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Why YOU need to be drinking Alkaline Water…

Here it is, the second of May… It is officially Better Hearing & Speech Month.  But, because speech language pathologists like myself ALSO work on swallowing, we (collectively) have added swallowing to this.  And, in honor of that, I present to you, my latest BLOG! 

What you see in this picture to your left is my pile of research I used to present to a facility administrator and MD to advocate for a reflux diet.  I have not used all those resources for this BLOG topic, but the size of the folder indicates how much reading I have put into this topic.

Also– Shout out to my assistant Jenny, for this BLOG topic!

 

One day, Jenny came in to work.  She was coughing, she looked miserable, her voice sounded deep & hoarse.  “Michelle, I can’t get rid of this cough,” she said.

 

I didn’t scope her, but I wanted to (I can’t without a doctor’s order).  The sound of her voice had me picturing the inside of her throat. From the way her voice sounded, I suspected her throat was red, irritated, and with the deep voice, her vocal folds were probably inflamed.

 

“Go get some alkaline water, Jenny,” I told her.  She looked at me funny and I said, “No, I’m serious.  You sound red and inflamed.”  I think she was also drinking a soda at the time, so I felt like she may have been having some LPR, which is stomach acid coming up in her throat.

 

The next week she came back and proudly displayed her bottle of Alkaline water.  “See, I followed your instructions.”  And her voice sounded magnificent; completely back to normal.  She told me she started feeling a difference a few days after she started drinking it and that she was going to keep it as a staple in her house from then on.

 

She wanted to know how and why it worked, so I told her what I’m about to tell you.  She looked at me with a concerned, disgusted look and said, “You need to write a blog about THAT!”  

 

So, here it is…. Why you NEED to be drinking alkaline water.

 

  1.  Processed food is very acidic.

 

It happened after a botulism outbreak in the 60’s. Any food in a bottle, bag, box, jar, or can HAS to be a pH less than 4 per FDA regulations, in order to preserve shelf life.  

 

  1. Processed foods contain preservatives and chemicals that loosen our esophageal sphincters, which allows stomach acid to come up to our throat- and our throat is not designed to withstand continuous acid exposure. 

 

Your esophagus has one point of entrance, which is your upper esophageal sphincter, in your throat.  The sphincter muscle is a muscle that stays closed until you swallow then your laryngeal muscles assisting it to open, in order to allow the saliva and food down into it.  Then there’s a sphincter at the end of your esophagus, which is the lower esophageal sphincter, that opens to allow the food to move into your stomach.  When those sphincter muscles loosen, they allow the acid from the stomach to come up the esophagus all the way to the throat. 

 

At night when you’re lying down, sleeping, the acid can run into your ear canals and your nasal passages very easily.

Not only are we burning our throats with reflux coming up into our throats, nasal passages, and ear canals, we are burning our throat tissue with the processed foods we are putting in it!  

 

Yes, I said ear canals and sinus cavities.  Your eustachian tubes are not that far away from your mouth; your ears, nose, and mouth are all linked by the same “tube”, so lets get that out of the way before I go any further.  *show anatomy picture here

 

According to Dr. Blicker, in the Swallow Your Pride podcast, episode 23, your esophagus is designed to take up to 50 instances of reflux a day… your throat is designed to take less than 3 a week.

 

Ask yourself, how many sodas do you drink a week?  If it’s more than 3 you are increasing your risk for acid injury and therefore increasing your risk of developing throat cancer.  

 

THAT FACT ALONE was enough for me to stop drinking soda and any bottled beverage.  If I drink a soda, it’s less than once a week, if ever.  (Also, Dr. Aviv’s imagery of drinking battery acid solidified my cessation of soft drink consumption.)

 

  1. Stomach acid contains enzymes that break down food, but one in particular, Pepsin, sticks to the tissue in our throat and then becomes activated every time you eat or drink something acidic.  (Dr. Aviv describes it acting like velcro attaching to your tissue) Because those enzymes are meant to break down food, each time they are activated in your throat, they begin to eat away at the tissues in your throat, or wherever the reflux has gone (it has been found up in the sinus cavities in many people).

