Why Clean Water is Essential for Optimal Hydration and Wellness

May 17, 2024

Water is the elixir of life, playing a critical role in maintaining the body's physiological processes. Proper hydration is essential for various bodily functions, including temperature regulation, joint lubrication, nutrient transport, and waste elimination. However, the quality of water consumed is equally important as the quantity. Clean water free from contaminants is vital for optimal health and wellness. This article explores the significance of clean water, comparing tap water and spring water, the benefits of mineral-rich water, the impact of heavy metals and other contaminants found in tap water on health, different filtration systems, and ways to enhance filtered water.

The Importance of Clean Water

Water makes up about 60% of the human body and is crucial for survival. It aids in digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. Clean water is essential for preventing dehydration, which can lead to severe health issues like kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and even impaired cognitive function. Furthermore, clean water is crucial for the prevention of waterborne diseases that affect millions worldwide.

Tap Water vs. Spring Water

Tap Water: Tap water is readily available and cost-effective. In many developed countries, it is treated to meet safety standards set by regulatory bodies. These treatments typically include filtration, disinfection, and sometimes fluoridation to kill harmful bacteria and remove debris and other contaminants. However, the safety of tap water can be compromised by aging infrastructure, leading to the leaching of heavy metals like lead and copper into the water supply. Furthermore, residual disinfectants like chlorine and chloramine, while preventing microbial contamination, can react with organic matter to form potentially harmful by-products.

Spring Water: Spring water, sourced from natural springs, is often considered purer and more refreshing. It typically contains natural minerals that can enhance its taste and offer health benefits. Unlike tap water, spring water is not exposed to the same level of chemical treatment, preserving its natural mineral content. However, the safety of spring water depends on the cleanliness of the source. Untreated or improperly bottled spring water can still harbor contaminants.

Mineral-Rich Water and Its Benefits

Mineral-rich water contains essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, which are vital for various bodily functions. For example:

  • Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth.
  • Magnesium plays a crucial role in muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation (1).
  • Potassium helps maintain fluid balance, nerve signals, and muscle contractions.
  • Sodium is necessary for maintaining blood pressure and fluid balance.

These minerals not only contribute to the body’s nutritional needs but also improve the taste and palatability of the water, encouraging higher water intake and better hydration.

Heavy Metals and Contaminants in Tap Water

Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium can be present in tap water due to industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, and aging plumbing systems. These contaminants pose significant health risks:

  • Lead exposure, even at low levels, can cause neurological damage, especially in children, leading to learning disabilities and behavioral problems (2).
  • Mercury can affect the nervous system and is particularly harmful to pregnant women and developing fetuses.
  • Arsenic exposure is linked to skin lesions, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes (3).
  • Cadmium can cause kidney damage and bone demineralization.
  • Chlorine has been used to treat water to prevent microbial contamination, but what impact does it have on the gut microbiome? There seems to be contradictory findings and most of the studies have been conducted on animals. Some indicate that repeated exposure to low amounts of chlorine can have a negative impact on gut microbiome while other studies indicate there is no impact, and in fact can improve overall gut health (4,5). More long-term, human studies need to be conducted to determine the affects of chlorine and gut health.
  • Fluoride is also used to treat water and prevent microbial contamination, but it seems the dose determines whether it’s harmful or beneficial. Fluoride is found naturally in some spring and glacier water in varying amounts (average level of fluoride in bottled water is 0.11 ppm) and has some health benefits that includes the prevention of tooth decay, but too much fluoride can be harmful. Since fluoride can cross the blood-brain barrier, there is a concern for neurotoxicity, especially in children (6). If you are concerned about fluoride but want to protect your tooth enamel, a safer and equally effective option for enamel protection is hydroxyapatite. This can be found in some natural toothpastes.

In addition to heavy metals, tap water may contain other contaminants such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These contaminants can interfere with hormone function, leading to reproductive issues, developmental problems, and an increased risk of cancers.

Filtration Systems for Clean Water

To ensure the consumption of clean water, various filtration systems can be used to remove contaminants:

  1. Activated Carbon Filters: These filters are effective at removing chlorine, sediment, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and unpleasant odors and tastes. They are commonly used in household water filters and pitcher filters. However, they are less effective against heavy metals, nitrates, and bacteria.
  2. Reverse Osmosis (RO): RO systems use a semi-permeable membrane to remove ions, molecules, and larger particles from drinking water. This method is highly effective at removing contaminants, including heavy metals, fluoride, nitrates, and bacteria. However, it also removes beneficial minerals, which may require re-mineralization of the water post-filtration.
    1. Distillation: Distillation involves boiling water and then condensing the steam back into liquid, leaving most contaminants behind. It effectively removes heavy metals, bacteria, and viruses but also strips water of essential minerals and can be energy-intensive.
    2. Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection: UV disinfection systems use ultraviolet light to kill or inactivate bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. While effective for microbial contamination, UV systems do not remove chemical contaminants or heavy metals.
    3. Ceramic Filters: These filters have a porous ceramic material that traps bacteria, protozoa, and sediment. They are often combined with activated carbon for additional chemical removal. Ceramic filters are effective for biological contaminants but may not filter out heavy metals or chemicals.

    Enhancing Filtered Water

    After filtration, enhancing the quality of water can improve its health benefits and taste:

    1. Re-Mineralization: Adding mineral drops or using a re-mineralization filter can restore essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium that may have been removed during the filtration process, especially in RO or distillation systems.
    2. Alkalization: Alkaline water has a higher pH and can be created by adding alkaline minerals or using an alkaline water filter. It is believed to help neutralize acid in the bloodstream, improve metabolism, and increase energy, although scientific evidence is mixed. Be careful with consuming large amounts of high-alkaline water as this can induce alkalosis in the blood and may require medical intervention.
    3. Infusing Water with Fruits and Herbs: Adding slices of lemon, cucumber, mint, or berries can naturally enhance the flavor and provide additional nutrients and antioxidants. This makes water more enjoyable to drink and can increase overall water consumption.

    Conclusion

    Clean water is fundamental to health and wellness, playing a critical role in hydration, bodily functions, and disease prevention. While tap water is generally safe and readily available, it can contain contaminants that pose health risks. Spring water and mineral-rich water offer natural alternatives but must be sourced carefully. Understanding the potential contaminants in tap water and utilizing effective filtration systems can ensure the water consumed is safe and beneficial. Enhancing filtered water by re-mineralizing and infusing with natural flavors can further improve its health benefits and taste, promoting better hydration and overall wellness.

References

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2858639/
  3. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/arsenic
  4. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2022/04/examining-the-effects-of-chlorinated-drinking-water-on-the-gut-microbiome/
  5. https://www.mdpi.com/2078-1547/10/1/10
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6923889/
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