February 25, 2017

Magnesium Bicarbonate Water – The importance of bicarbonates and magnesium

MgBicarbWaterThe acid-base balance in blood is controlled by the capacity of the respiratory system to remove excess carbon dioxide—also by the ability of the kidneys to excrete wastes in urine, and by a buffering system referred to as the bicarbonate buffering system. The greatest limiting factor for neutralizing acidic waste in the human body is the availability of bicarbonates which act as antioxidants. Bicarbonates can be delivered in water. In fact, neither the blood nor water are healthy without them.

Neutralization of acids depends on the presence of buffers. For example, if you add a weak acid to a glass of water that has no buffering capacity, the pH will immediately drop—just as you’d expect. But, if you add the same amount of acid to a glass of buffered water, the pH will barely change. A buffer neutralizes acid, leaving the solution’s pH unchanged. In water and in the human body, buffers are predominantly bicarbonates.

The bicarbonate buffering system (like all buffers) is composed of a weak acid (carbonic acid — H2CO3) and a weak base (bicarbonate – HCO3-). Together, they work to keep the pH of the blood and other internal fluids within a specific range. In solution, carbonic acid dissociates into hydrogen ions (H+ ) and bicarbonate ions (HCO3-). When acids are added to a bicarbonate buffering system, the bicarbonate ions re-associate with H+ ions and re-form carbonic acid. This reduces H+ ion concentration (acidity) and brings the pH back up. Buffers neutralize acids by scavenging hydrogen ions (H+).

H2CO3 + H2O  ↔ H+ + HCO3-
Carbonic acid + Water  ↔  H+ ion + Bicarbonate

Bicarbonates give blood the ability to resist changes in pH. Even tiny variations in blood pH can disrupt vital metabolic functions. Bicarbonates also help natural water to resist the effects of acid rain, wastes from aquatic life and other acidic influences. Dramatic pH swings in rivers and streams can be equally devastating. The ocean, too, is buffered with bicarbonates. It is capable of neutralizing an enormous amount of acidic waste. Our bodies mirror the Earth’s oceans in so many ways.

Under ideal conditions in the human body, there is much more bicarbonate than carbonic acid (the ratio is approximately 20:1). This is perfect for biological organisms that produce acidic metabolic waste. The high bicarbonate concentration at equilibrium is able to neutralize considerable acidity. However under stress, bicarbonates become a limiting factor. Diet, pollution, exercise, and age all draw on bicarbonate reserves and limit the body’s capacity to neutralize and eliminate acids.

For well over a hundred years, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) has been used to increase the buffering capacity of the blood and the fluid surrounding cells. It is well known to control chronic acidosis. Sodium bicarbonate has been used for indigestion and heartburn for decades. Athletes use it to enhance endurance and to reduce recovery time because it neutralizes lactic acid. Sodium bicarbonate has many documented uses in emergency medicine (although its use is being rapidly phased out in favor of drugs).

Dr. Mark Sircus has been a proponent of sodium bicarbonate for many years. His recent book elaborates on its chemistry and function for human health. He writes,

Sodium bicarbonate is the time honored method to ‘speed up’ the return of the body’s bicarbonate levels to normal. It has blood vessel dilating action, [it] increases blood fluidity, assist[s] oxygen dissociation—thus more oxygen flows to the capillaries and cells… has strong anti inflammatory action, helps with detoxification and neutralization of toxic substances of all kinds offering strong and almost instantaneous shifts in pH. …The body is always hungry for bicarbonate unless you live in some pristine valley…

While sodium bicarbonate is a time honored favorite, Dr. Sircus admits that its virtues have nothing to do with the sodium. It’s all about the bicarbonates. Rather than sodium, (which there is no shortage of) other mineral ions are often more advantageous when delivered with bicarbonates.

The alkaline mineral ions
By themselves, the alkaline mineral ions (calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium etc.) are not easily absorbed in living tissues. They often end up as plaque, deposits in joints, and acid waste sequestered in fatty tissue. They can contribute to degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis and atherosclerosis. However, when the same alkaline ions are carried with bicarbonates, they are more easily absorbed, and they participate as a part of a buffering system that, reduces arterial plaque, and age-related calcification. Bicarbonates can carry all the alkaline minerals.

