What's in Your H20? A Guide to Healthy Drinking Water
Maintaining optimum health requires that we drink high quality water in sufficient quantities every day. Yet, with so many bottled water brands and home water filtration systems on the market, the options can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you compare products and make informed choices. With a little research you can secure a healthy drinking water supply for you and your family. In order to understand what various manufacturers offer in the way of bottled water products and water filtration systems, it is helpful to consider the following properties of healthy water:
- pH (acidity vs. alkalinity)
- Minerals and other contaminants (good vs bad)
- Electron charge (water as antioxidant)
- Molecular cluster size (cell membrane permeability)
pH Between 7.5 and 9
Water can be measured for its degree of acidity or alkalinity on a scale of 1 (extremely acidic) to 14 (extremely alkaline) with 7 as the neutral midpoint. A pH on either end of the spectrum indicates a caustic solution, such as battery acid (pH 1) or lye (pH 13). The pH of naturally occurring water generally ranges between 6.5 and 9. PPNF vice-president David Getoff, CCN, CTN, FAAIM, has found in his nutrition practice that many people will benefit from drinking water in its natural state, typically between 7.5 and 9. Drinking alkaline water apart from meals can help your body balance food or beverage consumption in the acid range. However, if you choose to drink water with a pH above 9, it is best done under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner. You can measure the pH of water, or any liquid, with pH test strips available at many pharmacies. Getoff’s preferred brand, SEOH, is available at some laboratory supply companies and online. Be sure to test the tap and filtered water in your home and any bottled water you might drink to determine their pH levels. If you regularly drink water below 7, you are doing your health a disservice and should search for water that is at least neutral on the pH scale.
Beneficial minerals vs. harmful contaminants
Since H2O is made from molecules of hydrogen and oxygen, any other ingredient is considered a contaminant. All naturally occurring water contains a variety of contaminants. Beneficial contaminants occur in the form of minerals you might find in a vitamin/mineral supplement. Harmful contaminants include chlorine, fluoride, lead, asbestos, pesticide/herbicide/fungicide residues, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), trihalomethane (THM), as well as nitrates/nitrites from chemical fertilizers, sulfates/sulfites from laundry detergents, and residuals from pharmaceutical compounds. A total dissolved solids, or, TDS, is a measurement of minerals in drinking water. This measurement includes not only magnesium and calcium (hardness factors) but other beneficial minerals as well. Frequently, hard water possesses a higher TDS rating.
A number of studies point to a positive correlation between a high hardness factor/TDS rating and increased health benefits. Water researcher Martin Fox, Ph.D., suggests a water hardness rating of 170 mg/L and a TDS rating of 300 mg/L are optimal. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group created a National Drinking Water Database and compiled a Big City Water Ratings guide to compare the tap water in 100 cities with populations over 250,000. Additionally, utility companies are required by law to provide consumers with a water quality report at least once a year and to alert the public with specific violations of water quality. Call your local utility company or check online for their Annual Water Quality Report (also called the Consumer Confidence Report). Once you know what is in your water and what you want to take out, you can make better choices for filtration devices and systems.
Electron charge and antioxidant water
Water can carry an electron charge which turns it into an antioxidant. When tap water is ionized, electrolysis is used to split the H2O into its alkaline and acid components. Ionization produces alkaline water for drinking and acid (brine) water, which is beneficial as a cleaning agent, for watering plants and a myriad of other uses. Ionized alkaline water tends to behave as an antioxidant, carrying oxygen through the bloodstream and neutralizing free radicals. The antioxidant capacity of liquids is measured by its oxidation-reduction potential or redox potential (ORP) value. ORP measures the potential in millivolts (mV) for one liquid substance to reduce the oxidation of another substance. The lower the ORP level, the more powerful the antioxidant potential. ORP rises when substances oxidize. While tap water can range between +250 to +500 ORP, alkaline ionized water can range anywhere between - 200 to - 800 ORP.
Water cluster size and cell membrane permeability
Water can occur with varied sizes of molecule clusters. The larger the number of molecules of water that are clustered together, the more difficult it is for that cluster to enter and exit cell membranes. Smaller clusters of H2O molecules have greater cell membrane permeability and appear to offer potential health benefits associated with enhanced cell hydration and waste product removal. Tap water typically contains larger clusters of H2O molecules, often in the upward range of 11 -13 molecules per cluster, whereas micro-clustered or ionized water typically contains smaller clusters of H2O molecules, often in the range of 4–7 molecules per cluster. The process of ionization restructures water into smaller clusters of H2O molecules. Studies done to analyze the healing waters of the world, such as the water at Lourdes, in France, tend to indicate these waters share the following beneficial properties:
- pH higher than 7
- Not contaminated with toxic residues
- H2O molecules in smaller cluster sizes
- Keep these beneficial properties in mind when considering the various filtration systems and devices available. While you may not have access to the healing waters of Lourdes, you can create your own healthy drinking water source from the tap water in your home.
- Fox, Martin, PhD. “Healthy Water” booklet, a 1998 summary of Healthy Water for a Longer Life. 2d ed. 1986. Portsmouth NH: Healthy Water Research.
- Getoff, David J., CNC, ND. 1999. “Water, Water Everywhere: But Which Ones Should We Drink?” Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing.