Why Is Alkaline Water Better For You – In 2020, alkaline water revenue was $46 million, up 20% from 2019! (1) This is not surprising since alkaline water has many (mostly false) health claims, including better digestion, lower risk of cancer, anti-aging properties, increased immunity, colon cleansing, and kidney stone prevention.
Although alkalinity plays a role in kidney stones, alkaline water does not alter your body’s pH enough to reduce kidney stones. Read on to learn more about alkalinity, alkaline water, and kidney stones!
Why Is Alkaline Water Better For You
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To fully understand the connection between alkaline water and kidney stones, we need to go back to high school chemistry. I promise to make it as painless as possible!
Think of alkalinity and acidity as a spectrum measured on a pH scale from 0 to 14. The more acidic the substance, the lower the pH value. The more alkaline, the higher the pH.
Alkaline water is exactly what it sounds like: water that is more alkaline than “normal” drinking water. Most waters have a pH of around 7 and are neutral in terms of acidity and alkalinity. In alkaline water, electrolytes are added to make it alkaline and its pH is greater than 7.
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The exact pH of alkaline water varies greatly by brand. Generally, alkaline water has a pH value of 8 to 10.
Alkaline water also has a high pH, but that does not mean that it ends up being alkaline after being digested in our body. Or, alkaline water makes urine more alkaline, which is important for preventing kidney stones!
Your stomach has a pH of 1.5-3.5. Stomach acid neutralizes alkalinity as soon as alkaline water reaches the stomach. Therefore, alkaline water does not reduce the amount of acid in the blood, cells or organs.
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If you drink a ton of alkaline water, you raise the pH of your stomach, which is dangerous. Your stomach acid plays an important role in the digestion and absorption of food and certain nutrients, especially vitamin B12 and protein.
Stomach acid also helps kill harmful bacteria in food. It helps protect us from foodborne illness.
The alkaline water industry is constantly pushing the message that our bodies work better with less acid (or more alkali), so acid is to be feared. They use this message to sell alkaline water. This is simply not true.
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Acidity and alkalinity play an important role in health. Your body strictly regulates the pH level of your blood. If your blood pH is too high or too low, your body will not function properly. In fact, if your body is too alkaline, it can be fatal.
First, assuming your kidneys and lungs are working, your body is pretty good at keeping your pH in the right range.
The most important way to keep your body’s pH in the correct range is through urine. Your kidneys’ main job is to keep your acid and alkaline levels where they should be. The kidneys do this by carefully removing the correct amount of acid in your urine to keep your body’s pH at the correct level.
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This is where kidney stones come into the picture. If you eat a lot of acid-producing foods, that acid ends up in your urine. High levels of uric acid, uric acid, cysteine, and calcium oxalate can lead to kidney stones. However, keep reading to learn more about how alkaline water does not lower uric acid levels.
High urinary acid (or low urinary pH), uric acid, calcium oxalate, and cystine increase the likelihood of kidney stones. (2) Calcium oxalate kidney stones are the most common kidney stones. (3) Uric acid kidney stones are also common. If you have a history of these types of kidney stones or have a low urine pH on a 24-hour urine test, here are some things you can do to alkalize your urine.
However, very low acidity (or high urine pH) increases the likelihood of calcium phosphate stones. (2)
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The pH level of a food product is more important than the quality of the food itself. Stomach acid neutralizes the pH of everything you eat or drink. This is the main reason why alkaline water does not alkalize urine.
Unlike alkaline water, fruits and vegetables actually affect the body’s pH and health. Basically all fruits and vegetables are alkaline in the metabolic process. The alkalis created in this process help neutralize the acid in your body and reduce the amount of acid your kidneys have to remove in your urine. (4)
An important difference is the difference between the pH of the food and the metabolism of this food. For example, tomatoes are acidic. However, the metabolism of tomatoes produces alkali. So even though tomatoes are acidic, they have an alkaline effect on your body.
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In fact, the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the more alkaline your urine becomes. In most cases, especially for uric acid kidney stones, a more alkaline urine is better!
On the other hand, protein foods, especially animal flesh such as meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish, form acids. Protein-rich foods can increase uric acid levels. (4)
This concept is under investigation. We know that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of kidney stones. (5) (6) (7) This is probably due to the beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables on uric acid.
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How does alkaline water fit into this? Although alkaline water is alkaline, its metabolism does not produce alkali. Therefore, it is no more beneficial for kidney stones than drinking plain water.
All alkaline water brands I could find did not have enough information about the amount and type of electrolytes they contained to determine if they were metabolically alkaline. As you know, the pH level of a liquid (or a food!) says nothing about its ability to form alkali in the metabolic process.
If you need to alkalize your urine for kidney stones, it is better to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and eating the right amount of protein than drinking alkaline water.
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Medicine is another way to alkalize the urine. Potassium citrate and sodium bicarbonate are two common medications prescribed to lower uric acid levels and prevent the most common types of kidney stones.
Potassium citrate may also be prescribed to increase citrate levels in the urine. Calcium citrate makes it difficult for kidney stones to form.
There are several drinks specifically designed to alkalize. Unlike most alkaline waters on the market, we know what’s in these drinks and the right combination of nutrients to make it alkaline after you drink it.
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These drinks are not for everyone. In some cases, these drinks are harmful. So ask your doctor or a registered dietitian if these drinks are right for you!
Regardless of the type of kidney stones you have, one of the most important things you can do to prevent them is to drink enough water.
The American Urological Association recommends drinking enough fluids to produce 2 1/2 liters of urine a day. For most people this means drinking 3 liters of fluid. (9)
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In fact, for most people, tap water is best for kidney stones. It’s cheap and convenient, so you can drink enough!
Bottled water is definitely not necessary for people with kidney stones. However, if you like the taste of bottled water and it helps you drink more, then bottled water is a good choice for you!
Mineral water contains a lot of calcium. Although getting enough calcium is important to prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones, calcium comes from food.
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One or two mineral waters a day is not a problem. However, since people with kidney stones need to drink a lot of water, too much calcium can be a harmful amount.
Since we don’t know if alkaline water reduces uric acid levels, I can’t recommend any more alkaline water than regular tap water.
Also, alkaline water is very expensive. I will save your money and use it to buy fresh fruits and vegetables!
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Be careful not to limit sugary drinks like juice, punch, regular soda, energy drinks, or sweet tea. Sugary drinks increase the risk of kidney stones.
Kidney stones do not have a single diet. Nutrition for kidney stones should be tailored to the type of stone you have and your 24-hour urine risk factors. (9)
If you want to know what you can do to prevent kidney stones, check it out.
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