In late October RefluxMD posted an article titled, “Can water stop GERD symptoms?” Our hypothesis was that since water has the potential to reduce acid reflux symptoms by a dilution effect, alkaline water (pH 9) might provide an additional benefit to GERD sufferers due to its alkaline nature. To test this theory, AQUAhydrate, a manufacturer of alkaline water, agreed to support a small, unscientific study to evaluate if drinking alkaline water could reduce acid reflux symptoms and the need for medication. RefluxMD then recruited a small (but courageous and risk averse) group of its members to be our “test subjects”, and the study was officially launched last month. Frankly, we were surprised at the results.
Back in October, we asked our readers if drinking normal tap water reduced their heartburn symptoms. Seventy-two members responded, and after eliminating those with no opinion, we found that 60% think their heartburn symptoms did improve if they drink normal tap water (pH 7). 33% indicated a definite “YES” response to effective relief compared to 27% indicating relief “some of the time”. Even with a neutral pH of 7, this small survey supported the premise of our hypothesis. But could alkaline water, more alkaline than tap water, have an even better result? RefluxMD decided to find out!
Learn more: The progressive stages of GERD
The RefluxMD alkaline water study: Can drinking alkaline water relieve heartburn symptoms?
RefluxMD asked a small group of participating members to do several things during the study:
- Track both their symptoms and medication use 12 days before using alkaline water and 12 days while drinking alkaline water, and report that data back to RefluxMD.
- Incorporate alkaline water in their daily diet for 12 days – drinking it whenever possible as a substitution for normal water, and especially at the first indication of GERD symptoms.
- Attempt to avoid using normal medications during the 12-day alkaline water period to determine if alkaline water could act as a substitute for medications.
- Indicate to us if they would incorporate alkaline water into their diet in the future.
Since the likelihood that alkaline water would be a possible substitute only in people with mild (stage 1 and possibly stage 2 GERD), we limited the study to patients who were taking antacids, H2 blockers or intermittent PPI medications. Patients on daily PPI use were excluded from this study. Below is a composite picture of the alkaline water study participants:
Comparison of results prior to and during the use of alkaline water
The use of medications was significantly reduced during the period of alkaline water use. Those taking medications 5 days or more during the two 12-day periods were reduced from 44% to 25% of the participants. More importantly, the total number of days where the participants took medication was reduced by 41%.
12 days prior to using alkaline water, how many days did you take medication?
12 days during the use of alkaline water, how many days did you take medications?
However, did the reduction in medications also mirror a reduction in GERD symptoms? In general, the answer is yes, but it was a little bit of a mixed bag as highlighted in the analysis below:
Number of days with reported GERD Symptoms
Percentage of participants
However, if we look at those with more than 5 days of reported symptoms, there was a reduction from 54% of all participants to 25%. Considering that this group used substantially less medication during the 12-days of alkaline water usage, we believe that alkaline water was effective as both a symptom reliever and as a substitute for their medications – possibly better than their current anti-reflux medications.
What do the participants think? Will they switch to alkaline water?
The participant’s give substantial credit for their reduced symptoms and lower medication use to their use of alkaline water. 87% reported that alkaline water reduced their symptoms, and 56% reported a reduction of at least 40% of their symptoms.
In your opinion, do you think that alkaline water had an impact on your symptoms?
Did drinking alkaline water relieve heartburn symptoms enough to replacing medications?
When asked if they plan on using alkaline water in the future as a means to either reduce symptoms or reduce the amount of anti-reflux medications, most of the participants indicate a real interest in replacing their medications with alkaline water. 74% were either considering or were committed to using alkaline water, with half of those indicating that they will make the change. Only 13% indicated that they would not use alkaline water, and an additional 13% were unsure.
Here is what the participants said about alkaline water:
The water tastes good. It helped my symptoms. I felt better while drinking the water.
I think the water made me feel better and the taste was OK. I think that if the water can work, that would be a major joy for many people.
Overall I felt better using the alkaline water. However, it tasted slightly different than regular bottled water. But I got used to it.
The alkaline water did appear to alleviate GERD symptoms and reduced the frequency. Once the water was refrigerated, it was fine. It took getting used to the taste due the reduced sodium flavor (which is a good thing), commonly found in other bottled waters.
It was easy to drink in the smaller bottles so I took it everywhere with me to drink. It taste good so I drank it a lot instead of regular water.
I have heartburn episodes when I chew tobacco. If I drank the alkaline water before I chewed, I rarely had the episodes and if I did get them; my symptoms were milder and went away faster. I did like the water, it has a good quality to it and I liked its taste. The water did make me feel fuller than normal water, but not by much. I had an overall positive experience and I would consider buying it.
The water was ok. It often made my GERD symptoms worse. I believe it was too alkaline for someone with GERD as it made the stomach produce more acid than was necessary.
Is alkaline water right for you?
Before we tackle that question, we need to point out a few important facts. First, this is not a scientific study and as such no firm conclusions are possible. Second, we also need to consider a placebo effect. What does this mean? It means that the reason for the reduction in symptoms could have been possible if our members took anything new. This highlights the importance of “perception” and the brain’s role in our perceived state of health. Thus, our results cannot be conclusively be ascribed to the use of alkaline water. Finally, there were potentially several other factors that we did not consider during the 12-day period that could have impacted the results of this limited study. With that said, what does this study suggest you do?
Learn more: Infographic: Reasons to reduce your use of PPIs
The one thing we know is that everyone is different, and we can’t be sure if alkaline water with pH 9 will reduce your dependence on medications and/or relieve your symptoms. However, drinking more water, for a variety of reasons, is certainly a healthy activity for you to consider. The results of both our previous survey and this study suggest that many members believe tap water and alkaline water can be beneficial. We can’t say that you will have the same results, but we do suggest that you give it a try. Alkaline water is available at most major grocery stores in the specialty water section. The brand used in our study was AQUAhydrate, which comes in a light blue bottle and is clearly labeled “pH9+”. We chose AQUAhydrate because they do not use additives to raise the pH of their water and the product is readily available at most major grocery and drug stores. Please use the message box below this article if you would like to receive the final usage recommendations we gave to our participants. Who knows – this might be a very happy new year if you find a new natural reliever for your GERD symptoms!