Just when we thought we'd heard it all, the media finds another way to astound us. If you believe the headlines now buzzing through the internet and the airwaves, it seems that drinking too much water can lead to a state of “water intoxication,” turn you into an "aquaholic," and even kill you. Heaven help us!!!
And what triggered this hysteria? It was a study on hyponatremia (low blood sodium) that appeared just last month in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). A reasonable study, but as the press has “translated” it, it seems that a number of us are “aquaholics,” at risk of convulsions, coma, and even death. New recommendations suggest that you now “only drink when you are thirsty.” But, before we jump to conclusions, let's step back and take a closer look at the study that launched a thousand hysterical headlines and the actual problem it addresses.
First, it is true that if you are exercising heavily, drinking a lot of water without proper electrolytes (current conducting minerals such as sodium and potassium), it will dilute the salt in your blood, thereby creating high osmotic pressure on your cells. Eventually, this leads to the aforementioned condition called hyponatremia. However, if you actually look at the NEJM study, the participants were marathon runners (high-intensity athletes), and of the 488 runners who gave blood at the end of the race, only 13% had low levels of salt – certainly not enough to warrant “water addiction” hysteria for the general public.
More importantly, the condition is not necessarily caused by drinking too much water, but, more so, by not having enough minerals and electrolytes in the blood. The body is a system. You can't just drink water – nor for that matter, just take vitamins and minerals. You need a healthy balance of pure water, exercise, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. You're only as strong as your weakest link.
The truth is that the headlines warning about drinking too much water are not so much alarming as they are downright irresponsible – especially considering that 75% of the world's population is chronically dehydrated. Next to oxygen, water is the most essential element in our physiology, accounting for approximately 60% of the weight of an average person and nearly two thirds of our complete structure. We can survive for weeks without food, but only days without water. Water comprises 80% of blood, 73% of the brain, 73% of muscle, and 22% of bone. Without ample reserves of this critical fluid, many major body processes – such as movement of blood, nerve impulses, hormones, lymph fluid, nutrients, and waste in and out of cells – would be critically compromised.
Drinking enough water is so essential that many studies show that it can reduce everything from joint pain to your odds of getting cancer. For instance, 80% of joint pain sufferers in one US study experienced relief when they started drinking 8-10 glasses a day. Others showed that just 5 glasses of water a day decreased the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50% and breast cancer by an astounding 79%. (Eat your heart out Tamoxifen!) In fact, a mere 2% reduction in body water can result in a drop in short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or the words on a printed page.
So how much water do you need? Well one thing's for sure. If you follow the new rules and just drink when you're thirsty, you're in trouble. The problem is that most people are already dehydrated, and when you're in a state of dehydration, your thirst mechanism is in a state of failure and no longer serves as a reliable indicator of dehydration. In fact, in 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak it is often mistaken for hunger. The best guarantee of proper hydration is to consume 64 to 96 ounces of pure water a day. But finding “pure” water is not as easy as you think.
State and government officials have worked hard to create clean water, and to their credit, cholera is rarely a problem in the western world. Compared to coutries such as Ghana and Malaysia, which as recently as May 16, were forced to issue public health alerts for cholera, most countries are in good shape.
Unfortunately, cholera isn't the only problem. The truth is that there are some 2,100 toxic chemicals that can now be found in "clean" municipal water supplies – chemicals known to cause cancer, cell mutation, and nervous disorders. And when it comes to these industrial chemicals, governments don't insist they be eliminated – only that they fall within the recommended levels of these chemicals (in the US, those guidelines were established by the US Government's Safe Water Drinking Act). Unfortunately, the guidelines are not as stringent as one would hope, nor are they always followed. Not surprisingly, the EPA estimates that 53 million Americans unknowingly drink tap water that is polluted with feces, radiation, or other contaminants, and that 45 million drink water contaminated with the parasite cryptosporidium that killed more 100 people in Milwaukee in 1993. And, the US is hardly alone – or hardly the worst.
