The pH Values of Water and What It Means

The pH Values of Water

pH Means “Potential of Hydrogen”

The pH value of water is important to consider when ingesting water. What does pH mean? The pH value refers to particles in water which is electrically charged so the pH is a measurement that reveals how acidic or alkaline (basic) the water is. The pH spans from 0 to 14. The letters pH represents the term “potential of hydrogen.”

Acidic water falls into the range lower than 7 with 0 being the most acidic whereas alkaline water maintains a pH value of 8 or above with 14 being the most alkaline. Pure water which is the most neutral has a pH of 7 so it is considered neither acidic or alkaline.

Extremes of high or low pH is not considered safe due to potential chemical or heavy metal contamination being present. The “safe” zone for the pH range of water is 6.5 to 8.5. Anything less than this value is acidic and is likely contaminated with pollutants according to this article on Healthline: What pH Should My Drinking Water Be?

 

Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality

On the Health Canada website, the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality: Guideline Technical Document – pH, is a good resource that offers a detailed description and guidelines about this very important topic. The operational guideline for pH in water ranges from 7.0 to 10.5. 

The measurement of pH is the best way to determine if water is safe or not. According to this Guideline, “Every process in water treatment, including coagulation, precipitation, water softening, disinfection and corrosion control, is dependent on pH.” The best way to get a measurement of a water sample is by using the potentiometric method which is based on the Nernst equation. Scientifically, this describes the connection between the “galvanic potential of a defined electrode pair and the activity of hydrogen.”

In this Guideline Technical Document, it describes what can shift the pH in water. “As the pH of water is controlled by the carbon dioxide–bicarbonate–carbonate equilibrium system, any change in the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration will affect the pH level of water.” 

MedicalNewsToday adds to the explanation in the article The pH of water: What to knowTesting the pH is a way of measuring the density of hydrogen ions in a water-based solution. The pH level actually reveals how much hydrogen ions are in the water. For example, a lower pH indicates that there are more hydrogen ions in the water whereas a higher pH means that there are fewer hydrogen ions. The pH reading can also show that there is bacteria and/or other contaminants in the liquid. An extremely high or low pH turns water into an unusable source especially for drinking water. As mentioned earlier, an acceptable drinking water is close to the neutral measurement of 7.

 

Types of Water and Liquid pH levels

The tap water pH level usually varies at around 7.5 whereas distilled reverse osmosis water is a 5 to 7. Regular bottled waters are in the range of 6.5 to 7.5. Alkaline water is generally an 8 to 9 and ocean water has a similar pH reading of 8.

In this article on Science Buddies: Acids, Bases, & the pH Scale, a good description is given of how acid and an alkaline (base) interacts with hydrogen. There’s also a table illustrating other liquid substances and their pH ratings.

 

Alkaline Water

Alkaline water has become popular among workout enthusiasts. It is suggested in the MedicalNewsToday article The pH of water: What to know that according to alkaline water advocates, chronic diseases subsist in acidic environments and so this is why alkaline drinks are a healthy choice. It may have a temporary effect on the mouth and urine but there is no scientific evidence that it changes the pH of the body because the body is known to regulate its own pH levels. The blood also has a pH level so changes in the blood by external influences like food and drink would lead to serious issues for the organs.

Although, alkaline water is considered beneficial to people who need an electrolyte boost which will help to avoid dehydration. It is also beneficial for people with acid reflux according to this NIH study Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease.  Alkaline water is again helpful in Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients where their abdominal pain symptoms had improved according to this study Effects of Alkaline-Reduced Drinking Water on Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea: A Radomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study published on Hindawi where the Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM) study was provided.

Another interesting read about alkaline water is this WebMD article called What Is Alkaline Water? where the categories discussed are: What Makes Alkaline Water Different?; Checking the Health Claims; Can Alkaline Water Do All This?; How Does It Taste?; and Is it Safe?

 

Testing pH Levels

In labs, they use an electronic pH meter to test for accuracy and the public can purchase a digital electronic pen to use on water and other liquids. Alternatively, another choice is using Litmus paper which tests pH levels on water-based liquids and saliva. You can put the Litmus paper under your tongue upon rising first thing in the morning before drinking anything including water to get a pH reading of your saliva.  Litmus paper tests, however, can vary from one Litmus paper brand to another. Methods for Testing pH of Liquids is a very informative 2018 article on the website Sciencing which describes the different testing methods as well.

 

pH Values in Food

All food has pH values as well. Some foods are more acidic than alkaline. The pH values of food can also affect your body depending on if you have a condition. On the Juicing For Health website, a good description is given in this article Alkaline Foods List: The most Effective Alkalizing Foods to Reset pH Balance. The video is also informative as Dr. Eric Berg explains how to discover if your body is acidic or alkaline. Below the video, is a small chart and a list describing what is highly alkaline, moderately alkaline, and low alkaline as well as a list of foods that range from alkaline to acidic.

 

pH Values and Cancer

The American Institute for Cancer Research published an article on November 2, 2020 called The Alkaline Diet: Another Cancer and Diet Claim. In this article, a discussion ensues regarding if an alkaline diet can prevent cancer. Three informative reasons are given dispelling the claim that an alkaline diet is supposed to protect you from cancer because it lowers the amount of acid your body produces. Since cancer supposedly thrives in an acidic environment, and can’t survive in an alkaline environment, then an alkaline diet could be one of the treatments. However, as described in this article there may be issues with this theory which are explained in the three reasons.

Comparatively, in this article Acid-Alkaline Balance and Cancer: The Truth Behind the Myth shares the history of the acidic-alkaline debate and how it got started. It also gives a current update of today’s science regarding cancer and pH levels and a recommendation by the American Institute for Cancer Research to include more alkaline foods in one’s diet.

 

Conclusion

It’s necessary to do your own research regarding measuring pH levels and how to properly test for pH levels. Additionally, having a balanced diet with alkaline foods and adequately drinking water with an acceptable pH level, will help to keep the body healthy. Regardless of the differing views about acidic versus alkaline water and food, moderation and a balanced diet along with exercise will assist in maintaining a healthy body.

 

LINKS AND REFERENCES

Healthline
What pH Should My Drinking Water Be?

Health Canada
Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality: Guideline Technical Document – pH

MedicalNewsToday
The pH of water: What to know

Science Buddies
Acids, Bases, & the pH Scale

PubMed
Potential benefits of pH 8.8 alkaline drinking water as an adjunct in the treatment of reflux disease

Hindawi
Effects of Alkaline-Reduced Drinking Water on Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea:
A Radomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study

WebMD
What Is Alkaline Water?

Sciencing
Methods for Testing pH of Liquids

Juicing for Health
Alkaline Foods List: The most Effective Alkalizing Foods to Reset pH Balance

The American Institute for Cancer Research
The Alkaline Diet: Another Cancer and Diet Claim

Minnesota Oncology
Acid-Alkaline Balance and Cancer: The Truth Behind the Myth


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