Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Trader Joe's Alkaline Water + Electrolytes
I saw somebody on Twitter being all ecstatic to find that Trader Joe's now carries alkaline water. I asked him why he would want alkaline water. He did not reply.
But I know the answer: It's because he has fallen for a stupid scam, which claims that something terrible in your diet and/or environment is causing your body to be abnormally acidic, because of all the negative ions that are bombarding you, and that therefore you need to drink alkaline water to restore the correct pH. I don't know whether the good folks at Trader Joe's have fallen for this hogwash, but at least they have decided to capitalize on it. A pox on them for that.
For context: I completed medical school and residency, and then spent a good number of years practicing family medicine. Among many, many observations about the medical system that I collected was that quite consistently the smartest doctors were the nephrologists--the kidney specialists. It's a kind of esoteric specialty, and a difficult one to master, because the kidney is a frighteningly complex organ, capable of mysterious, nearly magical feats of biochemistry. In the context of that observation, consider this aphorism, which is common among those of that specialty: "The dumbest kidney is smarter than the smartest nephrologist."
Many crucial functions of your body simply will not work if your pH rises or falls below 7.4. Deviate, say, 0.2 units from that, and it's off to the ICU for you, and we're not too bullish on your prognosis. Deviate by 0.4 units, and, though you may not actually be dead, we'll start filling out the certificate in advance to save some time. With a few very rare exceptions (e.g., dialysis patients), if you're walking around and functioning, your pH is 7.4. Not 7.3 or 7.5. Seven. Point. Four.
How do I know that? Because your kidneys see to it. You'd die if they didn't. As your blood passes through your kidneys for waste removal, the kidneys at the same time selectively either hang onto or excrete various positive and negative ions to maintain your pH exactly where it needs to be. Sure, you might ingest some acidic foods, but the kidneys sense this and correct for it long before the deviation from ideal pH has any chance to cause any symptoms that you could notice.
Two basic points: (1) You have no ability to detect consciously what your pH is. (2) If the body relied on us to consciously monitor and adjust our pH, we'd all be dead.
All of which means this: When you drink water with a pH of 9.5, as this TJ's bottle claims to be, you are not correcting for an acidic pH. In fact, you are throwing a bunch of excessive positive ions into your system. There's no particular harm in this, since your kidneys can dump the excess into your urine just as fast as you can ingest it, so even a continuous pH monitor would never detect more than the minutest rise. (It's not just the kidneys. Your lungs get in on it even more quickly. You'll start breathing more shallowly--involuntarily, and without even noticing it--in order to retain more carbon dioxide in the blood, which acidifies it.) But alkaline water is not therapeutic in any sense of the word.
Still, I spent 99 cents on one bottle, just so that I could say I had tried it. I drank it last night, during a poker game at a friend's house. It tasted remarkably like...water. I could detect nothing aberrant about its taste. I also did not feel any magical sense that I had restored my woebegone physiology. I did not feel better, did not think better, did not gain any superpowers. In fact, I felt nothing at all. Oh, wait--that's not true. I felt LESS THIRSTY. Period.
Don't waste your money on crap like this. Drink tap water. If the tap water where you live tastes too awful to stand, get delivery of those 5-gallon bottles for a cooler, or buy the cheapest bottled water you can find.
Will I buy it again?
No. I know better, and now so do you.