Alkaline water vs. alkaline bicarbonate water
Alkaline water —including alkaline ionized water— is very different from water that has an alkaline pH due to the presence of bicarbonates. Alkaline ions affect the pH of water but they cannot neutralize acids.  (Read the article on alkaline water.) Most alkaline water products have few bicarbonates, little buffering capacity and almost no ability to neutralize acidic waste. On the other hand, bicarbonate water is mildly alkaline yet it has what is referred to as alkalinity—the ability to neutralize acids. Alkalinity is based on buffering capacity and the equilibrium relationship between carbon dioxide and bicarbonate.

Carbon dioxide and bicarbonate are two sides of the same coin. The only way bicarbonates become available is through the presence of carbon dioxide to produce carbonic acid. The balance between the two is at the heart of metabolic homeostasis. The complete equation for the bicarbonate buffering system begins with carbon dioxide:

CO2 + H20 ↔ H2CO3 + H2O ↔ H+ + HCO3-
Carbon dioxide + water ↔ Carbonic acid + Water ↔  Hydrogen ion + Bicarbonate

In mammalian cells, the continuous production of carbon dioxide (from ATP hydrolysis and other metabolic processes) requires a continuous supply of bicarbonates to maintain equilibrium and optimal buffering capacity. When bicarbonates become limited, the buffering capacity of the cells suffer.

Bicarbonates in the stomach
In the stomach, bicarbonate ions pass almost immediately into the bloodstream in exchange for chloride ions to make hydrochloric acid (HCl). Although it sounds counterintuitive, drinking bicarbonate water on an empty stomach actually stimulates the production of stomach acid (HCl). It is an ideal drink first thing in the morning and before meals—as long as adequate time passes before the consumption of food. Bicarbonate water actually prepares the stomach for digestion and helps to overcome the waning production of HCl that plagues older individuals. While such knowledge has nearly disappeared from medical texts, the Materia Medica (1918 edition) had this to say about the affects of sodium bicarbonate in the stomach:

The effect of an alkali in the stomach will vary according to the nature of the stomach contents at the time of administration. In the resting period (after food is digested) sodium bicarbonate dissolves mucus and is absorbed as bicarbonate into the blood, to increase its alkalinity directly. In the digestive period it reduces the secretion of gastric juice, neutralizes a portion of the hydrochloric acid, liberates the carminative carbon dioxide gas, and is absorbed as sodium chloride. The time of administration must, therefore, be chosen with a definite purpose. In continuous hyperacidity and in fermentative conditions a dose an hour before meals will tend to prepare the stomach for the next meal.

The use of bicarbonates is not new. What is new is the use of magnesium bicarbonate in water to enhance bicarbonate reserves, to stabilize the structure of the water,  AND to supply much needed magnesium in an available form.

Russell Beckett

Dr. Russell Beckett

Magnesium Bicarbonate
In 2002, Dr Russell Beckett, an Australian biochemist and pathologist, released a product called Unique Water—made with magnesium bicarbonate. The product was the result of years of anti-aging research that came together when a group of animals were identified in a remote area of southeastern Australia living 30 – 50% longer than other animals in the same region. After eliminating all other possibilities for longevity, the water was revealed to have an unusually high level of magnesium bicarbonate. Springs in the region that fed properties with the oldest cows had the most magnesium bicarbonate in the water.
Beckett’s anti-aging research had previously revealed animals that broke the longevity rules had evolved more efficient ways of neutralizing acid waste. He recognized the importance of bicarbonates in the spring water and at the same time, he recognized the connection between decreasing levels of magnesium and many ailments associated with age. The combination (magnesium and bicarbonate) was an obvious winner.

Early trials conducted with Unique Water over a period of two years showed reduced incidence of colds and flu with less severe symptoms. (Most viruses, including the ones that are responsible for the common cold and flu, are classified as pH-dependent. They are infectious only in an acidic pH range. ) Consumption of magnesium bicarbonate water apparently improved bicarbonate reserves and protected the participants in the study. Later clinical trials revealed positive changes in the bio chemistry of the blood (improved albumin levels) and positive effects on the parathyroid hormone which is correlated with osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and atherosclerosis.

