is included in these units to remove these heavy metals.
Using table salt with purified water creates an alkaline water rich in sodium, which in chemical terms is called sodium hypochlorite, also known as household bleach. The CDC says that chlorine “offers the best mix of low cost, ease of use, safety, and effectiveness in areas where there is enough water to drink and water is not excessively turbid… an amount in the range of 5 to 10 milliliters added to 20 liters of water is sufficient to inactivate the disease-causing organisms.” This is why chlorine is typically added to municipal water supplies. Is it healthy to drink chlorine?
According to the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality, the cancer risk to people who drink chlorinated water is 93 percent higher than among those whose water does not contain chlorine. In the 1970s scientists discovered that when chlorine is added to water, it forms Trihalomethanes (THMs), one of which is chloroform. THMs increase the production of free radicals in the body and are highly carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Chlorine and THMS have been linked to various types of cancer, kidney and liver damage, immune system dysfunction, disorders of the nervous system, hardening of the arteries, and birth defects.
Even swimming in water with chlorine is said to have serious effects. Dr. Weil says “New research suggests that children who swim frequently in chlorinated pools may have increased risks of developing allergies or asthma. Among adults exposure to chlorine in swimming pools has been linked with other health problems including bladder and rectal cancer and, possibly, an increased risk for coronary heart disease.”
If calcium glycerophosphate is used, the alkaline water will contain calcium. The calcium ion may combine with an oxalate molecule, which could ultimately form kidney stones. Water spiked with calcium glycerophosate can cause nausea and constipation.
Another danger of excessive intake of alkaline water is that it can cause the stomach acidity to become so alkaline that protein molecules are not sufficiently digested for adequate absorbtion of essential amino acids.
The simple process of electrolysis, used for hundreds of years, is the basis of these devices--that sell for thousands of dollars. I have made my own electrolysis unit out of batteries and alligator clips for about $45.
ISSUES WITH ALKALINE WATER USE
It is reductionist rather than holistic. It is only considering one aspect of our food. But we all know food is comprised of more components than alkaline or acidic minerals.
Dr. Mercola says “Some people experience an initial "high" when they start drinking alkaline water. This can easily be attributed to detoxification, or the fact that they are just becoming better hydrated. Detoxification is about the only benefit of this type of water, and this benefit is limited to very short term use (no more than a week or two).” Concentrating alkalizing water is not as effective as reducing foods that cause acidity, or improving the way we breathe.
WHAT CREATES ACIDITY?
As an Ayurvedic physician I think it is more important to take into account the main factors that increase the acidity of the body. Those are:
Excessive stress and shallow breathing. The faster and more shallow we breathe, the more acidic our blood will be.
Acids that are created by the body internally. Poor digestion or malfunction in the amount of hydrochloric secreted into the stomach will contribute to this. If you're secreting too much acid in your stomach, this will affect the pH of the liquid moving into your duodenum as well. And, if you’re not digesting your alkaline foods properly because your digestion is compromised, they are fermenting in your gut and allowing acid-forming bacteria.
Eating processed, fried, stimulating foods, chemicals,
The Ayurvedic diet is different for every person, according to their constitution and current condition. With these diets you’re recommended to avoid refined, processed foods and drinks. You would in general, be eating foods with a higher mineral content. If you haven’t had the Ayurvedic Determination done here are some suggestions so create a more healthy body and to be and less acidic:
1.Eat less meat and more plants. Beef is especially acid-forming
2. Eat less processed food (especially white sugar and flour) and more whole-foods and home-cooked food
3. Avoid hard cheeses
4. Drink less alcohol and coffee. Don’t drink sodas, especially diet sodas
INCLUDE THESE IN YOUR DIET
1. Eat an abundance fresh organic vegetables and fruit. Pitta constitutions can eat many of these raw. Vata people will benefit from the alkaline-minerals by cooking them.
2. Drink ginger and other herbal teas – all alkaline.
3. Oil Pulling (with sesame oil) is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that is one of the cheapest and fastest ways to lower acidity. As you swish the oil around your mouth, the enzymes in this oil will pull out toxins and excess acidity in your mouth, freeing up your immune system and curtailing inflammation.
4. (Unless you have cancer) use unrefined sugar such as turbinado, which has a high alkaline mineral content or honey which is also alkaline.
5. If you use dairy it is better to get raw milk and warm it with cardomon – which makes it a more neutral food. If you have difficulty digesting milk, Ayurveda recommends goat or almond milk as both are slightly alkalizing.
6. Kapha and Pitta constitutions should avoid salt. But for Vata-- sea or rock salt is advised – both are alkaline.
7. Cook with a variety of herbs and spices that have a high content of alkalizing minerals including turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, parsley, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Eat an abundance of seeds, raisins and almonds which are also alkaline.
HOW AYURVEDA MEASURES THE EFFECT OF FOODS
Ayurvedic diets are naturally alkaline. Ayurveda has a very in-depth way of looking at food. It sees foods as having three levels of effect on the body:
1. RASA - an initial effect through the taste (Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter or Astringent or a combination)
2.VIRYA – an overall thermal effect on the body (Heating or Cooling)
3.VIPAKA - a post-digestive taste (Sweet, Sour or Pungent)
Many people have poor water quality in the US. This situation has become dramatically worse as large corporations such as Nestle buy up water and water rights, as RoundUp and chloropyrofos and other chemicals and herbicides pollute our ground water. Probably the best water we can obtain is well water. For people living in cities using a carbon-filtered can be helpful, but some municipal water has fluoride or heavy metal contamination. That would require reverse osmosis filtration to clean up.Water devices that use only a ceramic "candle" probably have the least harmful effects. Water quality needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. The more severe the treatment method however, the more active the solvents used become.
Research suggests that the healthiest water is water naturally rich in minerals. The best way to achieve this, if you are using Reverse Osmosis is by making it mineral-enriched using herbal teas and soups, or with the addition of ionic trace minerals.
The Ayurvedic tradition recommends taking Shilajit, and exposing a clear glass jar of water to the rays of the sun and moon over a 24 hour period to help to purify and augment its healing effects.