Can you improve the healthfulness or cleaning power of water by ionizing it, rather than by adding any
chemicals or supplements? According to over 40 studies, the answer is yes. But if you want to find those studies, don’t look for ionized water, because you won’t find any studies with the words ‘ionized water’. Instead, you can find health studies on ionized alkaline water by searching for “electrolyzed reduced water” and you can find cleaning and disinfection studies on ionized acidic water by searching for “electrolyzed oxidative water” An article in the Wall Street Journal written by Laura Johannes made that mistake, and because of it, the WSJ article paints a grossly distorted picture of ionized water.
Water ionization: Science or snake oil?
The Science: A water ionizer uses charged plates to separate water into alkaline and acidic water. The process used to ionize water is called electrodialysis, not electrolysis. It’s a small but important distinction. The difference between electrodialysis and electrolysis is that electrodialysis separates the charged plates with ion-permeable membrane. Without that membrane, water ionizers would not be able to make alkaline and acidic waters.
The Snake Oil: The process of ionization used by water ionizers is poorly understood, both by alkaline water skeptics such as chemist Stephen Lower, and even by people who sell water ionizers: A great example of this are the laws of physics and chemistry defying descriptions of Kangen water given by Enagic salespeople. The confusion over the ionization process leads to a lot of misunderstandings.
Pseudoscience: The negatives of ionized water
Many ionizer companies claim that alkaline ionized water is made better by “restructuring” tap water into “microclusters” of water molecules that are hexagonal in shape. Many health benefits are attributed to this “restructuring” process. The problem is, none of it is true. Water molecules don’t cluster together. They can’t be “restructured” because they aren’t structured in the first place! It’s bad enough that overeager and under-informed salespeople use these false claims to sell water ionizers, but they make it worse by making ionized alkaline water sound like a miracle drug – it’s not. Ionized alkaline water supports general wellness, it’s a health supplement, not a drug.
Likewise, the effects of ionized acidic water aren’t understood by critics and most ionizer salespeople either. There is a big difference between the ionized acidic water made with tap water, and the ionized acidic water made by adding salt to water, and then ionizing it. The ionized acidic water made with salt contains chlorine, so it is a potent disinfectant. The ionized acidic water made with tap water isn’t a disinfectant, but it is good for cleaning with.
Health, beauty, and sanitation: The positives of ionized water
Ionized alkaline water has some unique qualities that make it a healthy beverage: It has higher alkalinity than regular water, so it can counteract acidity. Ionized alkaline water also has antioxidant potential, which can counteract harmful radicals like Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS). There is strong albeit preliminary evidence that drinking ionized alkaline water can improve the health of people whose body’s ability to handle acidity has been compromised. Some of the health benefits that have been reported in studies on ionized alkaline water are:
- Maintains healthy bones
- Improves hydration
- Inactivates pepsin, the enzyme that triggers GERD
- Detoxification and protection against the toxic effects of mercury
- Reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels
There’s many more documented benefits that can come from drinking alkaline ionized water. In fact, ionized alkaline water has been known for it’s health benefits even before water ionizers existed! This is because there are seven protected springs where ionized alkaline water is found in nature. Springs like Zam Zam in Saudi Arabia, Nordenau in Germany, and Hita Tenesoryu in Japan have been revered and even worshipped as sacred places because the health effects people experienced from those waters. The water from those springs has the same composition of minerals as ionized alkaline water made by an ionizer, and it has similar antioxidant potential.
Ionized acidic water has some unique qualities as well. It’s a weakly-acidic solution, which makes it safe to use as a beauty treatment. It has oxidative potential which gives it some antibacterial potential. Ionized acidic water is a miracle hair rinse, it does two beneficial things for hair follicles: It closes and compacts hair follicles, which leaves your hair softer, more manageable, with a natural shine. For people like me, with long hair that is prone to tangles, ionized acidic water makes hair noticeably more healthy. It also works well on skin, ionized acidic water acts as a natural astringent, and it can help clear up with skin conditions like acne. Plants absolutely love ionized acidic water, it oxygenates their roots, and lowers soil pH to levels that are healthy for plants.
Ionized water for cleaning and disinfection is made by adding salt to water before ionizing it. The result is strongly ionized alkaline and acidic waters that aren’t for drinking, they’re for cleaning. When you use salt to make ionized water, you get chlorinated water which works as a cleaner and a disinfectant. Many people and even some businesses are finding that strongly ionized water can replace many chemicals used for cleaning.
The bottom line: Ionized water is poorly understood and needs to be studied further
Advocates of ionized alkaline water say it’s a healthy beverage that supports general wellness. Critics say that there isn’t enough research evidence to make health claims for it. So who’s right? There are over 40 studies that document potential health benefits that can come from drinking ionized alkaline water. It is also true that more research is needed to confirm those results. The problem is: Those needed studies would cost a lot of money. The clinical trials needed would cost billions – far more than the entire water ionizer industry makes in a year. The lack of comprehensive research and the daunting costs of that research holds ionized water back. It’s tragic because ionized alkaline water has the potential to help many people that struggle with poor health, and it’s a lot cheaper than prescription medications.