One of the most misunderstood aspects of water is it pH level. In recent times, there are many claims being made about the advantages of drinking alkaline water that is said to be rich with antioxidants, and has the ability to slow down degenerative diseases and slow down ageing. But there is little evidence as yet to back these claims. Gulf News speaks to Dr Rajeev Tomar, Medical Director, Head of Paediatrics, as well as Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Hepatologist at KCH Clinics Abu Dhabi to know all about pH value in drinking water and it role in the health of our body.
1. What is pH level? What is the scale of acidic and alkaline on the pH scale?
The pH (potential of Hydrogen) level is a measure of how acidic or base a liquid is, in this case how basic or acidic water is. The range goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH value that is less than 7 indicates that the liquid is acid, whereas a pH value greater than 7 indicates that the liquid is basic. Since pH can be affected by chemicals in the water, it is an important indicator of water that is changing chemically.
2. What’s the truth about alkaline water and its health claims?
Despite the existing claims about the health benefits of drinking alkaline water, these claims are not supported by credible scientific evidence. [The claims about alkaline water being a powerful antioxidant and its various health benefits] is a marketing ploy. The absorption of water occurs mainly in the intestine, not in the stomach. When the ingested foods and water enter the intestine, they are neutralised and made alkaline by the pancreatic secretions (a liquid released by the pancreas, which plays a major role in the digestion process and the subsequent assimilation of nutrients), so all the water one drinks eventually becomes alkaline anyway.
3. What kind of pH levels should drinking water have?
According to WHO criteria, the ideal pH level of drinking water is often in the range of 6.5 to 9.5.
4. What is the best way to maintain an overall healthy pH? Can water alone do it? Or is it about eating a good diet, proper breathing habits and hydration?
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 metabolic wastes. These are good habits, which ensure the proper functioning of the three buffering systems, which regulate the pH level of the body.
By staying hydrated and drinking a lot of water, the kidneys are able to excrete the acids better.
By breathing deeply, the lungs will exhale better the carbon dioxide.
By eating healthily and drinking a lot of water, a person is ensuring the proper functioning of these buffering systems.
5. What’s the truth about acidic pH of blood? Is this related to aging and degenerative diseases?
With ageing, many mechanisms in the body stop functioning properly. For example, when the kidneys’ buffering capacity declines, their ability to excrete acids is also reduced. This also applies to all buffering systems with age.
6. Is it true that normal body cells die under extremely alkaline conditions?
Yes, normal body cells die in extreme conditions, whether in extremely alkaline or acidic conditions. This is because the human body is highly sensitive to its pH level, and many reactions in the blood are affected by it.
7. Can physical inactivity, stress, medication, coffee, alcohol and smoking, affect body pH?
Yes, physical inactivity, stress, medication, coffee, alcohol and smoking, all affect the body’s pH. Smoking will impact the lungs, the damage done affects its proper functioning. Likewise, medication can affect the kidneys, etc. They will indirectly affect the buffering mechanisms of the body, and therefore also affect the body’s pH.
Here's why it counts...
According to some doctors, our body is anyway designed to adjust to its ‘optimal pH balance’. Once alkaline water enters your stomach, your body simply pours in greater amounts of acid to neutralize it, they say.
It is important to establish the difference between the acidity or alkalinity (pH level) of one’s body, meaning the pH of one’s blood, and the acidity of one’s stomach. The human body’s pH range of 7.35-7.45 is not linked to the stomach’s acidic pH range of 1-3.
The human body’s acidity level (the acidity of the blood) is not, in any way, affected by the pH level of the stomach or the pH of what is eaten or drunk.
Furthermore, regarding the pH level of the stomach, when a person eats alkaline foods, the stomach stimulates the production of acidic digestive enzymes to neutralise the alkaline foods, and likewise, when a person eats acidic foods, the stomach produces fewer acids, as it is already a very acidic environment.
As for the pH level of the body (the pH of the blood), it changes due to the numerous mechanisms happening in the blood, which produce acids. To control the pH level of the blood, so it doesn’t become too acidic or too alkaline, the body uses three systems, called buffering systems, which are: the lungs, kidneys and the blood to keep the body’s pH level under control. The following is how each buffering system gets rid of the excessive acid in a nutshell:
• The lungs get rid of the acids by converting acid into Carbon Dioxide, which we simply breathe out
• The kidneys combine the acids with Bicarbonate and excrete the excessive acids through the urine
• The blood, which has high a concentration of proteins, combines them with the acids, and this keeps the pH in the normal range
Is the human stomach in mainly an acidic environment as the gastric juices are acidic? According to an expert, “Your stomach must produce a little more acid every time you drink alkaline water to compensate for the dilution of gastric juices.” Is this right?
Yes, it is right.
What is the difference between still drinking water and sparkling/carbonated water?
Carbonated or sparkling water is made by dissolving carbon dioxide in water under pressure, creating carbonic acid. Hence, sparkling waters are mildly acidic (pH level is between 6-7).
The amount of salt in sparkling mineral water varies greatly depending on the brand, but the saltier it is, the less it quenches thirst, and it makes people want to drink more of it.
With sparkling water, some people get gas and burp.
There are some common health concerns associated with drinking carbonated water, such as demineralisation of calcium from the bones and the fact that it strips the enamel from your teeth, but these are not supported by clinical research.
Some bottled water brands in UAE and their pH and sodium levels
MASAFI: 500 ML
Sodium: 10mg per litre
PH: 7.8mg per litre
Sodium: 110mg per litre
PH: 5.3mg per litre
Sodium: 16 permg litre
PH: 7.2mg per litre
Sodium: 3.3mg per litre
Al Ain low sodium: 500ml