H2OMG: Everything You Need to Know About Water
Most of the human body is water. I’m sure you’ve heard this statistic. The average adult human body is 50-65% water. It’s considered the most abundant nutrient in your body (1).
I actually prescribe water to many of my patients. The most common issues I prescribe water include:
Weight loss: A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that drinking 500ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30% (2). That’s huge and such an easy win!
Detoxification and cleansing: Drinking water increases your blood volume which in turn increases blood flow to the kidneys and liver where the blood is filtered, removing waste and toxins.
Skin problems including acne, psoriasis and eczema: Similar to the reasons water is good for detoxing and cleansing.
Constipation: This is a simple fix and commonly overlooked. If you’re not hydrated, your intestines won’t be hydrated. This means they won’t have enough fluid in them to produce a healthy bowel movement.
Headaches: Everyone knows that dehydration causes headaches, but isn’t it just easier to pop and advil instead? Don’t fall victim to this philosophy - try drinking more water.
Fatigue and brain fog: Water is abundant in every cell and necessary for metabolism. If you’re fatigued, don’t grab a dehydrating cup of coffee. Try drinking a big glass of good quality water.
The problem is that drinking water from the tap isn’t good enough. Chances are that the filter on your fridge and your filter pitcher aren’t doing you a whole lot of good either. Although we should all be thankful for clean running water, “clean" is mostly in reference to removing disease causing microbes (bacteria, viruses and fungi) from the water. There are many remaining and added toxins (added meaning resulting from the cleaning process) and even some heavy metals. These chemicals have been associated with certain cancers, birth defects and decreased IQ.
I want to expand on why tap water isn’t good for you, but if you don’t have time to read this full article and you’re looking for the solution, this is the type of water filter that I recommend to my patients and use myself.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) Filter: This is the kind of water filtration that I use and recommend to my patients. To my knowledge RO is the only type of filter that will remove fluoride. This is really important to me having found out that most of the Bay Area has fluorinated water!
If you are a renting your home and or don’t want to go through the hassle of having a RO system installed this is the perfect RO filter for you: AcuaTru.
If you own a home and are looking for a whole home solution or permeant under the sink solution this is the perfect RO filter for you: Aquasana
In addition to filtered drinking water, it’s also important to use a filter for your shower. Having filtered drinking water is fairly obvious, but did you ever stop to think about the quality of water you’re showering/bathing in? Not only do we absorb the water through our skin, but we breath in the steam.
If chlorine is the main contaminant in your water (keep reading to find out what the contaminants in your water are), I recommend this filter
If chloramine and/or chlorine is the main contamination in your water I recommend this vitamin C filter
So what exactly is in your water other than water?
The answer to this varies depending on where you live. Here are two resources to help you figure this out based on your location:
EWG what’s in your tap water: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) compiled this national drinking water database to help you find out what’s in your drinking water. Just plug in your zip code and chose your water supplier. It lists out water contaminants that exceed health guidelines and pollutants found.
Another handy resources is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can search by city and get your local water report. This includes how much fluoride and chlorine are in your water.
What’s the problem with these water contaminants?
Harm of fluoride: Oh fluoride. There has long been much controversy around this topic. Is it good for you? Or is it bad? Either way it always seemed wrong to me for a medical treatment to be imposed on the general public by adding it to the water supply. Many other countries have either rejected, banned or stopped using it (3). The most notable nail in the coffin for fluorinated water was an article published by the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, that classified fluoride as a neurotoxin (4). The article included a meta-analysis covering 27 studies done in China that suggested children exposed to fluoride in drinking water had an average decreased IQ by 7 points (5). Although the article mentions that further research on a dose dependent response would be helpful in understanding this informaiton, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not risk it for my child!
Problem with Chlorine and Chloramine. These are used to disinfect water from pathogenic microbes. It’s great we have have “clean” drinking water that doesn’t contain any pathogens, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make us sick. Chlorine in drinking water has been associated with several different types of cancer (6, 7) increased risk for miscarriages and birth defects (8). Because the roll of chlorines in our water is to disinfect if from microbes including bacteria, it’s likely that chlorine also disrupts the healthy bacteria in our gut.
BPA in water: This mostly comes from plastic water bottles so the simple fix here is to get a glass, steel or BPA free water bottle. BPA is an endocrine disruptor which means it can affect the endocrine system affecting sex hormones. It’s also linked to obesity (9). Skip the bottled water! Not only does bottled water contain BPA, most of it is just filtered tap water. Get a glass or steel water bottle and use glass glasses at home.
Pharmaceutical medications: In 2008, the Associated Press found trace amounts of pharmaceutical medications ranging from birth control pill hormones to pain killers in drinking water (10). Although the amounts aren’t high enough to considered a medical dose, we can’t be sure of the health implications.
What’s missing from our water?
Naturally occurring spring water is high in minerals from the earth. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have access to a clean, unadulterated natural spring... The next best option is to use a water filter that removes all the things we don’t want in our water. The problem is that most of these filters also remove the minerals which we do want in our water. Minerals help our body absorb and utilize the water i.e. they are hydrating. I was shocked when I started to drink RO water with minerals that I wasn’t nearly as thirsty. Although I still drink a ton of water, I don’t have that constant unrelenting thirst that I’ve experience for most of my life. The simplest way to add minerals to your water is to add a small pinch of pink himalayan sea salt which has over 70 trace minerals and no, it won’t raise your blood pressure. You can find pink himalayan sea salt at most grocery stores or online. You can also add a few drops of liquid minerals to your water.
How much water do you need?
You’ve probably heard that people need eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. This number isn’t very specific as people are all different sizes. Alternatively, the recommendation of half of your body weight in ounces is also often made. As with anything, water need is different for everyone. This need will change based on activity level, temperature, humidity, medications, food choices, the quality of your water etc. I recommend doing some self experimentation here. Try drinking half of your body weight in ounces of good quality water (i.e. reverse osmosis with at least 1 glass containing a pinch of himalayan salt or minerals) for a month and see how you feel. Have you had better energy, healthier bowel movements, less headaches, clearer skin, less cravings?
Tips to drink more water
Carry a glass or steel water bottle with you at all time and have a glass of water within direct sight at your desk or work station. Having these visual queues will remind you.
If you don’t like the taste of water (trust me I see this all the time) add fruit and herbs to your water to make it more exciting. For example, cucumber, citrus, berries, mint or basil leaves. There are even special infusion water bottles.
Have a big glass of water right when you wake up in the morning. If you’re constipated or working on your liver health add a squeeze of fresh lemon and/or 1 tbsp of raw apple cider vinegar.
Stop drinking other fluids! Most other beverages are empty calories. This includes soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, etc. Water should be the primary beverage you’re drinking with some unsweetened tea, kombucha, and vegetable juice sprinkled in there if desired.
Now if these things still aren’t helping, set a reminder on your phone that goes of between meals to remind you to drink a glass of water. I discussed this in my 8 habits for healthy digestion (link) post but avoid drinking large amounts of water (especially cold) while you’re eating as it slows digestion.
Until next time…stay hydrated!