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by Don Bennett, DAS

Water; the body's drink of choice. Water is available today with many additives such as artificial coloring, sugar, salt, phosphoric acid, carbonation, coffee beans, alcohol, hops, barley, chemicals, herbs, milk solids, fruit and vegetable solids, and a vast number of other ingredients. And water is also available in the plain variety with nothing added (hopefully).

"Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." This sentiment was uttered by someone adrift at sea; seawater being harmful to consume. Today we're fortunate to have drinking water piped right into our homes. But is this water also harmful in some way?

To prevent bacteria from hitching a ride on the municipal water supply lines, chlorine is added to kill these potential threats to our health. But unfortunately the water suppliers don't take out the chlorine at its point of use. Why? The EPA does not consider chlorine a water contaminant. This is ludicrous, but it's also politically expedient. All EPA maximum contaminant allowables are politically negotiated figures that do not necessarily have any basis in reality. Many represent a compromise between the ideal, and what can practically be done by water treatment plants. So, if the water you drink comes from your tap, many people agree it's prudent that the chlorine (and its by-products) be removed.

The first line of defense for my home drinking water is a high quality solid (as opposed to granular) carbon block filter. Carbon is the best known treatment for organic chemicals, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), pesticides, herbicides, and chlorine and its by-products. Chlorine removal is what carbon is best at, and nothing else equals carbon's ability to remove chlorine. And although carbon itself does not destroy coliform or cysts, some of the very tight solid carbon block filters now on the market do a great job at removing bacteria and cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium. You can see these filters at health101.org). These tight filters will last eight to 12 months depending on usage. A filter that promises to last three to five years can do so only because it lets everything smaller than a bowling ball pass through.

Since most municipalities add fluoride to their water, there should also be a separate fluoride filter. You can see these on the above page.

Replacing your filter cartridges when its effectiveness has diminished is very important. Some people wait until they detect a chlorine smell before replacing their cartridge. Remember, carbon filters have a different removal capacity for different contaminants. Most carbon filters will begin to allow other chemicals to pass through long before they begin to allow chlorine to pass. So to insure you're not drinking any trihalomethanes (chemicals that are formed when water containing organic matter is treated with chlorine), replace your cartridge at least once a year. And if the output flow diminishes before then, it's time for a cartridge replacement.

Some people advocate drinking distilled water. Distillation removes the water from everything else that was in it. I started out using a distiller, but now use only the carbon + fluoride filters. If I were seriously ill, I'd drink distilled water (that I made myself) because it would have the added benefit of relieving my body of the task of filtering out the inorganic minerals that are in water (minerals our body can't use; they're used by plant-life).

Because distillation removes everything from the water, some people add minerals to it to make the water more alkaline. This is unnecessary; your diet does more to affect your body's acid/alkaline properties than the pH of your water (as you've seen, animal products are very acid forming). And some folks believe that drinking distilled water leaches minerals out of your body, but this is a myth. (And machines that say they make "alkaline water" for drinking are a gimmick and are a waste of money.)

Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a system that forces water through a membrane. Some of these systems can dump up to three gallons of water down the drain for every one gallon they purify. And if the membrane inside the tank develops a tear, you’d have no way of knowing that you’re now drinking unfiltered tap water. A high quality solid carbon block filter is adequate for most water sources, but some water supplies that contain radionuclides should have a solid carbon filter combined with a high quality RO system (see the article The Hazards of Water Fluoridation here at health101.org).


"I have a whole house filter, so my drinking water is healthy to drink, right?"

The one issue with a whole house filter is that it must pass sufficient water through it to allow for a sufficient flow for things like washing machines and showers. At that flow rate, certain chemicals can't be adequately removed. That's why the best drinking water filters have a slow flow rate... a rate that would not be tolerable for a shower or a washing machine. The better water treatment companies are honest about this and will recommend a point-of-use filter for your drinking water in addition to a whole house filter. But some companies don't because they want the sale, and want to keep the installed cost as low as possible because of competition. BTW, fluoride removal is one of those substances that requires really low flow.


Getting a goodly amount of water (and most people consume way too little), would necessitate a lot of lugging of store-bought water. That's one reason I purify my own. The other reason is that some bottled water can contain unfiltered tap water (bottled water regulations are ridiculous).

Another thing to keep in mind: If you're eating mostly fruits and vegetables, which are medium to high water-content foods, and you're not consuming any diuretics (things that cause the body to pull water out of its tissues to dilute irritants like spicy or salty foods, alcoholic beverages, teas, coffee, and drugs), you wouldn't need to drink the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (or half your body weight in ounces)… this is for people who eat a low water-content diet filled with various diuretics, which is most people. But you still need to drink according to thirst.