Another interesting note about the combination of magnesium with bicarbonate is that each component assists in the transport of the other within cellular tissues. Supplying magnesium and bicarbonate together in drinking water buffers and balances the water, and it supports metabolic functions that become compromised with age and many ailments.

Magnesium deficiency
Changes in diet (with more processed foods) as well as in water quality (where many individuals drink de-mineralized water) have significantly affected the average daily intake of magnesium. Unlike many other nutrients that are better supplied in food, water can be an excellent source of magnesium. Approximately 50% of the magnesium contained in mineral water is absorbed. This is greater than the amount absorbed from food. The ‘magnesium-in-water’ effect was identified years ago as beneficial for those on a low magnesium diet. As far as the authors are aware, no studies have been conducted to determine the absorption of magnesium from bicarbonate water. They suspect it is much higher than 50%.

The recommended adult daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is anywhere from 360 to 420 mg per day, depending on age and gender. But as with all RDAs, this recommendation is well below optimal. Many researchers believe total magnesium intake should be at least 450–500 mg per day, and drinking water should contain a minimum of 25–50 mg/l. Unfortunately, most of today’s water contains below 6 mg/l of magnesium.

Blatantly ignored in modern medicine, magnesium deficiency is rampant, responsible (at least in part) for the increased incidence of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, attention deficit and many other conditions too numerous to list. Magnesium has been referred to as the “master mineral” because of its involvement in over 300 enzyme systems including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is required for energy production and for the synthesis of DNA. It also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm. Supplying magnesium with bicarbonates is an incredible way to deliver a double benefit for your health.

Making magnesium bicarbonate water
Magnesium bicarbonate is a salt that exists only in water. (You cannot buy magnesium bicarbonate like you can buy sodium bicarbonate). It only exists in aqueous form as a result of carbon dioxide in the water and accompanying ionic magnesium. Beckett and others have devised ways of making magnesium bicarbonate water by reacting magnesium with carbonated water. There are several products on the market, including Unique Water available in Australia, MagBicarb Water (a concentrate), and a natural spring water from Adobe Springs, California branded under the name Noah’s Water. But you can make your own with carbonated water and magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia).

How to make magnesium bicarbonate water

MgBicarbWater 2Most recipes for making magnesium bicarbonate water call for making a concentrate—then diluting to a final concentration of approximately 120 mg/l Mg and 600mg/l bicarbonate. According to Beckett, the maximum magnesium concentration that can be maintained in solution as magnesium bicarbonate is approximately 120 mg/liter at pH 8.3. Higher concentrations of magnesium can be maintained in solution at low pH and if chlorides (such as sodium chloride) are added to the water. The authors of Dancing with Water have found that one of the best ways to balance magnesium bicarbonate water and to optimize magnesium levels in the final solution is with the addition of unprocessed salts. These naturally contain a balance of other bicarbonates (such as sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, and calcium bicarbonate) and chlorides. The following recipe has been amended to accommodate the addition of structured water with natural unprocessed salts for magnesium bicarbonate water that is balanced and rapidly assimilated on an empty stomach.

• 1 liter of carbonated water – chilled (also called selzter water; any brand). Make sure it is just carbonated water with no flavorings or sweeteners. Don’t use club soda because it has added sodium and you will be adding your own balanced salts to the recipe). And you can make your own if you have a SodaSteam or similar.
• 3 Tbsp (45 ml) milk of magnesia (Find a brand that only contains magnesium hydroxide and purified water. The “active” ingredient should only be magnesium hydroxide –Mg (OH)2 . The “inactive” ingredient should only be purified water. One tablespoon should have 500 mg of Mg. Most brands have additional ingredients including flavors, sweeteners, artificial colors, and even sodium hydroxide, which is household bleach. Generic brands are typically the ones without these added ingredients. Check the label carefully.)
• Structured water with a low mineral content (<50 ppm TDS is best since other minerals tend to compete with the complete reaction of magnesium and CO2.) This is one time when the use of distilled or RO water is recommended. However, be sure to remineralize it with natural unprocessed salts according to instructions here. The authors typically make this several days in advance to give this hungry water a chance to mature and assimilate the minerals.


