If you are a health conscious consumer, there’s no doubt that you have asked, “What is ionized water?”
While ionized water is being touted by some as a cure all to everything from acne to cancer, it’s important for you to understand the science behind ionized water before you can actually evaluate the various health claims that are being made. Increasing your understanding of the science of ionized water is what we will focus on in this article.
The Water Molecule
As you likely learned in grade school, water is one of the most abundant molecules on Earth. It’s a relatively simple molecule, composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen molecule. This is why the shorthand, H2O, is often used for water.
While most water molecules stay intact in nature, they do have a slight proclivity to dissociate into two different ions:
1. A positively charged hydrogen missing an electron. This is often written as H+.
2. A negatively charged hydroxide ion consisting of a single oxygen atom and a single hydrogen atom loosely bonded together and containing an extra electron. This is often written as OH-.
If you were to analyze two billion water molecules in a lake, ocean, or other natural body of water, you would only find that about two of them were naturally dissociated into positive H+ and negative OH- ions.
However, to put things in better perspective, there are 8,360,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water in an eight ounce glass of water!
Thus, even though the rate of natural ionization of water is low, there are still a lot of positive hydrogen and negative hydroxide ions floating around in any natural body of water.
What Does a Water Ionizer Do?
A water ionizer uses electrical current to artificially break the water molecule into positive hydrogen atoms and negative hydroxide ions at a rate that far exceeds what happens naturally in nature.
This machine contains both a positively charged electrode and a negatively charged electrode in a bath of water. While the process is often called ionization, it is actually a form of electrolysis as electrons are essentially stolen from the molecules to form the ions.
The electrodes are made of platinum or another type of unreactive metal to prevent the metal from adding metal ions to the water.
After breaking the water molecules apart, the water containing more hydroxide ions is then collected as alkaline water. This is often called reduced water in the scientific literature. The water containing more positively charged hydrogen ions can also be collected as acidic water.
Is “Ionized Water” a Type of Alkaline Water?
Not necessarily! However, the term is often used this way in the vernacular to refer to alkaline ionized drinking water that has been created through a water ionizer. However, ionized water can also be acidic in nature if it contains more positively charged hydrogen ions.
Some ionization systems actually give the consumer the ability to collect water of various pH to use for different purposes.
While slightly alkaline ionized water may be good for drinking and cooking, highly alkaline ionized water would be better suited for cleaning purposes.
Highly acidic ionized water could be used for disinfecting cutting boards. However, to clean wounds, you would want to use only slightly acidic ionized water.
A Note About Taste and Mouth-Feel
When it comes to ionized water, some people notice a different taste, texture or “mouth-feel” right away because some of the water molecules have been restructured into ions, changing the way it may feel compared to normal tap water.
Right at this very moment, somewhere in the world, is a nerdy scientist type in a white coat trying to figure out the perfect magic ratio of ions that will produce the best taste and best mouth feel when you drink the water!
Many people think that alkaline ionized water tastes silkier or smoother than ordinary bottled water or tap water. Some people describe it as “velvety.” Others describe it as being “thicker” than ordinary water, as if you were drinking the consistency of milk instead of water.
Ionized Water May Or May Not Contain Minerals
When people hear the phrase, “ionized water,” some automatically assume it refers to alkaline water. Linked to this assumption is sometimes another assumption that the ionized water contains minerals. However, this is not always true. Also, it may only be partially true. Let’s explain:
Before water is ionized, it may be filtered or distilled. It may also be run through reverse osmosis.
All of these processes remove some or virtually all of the minerals in the water. These processes also remove much of the bicarbonate.
So, the final product of some ionized water may contain few minerals or virtually no minerals.
It could also be the case, and often is in fact, that after the processes that removed the minerals and bicarbonate were completed, some minerals and some bicarbonate were added back in. In fact, the process of ionization is difficult with zero minerals.
However, keep in mind that the minerals may be synthesized versions and the full complement of minerals that you would normally expect in water may not be there in the final ionized water product.
Now that we have explained the science behind ionized water, we hope this helps you to decipher between the real science and pseudoscience of the various health claims that are made about ionized water.
Remember, ionized water is not a natural form of water. It is created by adding an electrical current to water and thereby breaking apart some of the water molecules into positive and negative ions.
Alkaline ionized drinking water is slightly alkaline and contains more negative hydroxide ions, OH- ions, than positive hydrogen ions, H+ ions. Further, the final ionized water product may or may not contain minerals.