Make water your first meal of the day. When you've been breathing relatively dry air (compared to the humidity level in your lungs), you've dehydrated yourself while sleeping. First thing in the morning is a good time for replenishment (assuming you have an empty stomach). Then don't eat for at least 20 minutes.

It's best not to drink with meals, this dilutes digestive juices impeding digestion (and if you're eating high water-content foods, you won't feel the need to drink with a meal). Drinking immediately after a meal does the same thing.

If you indulge in diuretics or low or no water-content foods, you are dehydrating yourself.

If you're not regularly going to the bathroom, you're not drinking enough. If you get thirsty, it's time to drink. If you put off drinking when your body says drink, you'll become dehydrated, and dehydration is a major contributing factor to ill-health. The best thing you can do to prevent delayed drinking is to carry water with you at all times.

Although most people suffer from sub-clinical dehydration because they don't drink enough water, you can also drink too much water. People who run and sweat a lot often over-indulge on water either because they're trying to "stay ahead of thirst", or because they're dehydrating themselves, getting thirsty, and then over-drink.


Athletes should drink water only when thirsty

A health and performance rule cherished by 30 million American runners, and legions of other exercise enthusiasts, is dangerous, has no basis in scientific fact, and should be trashed. That's the message going out to doctors about the idea that athletes should "stay ahead of your thirst," drinking as much water as possible during strenuous exercise even if they don't feel thirsty. The new advice: "Listen to your thirst," and consume only as much water to quench it. It finally is trickling out to a broader audience, months after growing acceptance by a sports community long uncertain about the actual amount of fluid athletes should drink for good health and peak performance. "Perhaps the best advice is that drinking according to the personal dictates of thirst seems to be safe and effective." - Dr. Timothy D. Noakes.


Although you can dehydrate yourself by eating a dehydrating diet, there are other things people do that are very dehydrating. Take the case of an avid runner who runs so intensely that he sweats... a lot. You're really not supposed to be sweating that much. Perspiration is a defense mechanism, it's the body's way of cooling itself when it is overheated (via the evaporative cooling effect).

Some people who over-exercise try to keep from becoming dehydrated by drinking a lot of water. But if you drink till you're about to burst, you've over-drank, which can cause hyponatremia, which is an electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium concentration in the blood is lower than normal; in the vast majority of cases hyponatremia occurs as a result of excess body water diluting the blood sodium, and is not due to sodium deficiency (and this excess is from drinking too much water).

To suggest that being an "athlete" can over-burden the body, and that people would be better served by adopting a sensible program of physical activity, would no doubt be scoffed at by some of the athletic community. It is known that avid runners can damage their hearts and knees, but this usually falls on deaf ears; endorphins and the desire to have that "look'n good" body are very powerful motivators, and can often get in the way of good sense. Unfortunately the term "moderation" is not in the vocabulary of those who push their bodies to the max.

Between the sports drink industry and the "to the max" physical activity enthusiasts, recognizing correct information is difficult at best. But common sense to the rescue! As long as you're not emotionally addicted to the physical rush of endorphins (and you don't own stock in a sports drink company), you can figure out what and how much you should be drinking as long as you remember...

1. Unattended thirst = dehydration, and dehydration = cellular debilitation, and that's very unhealthy, especially when you do it on a regular basis.

2. Don't over-do activities to the point of severe thirst. Remember that perspiration is a defense mechanism; if you're sweating, your body is over-heated.

3. Water and water alone is the best hydrator; the minerals the sports drink companies rave about are supposed to come from fruits and green leafy veggies (and when they do, they're much more usable by the body). If you're sweating out so many minerals that you need to drink them, you're sweating too much.

4. If you are suffering from signs of dehydration, try to drink cold water; it will get to where it needs to go faster than room temperature water. And don't eat immediately after drinking; leave time for the water to re-hydrate you, and then eat ripe bananas and leafy greens.


Shower water is a source of toxins too!

It is possible to absorb more chlorine through the skin from unfiltered shower water than it is from the little bit of water you'd drink directly from the tap! So if you don't have a whole house filter, it is highly advisable to install a point-of-use filter on your shower arm. This is a great one from a great company (I'd get the silver metal housing... and this is not an affiliate link.)


So let's drink to our good health! And let's drink healthy water.

Click here to see some great water filters.*

*These are sold by Pure Water Products; in my opinion, the BEST water filter retailer in the country.

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