 

An excerpt from The Acid Watcher Diet  book:  “Pepsin is inactive within the stomach until it’s woken up by acidic foods.  Once activated and assimilated into gastric acid, it can surge back up into the esophagus, chest, vocal cords, and throat area…the pepsi molecules can attach to pepsin receptors found there, creating a kind of Velcro effect… Once pension is planted in your esophagus, it makes itself comfortable… and is activated every time you eat or drink something acidic.  Activated pepsin…will work quickly to find something to eat or breakdown.  Without the presence of food proteins… the pepsin will begin to eat away at the tissues of the throat and esophagus causing… inflammation… heartburn… Barrett’s esophagus… and possibly esophageal cancer.”  (pp. 23-24)

 

Pepsin is activated with any food or drink with a pH below 5.

 

Again, HOLY CRAP!  That’s the part where Jenny gave me a look like I had just shown her the grossest thing in the universe.

 

  1. The eating away of the tissue increases risk of cancer. (according to the book, in 2008, esophageal adenocarcinoma had increased 650%!  And researchers in this area suspect it is from the FDA mandate in 1975, Title 21, for increased acidity, as well as the chemicals in preservatives, that loosen our esophageal sphincters.  

 

Title 21 calls for all preserved foods to have a pH lower than 4.6 to be considered “self stable.” 

 

Did I scare you yet?  Are you analyzing everything you’ve consumed in the last 24 hours?  I hope so!

 

  1. Alkaline water is the only thing that has been scientifically proven to permanently deactivate the Pepsin (the enzyme that becomes activated when you consume something acidic.

 

  1. Research is showing that a Mediterranean diet WITH alkaline water is just as effective as a PPI (proton pump inhibitor, like prilosec or nexium) reducing symptoms of reflux. (Zalvan et al. 2017)

 

Now that I have scared you out of your mind, I want to tell you, I SWEAR by alkaline water.  I try to follow the recommendations made by the country’s leading ENT’s, which is the Mediterranean diet with alkaline water- BUT I do, occasionally, consume things that are acidic, like coffee, (every morning, in large quantities).  Go ahead and try to make me stop drinking coffee… I dare you. 😉  And when I do consume acidic foods, like every morning, I drink a bottle of alkaline water.

 

I can tell when I run out and need to go get more, because my throat will burn.  My voice will get raspy and strained, like I’ve been screaming at a concert, except I haven’t been screaming at a concert. I’ve just been eating and drinking stuff that’s not good for me.  When I feel that burn, I replay the nightmare of the goblin enzyme, Pepsin, eating away at my throat tissue and I RUN to the store to get some more alkaline water.

 

If you are skeptical about alkaline water, just ask ANY of my clients or family members; I can give you at least 5 references about how much better you will feel after you start drinking it.

 

Cheers! (with your bottle of alkaline water of course!)

 

** DISCLAIMER:  NOT all of these symptoms are always due to reflux.  Remember to consult with your physician before implementing new medications or making changes to your diet –because I AM NOT A DOCTOR 🙂 

 

References:  

 

Aviv, Jonathan  (2014, 2017).  The Acid Watcher Diet- A 28 Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program.  Harmony Books, New York.  

 

Newberry, Carolyn; Lynch, Kristle.  “The role of diet in the development and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease:  why we feel the burn.”  Journal of Thoracic Disease 2019; 11 (Suppl 12) S1594-S1601.  doi: 10.21037/jtd.2019.06.42

 

Stengler, Mark.  “Risks of proton pump inhibitor for gastroesophageal reflux disease and a diet alternative.”  Journal of Nutritional Health & Food Engineering.  Volume 10, issue 1, 2020.  

 

Swallow Your Pride. Episode 23, January 8, 2018.  Eric Blicker CCC-SLP.D BCS-S – When A Cough Can Mean 1,000 Things: Discovering The Link Between COPD, Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease, And Dysphagia.

 

Zalvan, Craig, H, Hu, Shirly, Greenberg, Barbara, Geliebter, Jan.  2017.  “A Comparison of Alkaline Water and Mediterranean Diet vs Proton Pump Inhibition for Treatment of Laryngopharyngeal Reflux.”  JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, 2017 OCT; 143 (10):  1023-1029.  doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2017.1454: 10.1001/jamaoto.2017.1454