In my thousands of hours of reading and researching about ionized water, I have never been able to find a good explanation of how or why electric water ionizers work. I keep reading about the wonderful benefits of hydroxyl ions and the hydrating properties of the water, but to quote an old advertising campaign “where’s the beef”. I know from personal experience and from speaking to hundreds of others with their own personal experiences, that ionized water works. However, I’ll be darned if I can find a reasonable explanation as to why.
I always assumed that the lack of widespread acceptance of electric water ionizers was due to the high prices charged for the machines, but perhaps the real reason is that people just won’t buy into something that they don’t understand. If the seller can’t provide a plausible explanation and the medical community condemns the product, the buyer is asked to make a leap of faith. At a price of $2,000 to $4,000 that is a big leap.
My quest to understand how and why water ionization works has lead me in recent months to the world of Dr. Hayashi (pictured above) and his theory that hydrogen is the key to healthy water.
Due to my inability to “get to” Dr. Hayashi, I have been reading about and talking with his most loyal supporters in America. If you are interested in learning additional details about hydrogen and its health benefits, check out the writings of Craig Hoffman at his website at www.hydrogenfriends.com or see what Bruce Curtis has to say atwww.LivingWaterUSA.com.
As my education about water ionizers has progressed, I have come to the realization that many of my original thoughts about ionized water were incorrect. You have to start somewhere, and like so many others, I began my journey by listening to a sales presentation from an excellent Enagic representative. Finding myself intrigued but concerned about the $4,000 price tag, I checked out the “unbiased” ionizer review sites which turned out to be totally biased towards the companies that paid for the sites. At that point in time, the “more is better” game was on for me and so was the preoccupation with pH and ORP. Today, I understand that the real factor behind the health benefits of ionized water is hydrogen. Before I get into a discussion about hydrogen, I think it is appropriate to review what I have learned about ORP and pH.
ORP – Oxidation Reduction Potential
In its simplest form, ORP is the measure of the availability of electrons (measured as an electrical charge) in a solution such as water. Negative ORP values in a solution have the ability to reduce the destructive nature of free oxygen (aka “free radicals”) in the body. The lower the ORP of a solution, the greater its ability to feed electrons to the electron hungry free oxygen in the body, and thereby neutralize the nasty effects of oxidation. So far so good….lets get negative!
Before you start accepting the electric water ionizer industry mantra that “more is better”, both intuition and my research indicate that moderation is the key. A steady diet of anything that doesn’t occur in nature is not a good thing and more is definitely not better. Based upon what I have read and experienced, mildly negative ORP values, in the range of -10 to -200 are the best for the human body over the long term. It seems logical to me that a good “flush” of the system in terms of a mild “detox” every six months or so makes sense. However, it also seems logical to me that drinking strong alkaline water on a sustained basis will force your body to compensate from what it naturally requires. I believe that drinking alkaline water and eating an alkaline diet are good for you and will eventually overcome years and years of bad dietary choices, but over doing it can be harmful as well.
A negative charge can be created by electrolysis in electric water ionizers through the creation of hydroxyl ions (OH-). ORP can also be created through natural ionization by both electric and non-electric water ionizers such as antioxidant filters or hydrogen sticks. Natural ionization can be achieved by means of introducing water to magnesium or other alkali earth metals such as calcium, sodium, or potassium, which I will explain below.
Electric water ionizers actually split the source water into two separate streams. In the separation process, the machines create alkaline water with potentially very low negative ORP values due to the creation of a large amount of OH- (hydroxyl ions) produced. The negative charge associated with hydroxyl ions (OH-) is unstable and short lived if the water is jostled or if the water comes in contact with air. The presence of light will also dissipate the ORP charge. Electric water ionizers also create free hydrogen due to the presence of minerals in the water. Ultimately, the water produced by an electric water ionizer will return to the natural level of ORP generated by the mineral content of the source water.
Non-electric water ionizers creat ORP because of the stronger attraction between oxygen and magnesium than the attraction between oxygen to hydrogen. When water comes in contact with magnesium, the oxygen atoms disassociate from hydrogen and bond with the magnesium. As a result, hydrogen atoms are left free in the solution. While atoms are not ions and don’t carry a specific electrical charge, the hydrogen atom has one free electron that essentially acts like an ion because it can easily donate its electron. Since the ORP being created occurs naturally due to the presence of magnesium, the ORP is much more consistent/stable/long lasting under normal conditions.
Electric water ionizers can produce stronger initial ORP readings because of the creation of short term OH- (hydroxyl ions), but the hydroxyl ions themselves are not beneficial. The process of electrolysis produces hydrogen in massive quantities as witnessed by the collection of hydrogen gas bubbles in your glass when you first recieve water from the machine. Unfortunately, the gas bubbles are lighter than water and rise to the surface and dissipate. I always drink water produced by an electric water ionizer within ten seconds after it is produced if possible. That way, I can receive all the healthy benefits of the hydrogen before it dissipates into the air.
pH is often referred to at the potency or potential of hydrogen. What the “p” really stands for is “negative logarithm” and it can be associated with other elements besides hydrogen. Sorensen, the creator of the pH scale ultimately defined pH as the negative logarithm of the concentration of hydrogen.
In pure water with a pH of 7.0, the number of H+ (hydrogen ions) is equal to the number of OH- (hydroxyl ions). At a pH of 7.0, there is one hydrogen ion present for every 555 million water molecules. That means that hydrogen ions are very rare. If the water has ten times as many hydrogen ions as normal, the pH will be 6.0 and if the water has ten times fewer hydrogen ions, the pH will be 8.0.
If the number of hydroxyl (OH-) ions exceeds the number of hydrogen ions (H+) in water, the water will become alkaline. The higher the ratio of OH- to H+, the higher the pH. If you subscribe to the marketing efforts of the electric water ionizer industry, you would believe that a machine that produces the higher pH is superior for health benefits. Unfortunately, that is not true, because it is the amount of free hydrogen in the water that makes you healthy, not the ration of hydroxyl ionis (OH-) to hydrogen ions (H+). Therefore, the key factor is how much hydrogen is in the water, not how you can get the pH level. If you want to gain a better understanding of the relationship between hydroxyl (OH-) and hydrongen ions (H+) and water molecules, check out the following links which provide useful graphics: http://www.johnkyrk.com/pH.html and http://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/ph-scale. In the second link, click on the Run Now button highlighted in green
I believe Dr. Hayashi is the leading authority in the world on the subject of ionized water. Dr. Hayashi believes that consuming hydrogen is a significant factor when it comes to being healthy. At one point in time, Dr. Hayashi supported the use of electric water ionizers, but he changed his mind at the turn of the century. Although you still see websites using his name and his research to support the use of electric water ionizers, I can assure you that he they are doing so without his authorization.
So, why is hydrogen so important to our health? It seems that there are two reasons which include
antioxidant properties and chemiosmosis.
Antioxidant Properties of Hydrogen
Those of you who have been following my blog will understand the antioxidant properties of hydrogen. For those that are reading about this for the first time, here is a quick recap. Our bodies require oxygen to survive. Unfortunately, we only use about 98% of the oxygen that we breathe. The other 2% of unused oxygen forms nasty free radicals which attach to other cells and begin the decaying process of oxidation. Hydrogen is the perfect antidote as hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water. Therefore, the ingestion of free hydrogen, or hydrogen gas molecules (H2) which get broken down into hydrogen atoms in the body by hydrogenase, is critical in combating free radicals.
Chemiosmosis – Energy Producing Properties of Hydrogen
What the heck is chemiosmosis? According to Wikipedia: Chemiosmosis is the movement of ions across a selectively-permeable membrane, down their electrochemical gradient. More specifically, it relates to the generation of ATP by the movement of hydrogen ions across a membrane during cellular respiration. For a more in depth description and a graphic, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemiosmosis
What does the relationship between hydrogen and chemiosmosis and ATP and mitochondria have to do with your life in layman’s terms? Consuming hydrogen helps the mitochondria in your cells to produce energy. More and more athletes are turning to the consumption of hydrogen as they get an energy “boost” and they receive more sustained energy from consuming hydrogen. Most of the people that I have spoken with over the years experience and energy boost when they first start drinking ionized water. Now I know why, and it has nothing to do with oxygen. I will dedicate a future article to the topic of chemiosmosis and how it relates to the production of energy in the cells in our body.
What is the best way to get free hydrogen to the places in your body that matter the most? By that I mean into the mitochondria in your cells and to the potentially damaging free oxygen that exists in your body. The answer is ionized water because it is absorbed quickly and handled efficiently by your body. The same process can also be achieved by means of consuming an alkaline diet, which also has additional benefits, but drinking ionized water full of free hydrogen is fast and easy.
What is the best ionized water to drink to help as an antioxidant and in chemiosmosis? You can achieve the same beneficial results from ionized water produced by electrolysis or by natural means via hydrogen producing products such as antioxidant filters or hydrogen sticks.
The makers of hydrogen sticks take the position that water produced by electric water ionizers is bad for you. They lobbied Dr. Mercola for three years about the perils of using electric water ionizers before Mercola spoke out against the use of electric water ionizers last fall. I’m not convinced at all that the position of the hydrogen stick people is correct as the water has had an incredibly positive effect on my life over the years without any negative side effects. The fact that Dr. Mercola supports their position doesn’t impress me as he clearly didn’t do his homework on the issue.
I’m now reasonably certain that the water produced from antioxidant filters will provide all the same health benefits as electric water ionizers for a fraction of the price. In addition, the antioxidant filters are far superior filters to the filters provided in electric water ionizers as they remove fluoride, chloramines, THMs, VOCs, lead, mercury and a lot more on top of the sediment and chlorine that the filters in electric water ionizers remove.
I much prefer antioxidant filters to hydrogen sticks for home use for several reasons. Antioxidant filters are fast and convenient, they are capable of producing a much stronger output if the user desires a range of outputs, and they remove contaminants from the source water. The hydrogen sticks do provide a very useful function for those wanting access to effective ionized water when they are on the go. The sticks are extremely portable and they continually produce hydrogen which is useful when water is being jostled around.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and the people mentioned in the article.