1. Shake and then measure 3 Tbsp (45 ml) of milk of magnesia (MoM); use the plastic measuring cup that comes with the MoM.
2. Without agitating it, open the chilled liter bottle of carbonated water. When the initial fizzing settles down (but don’t wait too long) slowly add the MoM and tightly re-cap the bottle to minimize loss of CO2.
3. Shake and set aside for 10-15 minutes. The bottle will harden as the reaction proceeds—then as it nears completion, the sides of the plastic bottle will cave in. This is the reaction:
Mg(OH)2 + 2CO2 ? Mg(HCO3)2.
4. Shake the bottle again (several times over the course of the next 20 minutes is ideal) and refrigerate.
5. When the liquid clears, (typically within another 20-30 minutes) the magnesium hydroxide in the MoM should have reacted with the CO2 to become concentrated magnesium bicarbonate water with approximately 1500 mg of magnesium and approximately 7500 mg of bicarbonate. Sometimes, depending on the amount of CO2 that escapes during the addition of MoM, there may be a small amount of unreacted magnesium in the bottom of the container.  This is typical. Don’t worry about it.
6. To make a gallon of dilute magnesium bicarbonate water for consumption, start with about a half gallon of structured water with a low mineral content (see above). Transfer 1/3 liter of the magnesium bicarbonate concentrate (333 ml) into the container and fill the gallon container to the top with more structured water. (also see alternate step 6 below )
7. Mature overnight and store in the refrigerator. The final solution contains about 120 mg/l of magnesium and 600 mg/l of bicarbonates. Depending on the source of water used for dilution, the pH will end up being between 8.0 and 8.5.
8. Start with one glass (8 oz.) /day on an empty stomach and work up to 2 liters of magnesium bicarbonate water/day—if you want to take therapeutic levels. Drinking too much of this water too fast will cause loose bowel movements.

6. If you want to make a less concentrated/ more bio-available magnesium bicarbonate water and you are willing to wait several days, add 1 ounce (2 Tbsp) of the concentrate from above to ½ gallon of structured water. Place this in either the Water Cradle or an ER Device for 4-5 days to mature before consumption. When magnesium bicarbonate water is matured in either the Water Cradle or in an Earth Resonance (ER) device, less of the magnesium bicarbonate concentrate is necessary to achieve the same effect because the water (and accompanying bicarbonates) are more refined and everything is more easily assimilated.). We are not kidding when we say that this method is equally (if not more effective). You can use slightly less than an ounce in the Water Cradle since it holds 7 cups).

ER device_small

Earth Resonance container made with paramagnetic blend

Water Cradle


How much/when to take
Dr. Beckett has recommended two levels of consumption—a therapeutic and a maintenance level. The therapeutic dose is 2 liters/day on an empty stomach at least 45 minutes before a meal. The maintenance dose is ½ liter/day. Most people should build up to the therapeutic dose – taking 2 or more weeks to get to the 2 liters/day level. Start with 500 ml (1/2 liter)/ day. Break this into 2 does and take one first thing in the morning (or even when you get up at night to go to the bathroom if your morning is rushed) – then later in the day before a meal or before bed – always on an empty stomach. If you take the magnesium bicarbonate water with food, the bicarbonates will be neutralized (and of little therapeutic value) by the stomach acid that is produced when food is ingested. Depending on age and health, take the therapeutic dose for six months to a year, then reduce to the maintenance level. You may also want to take the therapeutic dose for 2-3 weeks out of each year thereafter.

Watch the Australian newscast  about Dr. Beckett’s Unique Water


Note: For people with the rare illnesses of Bartter syndrome or Gitelman syndrome, bicarbonate may be contraindicated.

Disclaimer: The information and instructions provided here are for educational purposes. They do not constitute a recommendation to consume this water, and no claims of health benefits from consuming this water are made.

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