One thing governments CAN do, however, is restrict the use of fluoridation. Although supported by organizations such as the American Dental Association and the American Medical Association, it is disapproved of by the New England Journal of Medicine, the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences, and the EPA. And fluoridated water is banned in Finland, Holland, Sweden, France, Germany, Chile, and Japan. More surprisingly, the EPA and National Institute of Environmental and Health Services show evidence that fluoride causes cancer. Other studies have stated that excess fluoride suppresses the immune system, causes mouth, throat and bone cancer, emphysema-like respiratory conditions, skin lesions, liver and kidney damage, neurological disorders, chronic diseases, miscarriages, vision problems, brittle bones, and mottled teeth.
And then, of course, there is the simple warning statement on every tube of toothpaste sold in America. In April 1997, the Food and Drug Administration mandated that every tube carry the warning to keep toothpaste “out of the reach of children under 6 years of age,” along with the ominous advice, “In case of accidental ingestion contact a Poison Control Center immediately.”
Over 15 years ago in a number of issues of the LifeStyle Resources Report (the forerunner to this newsletter), I was telling people to avoid fluoride. I also mentioned back then that, despite what you heard to the contrary, there was no convincing evidence that fluoridated water made even one iota of difference in the incidence of dental caries. Now a decade and a half later (after incalculable harm to millions of people), the Journal of Dental Research has concluded that tooth decay rates in Western Europe, which is 98 percent un-fluoridated, have declined as much as they have in the US in recent decades. In other words, it is now proven that fluoridating water has zero impact on the incidence of dental cavities. There is now only one reason for adding fluoride to drinking water: it generates huge profits for the companies (and their lobbyists) that provide it to the municipal water companies. And that's just not a good enough reason for you to drink it.
The bottom line is that finding pure water can take some effort. You need to treat the water that comes into your house to remove the chlorine, fluoride, chemical residues, heavy metals, bacteria, parasites, etc. in your water. And, you need to remove all of these toxins not only at the tap where you drink, but also where you bathe and shower. So how do you do it? You really only have 4 choices.
- Get a system for the entire house that treats the water where it enters your house. This is obviously the most expensive way to answer the problem, but if you actually get a good system that removes all of the toxins, it's the best way to go.
- There's no question that a good water distiller will provide the "cleanest" water you can get, but you need to be sure it incorporates a charcoal filter, since toxins like chlorine vaporize and re-condense along with the water you're trying to clean. There's one other question to consider. Distilled water, by definition, has no mineral content. It is electrically dead. If you drink distilled water, it's essential that you “re-mineralize” it before drinking.
- Reverse osmosis units produce a good quality drinking water. The problem I have with them is that they waste a huge amount of water – many gallons of waste for each gallon of usable water. I'm not really sure that's justifiable nowadays with the looming water shortage we face.
- A good water filter is probably your best bet, but keep in mind that it will cost you more than $29.95 or even $100. To find one that will truly remove ALL of the bad stuff, while leaving in the beneficial minerals, you will need to pay $250-$300. A good example is the Aquaspace AQ-425 (Triple Counter Top). I've worked out an arrangement with them so that they pass on my 20% dealer discount to anyone who uses my name when they order.
Lastly, don't count on beverages like tea and coffee to hydrate you. They're actually diuretics. Also, avoid soda pop and other packaged beverages, including most sports drinks, as a means to hydrate. They're heavily loaded with sugar – or even worse, artificial sweeteners.
By the way, I recommend "magnetizing" your water to raise pH, lower the surface tension, and make it bio available. If you want, you can make a jar that will magnetize your water for just a couple of dollars.
Bottom line: drink lots of water, but to avoid the new hyponatremia hysteria, simply add soluble major/trace minerals to your water. These minerals help conduct and generate billions of tiny electrical impulses and help balance body fluids, fluid pressures, and pH. Don't be influenced by the media madness and remember to drink 8-12 glasses of water throughout the day.
And one final thought. If you want more information about all the different ways your water might be killing you, you probably should read Chapter 11 of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors. As always, you can download a free copy here.