Just when you think you've heard it all, someone comes up with a new nutrition fad. Sometimes it's easy to discern the trends that make sense from those that are sheer nonsense. But like the snake-oil vendors of the wild west, some product-mongers are skilled at marketing their product, complete with scientific "evidence" of its wonders. Alkaline water is one of the newer fads to come down the pike. It may sound miraculous at first glance, but before you give it to your children, do a fact check.
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Human pH Balance
Alkalinity and acidity refer to the pH of a solution. pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral, below 7.0 acidic and over 7.0 alkaline. Optimal pH for human blood is slightly alkaline at around 7.4. Many things can throw pH off, including illness, unbalanced nutrition, dehydration, medications, stress and lack of sleep. While illness that involves vomiting and dehydration may cause blood to be over-alkaline, it is more likely to be over-acid. The body has natural buffering mechanisms in place that neutralize acid and eliminate it.
It is possible for your infant to be acidotic, especially if your baby was pre-mature or had other medical issues that required specialized hospital care. However, feeding your infant alkaline water in hopes of warding off acidocis would be irresponsible at best. If you believe your infant is acidotic, contact your pediatrician for proper diagnosis and to find the underlying cause.
Normal drinking water has a neutral pH of 7.0. Alkaline water, also known as ionized water, has a pH of about 8.0. While the manufacturers and marketers of alkaline water claim it has many health benefits, there is little evidence to support the claim. In theory, consuming the water reduces metabolic acidity, but critics point to the naturally high-acid environment of the stomach, claiming ionized water would have little neutralizing effect.
Science or Scam?
In an attempt to persuade you to purchase their product, vendors of alkaline water may offer an inexpensive test kit consisting of a pH dip stick to test your urine. Uric acid is a by-product of the breakdown of purines found in meat and animal products. Lactic and carbonic acids are continually formed in the body as by-products of respiration and cellular metabolism. Your body buffers and clears lactic and uric acid via the kidneys through urine. Urine is by nature acidic, so inevitably the test stick will read acidic when dipped in your urine. This does not mean that you have metabolic acidosis, but rather that your kidneys are doing their job.
What you feed your children in infancy can have lifelong repercussions for their health. Natural breast milk is the best food for children under 1 year. Whole natural unprocessed food should be introduced gradually in moderation. Early childhood is no time to conduct science experiments on your kids with questionable treatments. If you suspect your baby is acidotic, consult your pediatrician for prognosis and treatment.