Drinking eight glasses of water a day is a rule I abide by when it comes to my health. On a daily basis, I consume organic coffee and tea, but when it comes to water I never consider other choices besides filtered. Recently, I experimented with a new H2O, naturally alkaline Waiakea, to see if this trendy water was better or worse than tap, bottled spring, or filtered.

Plain Drinking Water Vs. Alkaline Water: Taste And Texture

Knowing a water’s pH is importance when it comes to maintaining proper body cell and tissue pH in the body. A pH level measures how acidic or alkaline something is. For example, a pH of 0 is totally acidic, while a pH of 14 is completely alkaline, and a pH of 7 is neutral. These levels vary throughout the human body. Our pH level needs to be kept at 7.4 (neutral) to be healthy and prevent diseased cells and virus-bacteria-fungus from multiplying.

The countless brands of water at our local retail stores can actually measure very acidic on the pH scale, ranging from as low as 4 to as high as 7. Water that has a pH of 7 means it's neutral, whereas tap water is commonly in between the 7 and 8 range. Meanwhile, the theory behind naturally alkaline water is its high pH levels (Waiakea contains a pH of 8.8), making it a powerful antioxidant with electrons that can “get rid of” the free radicals flowing through our veins.

Ryan Emmons, CEO and founder of Waiakea in 2012, born and raised in both California and Hawaii, grew a really unique appreciation not only for the environment, but for an active and healthy lifestyle. It was the proximity to a rich water source where the idea for Waiakea originated. “This, and having worked on charitable efforts in Africa, led me to begin developing the concept for Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water after discovering my family there had access to one of the most naturally healthy, pure, and sustainable water sources in the world,” he told Medical Daily in an email.

The naturally alkaline water is the first Hawaiian Volcanic Water of its kind with a unique filtration process through 14,000 feet of porous volcanic rock through the Mauna Loa volcano. Because of how often it rains at the source (360 days a year), the water is constantly flowing and does not sit in an aquifer stagnant. It gets alkalinity through the naturally occurring alkaline minerals present in the water, such as magnesium and calcium, among many others, which gives it its pH of 8.8.

Upon drinking Waiakea for the first time, I immediately noticed a difference in the taste and texture. It had such a smooth and soft feel in my mouth compared to bottled spring water or tap water. Emmons attributes this to its “unique, naturally alkaline pH,” which gives it a “very slight ‘hint of sweet’” aftertaste. Minerals, including magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, and silica have been linked to optimizing health.

Glass Half Full: The Science Behind Alkaline Water

There are limited studies regarding alkaline water and its purported benefits. Depending on your state of health, alkaline water can help alleviate several conditions. A 2012 study published in the journal The Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology found drinking water with a pH of 8.8 compared to bottled water can help relieve symptoms of acid reflux when it’s part of a doctor-approved treatment. Bottled water was proven to be ineffective because human pepsin only reacts in the presence of acid due to hydrogen ions.

The alkalinity in artesian well water with natural bicarbonate can permanently inactivate pepsin in vitro. Pepsin, which is activated by contact with acid, is to blame for reflux diseases and esophageal damage. In other words, alkaline water can help neutralize stomach acid in acid reflux.

Drinking alkaline water has also been linked to a better pH balance and extra hydration. In a 2010 study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine, individuals who drank alkaline water showed an improved acid-base balance and hydration status compared to tap water. There were significant increases in both blood and urine pH, but this reversed when the individuals drank the placebo water.

A unique quality of Waiakea is its silica content. The alkaline water provides the recommended daily value (RDV) of silica (30 milligrams) at 32.4 mg. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found silica in drinking water can reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Drinking 10 mg/day of silica in water reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 11 percent. Meanwhile, high consumption of aluminum from drinking water was associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Amid the scientific evidence, Emmons knows alkaline water claims are taken with a grain of salt, but he plans to change that. “We hope to do a more advanced study soon because of the feedback we have gotten from cancer patients and those with acid reflux though, amongst others to prove the timeframe for the health benefits,” he said.

Glass Half Empty: Potential Side Effects of Alkaline Water

Drinking alkaline water may lead to the onset of normal side effects, such as headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, a runny nose, and excessive gas – when the body’s pH level is too high. This is the body’s way of adapting to the high consumption of alkaline in a beverage. These side effects are considered a good sign, since they are directly related to the detoxification the body is underdoing.

Since the stomach needs to be acidic to digest the food we eat, it’s important to drink alkaline water either 30 minutes before or up to two hours after meals. This ensures that drinking alkaline water with meals will simply slow down the digestion process. Normally, the stomach has a pH of 1.5 to 3.5, according to Medline Plus.

Just like there is limited proof of its health benefits, there is limited proof of its potential side effects.

Throwing Cold Water On Alkaline Water

Waiakea is just among the many water companies in the world who make claims about their brand — some proven, some not. Alkaline water, however, may indeed be beneficial for those with health issues like acid reflux. For healthy individuals, it can encourage a higher intake of water with its unique taste and texture, but it won’t make such a significant difference.

For the meantime, until more scientific studies come out, tap water is just as good — and free.