How healthy is your drinking water?


With so many water purifiers available in the market, it gets overwhelming on which one to choose.

A good water filter should be able to remove the harmful chemicals and microbes from the water without affecting the pH of the water.

Of late with the introduction of RO systems, there has been a surge in health related problems like in-digestion, acidity and so on.

But the good news is that the effect of RO water can be  reversed by adding some herbs like vetiver to the water and by using earthen pots.

  • With many minerals dissolved in water, the potability gets affected. Some part of the minerals have to be filtered if the TDS is beyond 500 otherwise high mineral content can get deposited and cause more harm to the body.
  • This is where purification systems with reverse osmosis came into being popular. However RO water makes the pH of the water more acidic and the acidic environment in our body gives rise to a number of diseases.
  • One way of solving this problem is through the use of earthen pots to store the filtered water. These pots add some minerals and balance the pH of the water.
  • Another option is the use of vetiver roots, which provides cooling and add minerals to water negating the RO effect.

 

Potability of water

Total dissolved solids (TDS) is the term used to describe the inorganic salts and small amounts of organic matter present in solution in water. The principal constituents are usually calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium cations and carbonate, hydrogen carbonate, chloride, sulphate, and nitrate anions.

The presence of dissolved solids in water may affect its taste. The palatability of drinking water has been rated in relation to its TDS level as follows: excellent, less than 300 mg/litre while unacceptable, greater than 1200 mg/litre. Water with extremely low concentrations of TDS (<100) may also be unacceptable because of its flat, insipid taste.

TDS count of water

 

What happens when TDS is high (>500)

  • According to the report given by WHO regarding TDS of drinking water, there are studies reporting that high TDS levels were related to cardiovascular diseases and cancer14.
  • Water having TDS more than 500 ppm, results in excessive scaling in water pipes, water heaters, boilers and household appliances which may result in the damage of these appliances.

The level of TDS is helpful in selecting the right kind of water purifier for home purposes. The water filter that removes the harmful microorganisms plus ensuring that the TDS of the filtered water is around 150-300 would be the best one to opt for.

 

Demineralized water or Reverse Osmosis (RO) water

With the increase in the digestive issues, acidity, kidney problems, a number of research has been pointing out the cause to be the disruption in acid-base balance in the body. One of the possible reasons could be the use of RO water or water with TDS less than 10012,13.

Reverse Osmosis

Awareness of the importance of minerals and other beneficial constituents in drinking water has existed for thousands of years, being mentioned in the Vedas of ancient India. In the book Rig Veda, the properties of good drinking water were described as follows: “Sheetham (cold to touch), Sushihi (clean), Sivam (should have nutritive value, requisite minerals and trace elements), Istham (transparent), Vimalam lahu Shadgunam (its acid base balance should be within normal limits)”.

Demineralised water is defined as water almost or completely free of dissolved minerals as a result of distillation, deionization, membrane filtration (reverse osmosis or nanofiltration), electrodialysis or other technology. The total dissolved solids (TDS) in such water can vary but TDS could be as low as 1 mg/L.

Major minerals present in water is calcium and magnesium, which give hardness to the water amd makes it alkaline.  RO process removes upto 99% of these minerals making the water more acidic in nature.

 

Consequence of drinking RO water

Since the early 1960's, epidemiological studies in many countries all over the world have reported that water low in calcium and magnesium is associated with increased morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease.

As per the WHO report “demineralised water (distillate) have unsatisfactory organoleptic properties and it also has a definite adverse influence on the animal and human organism”.

Health impact of RO water - loss of essential minerals, does not quench thirst, negative balance with respect to water and mineral metabolism in the body, causes loss of nutrients while cooking, may lead to increase in the risk of metal toxicity

 

Possible health impact

Water very low in essential minerals will bleach out minerals from anything it comes in contact with.

  • RO treated water does not quench thirst as compared to normal filtered water. This may lead to lower intake of water resulting in various health issues. Naturally occurring minerals in the water (TDS - less than 300) makes it more sweeter and acceptable to human palate than the RO filtered water (TDS less than 100) 13.
  • It has been adequately demonstrated that consuming water of low mineral content has a negative effect on homeostasis mechanisms, compromising the mineral and water metabolism in the body. An increase in the urine output leads to an increase in the loss of various minerals like sodium and chlorine from the body leading to an overall negative balance.  Symptoms at the very beginning of this condition include tiredness, weakness and headache; more severe symptoms are muscular cramps and impaired heart rate.
  • When used for cooking, reverse osmosis water was found to cause substantial losses of all essential elements from food (vegetables, meat, cereals). Such losses may reach up to 60 % for magnesium and calcium.
  • Although drinking water may not be a major source of calcium and magnesium in our diet, they may be a significant source since they are available as free ions as compared to those that are bound to different elements in the food. This way they are readily absorbed by the body. Secondly, these minerals may prove to be beneficial especially if the diet itself is lacking in these minerals.
  • Calcium and, to a lesser extent, magnesium in water and food are known to have antitoxic activity. They can help prevent the absorption of some toxic elements such as lead and cadmium from the intestine into the blood. Hence demineralisation may increase the risk of exposure to toxic metals from water.

 

How to negate the effects of RO water

The best option is to go for a normal filter than those with RO where the TDS of the water is within 300 ppm.This way you get a hygienic drinking water with some amount of minerals in it. However if the place where you stay has a TDS of water more than 700 ppm (parts per million) and there is no choice but to use a filter with RO, then following tips can be incorporated to make the water more alkaline and reduce its ill effects on health.

Use of earthen pots 

Earthen pots have a number of benefits over using plastic or other metal containers to store water.

  • Alkaline in nature - because of its alkaline nature, earthen pots help to maintain/restore the pH balance in the water making it more health friendly.
  • Cooling properties - it has natural cooling properties due to its porosity which cools the water and make it more thirst quenching. It also helps to prevent sun stroke in summer if its water is consumed regularly.
  • Minerals - it has naturally occurring minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, silica  and so on which dissolves into the drinking water and contribute to the daily mineral requirement in the diet.

 

Use of herbs  

Vetiver roots10are the best option to put into the drinking water. It has plenty of health benefits like -

Vetiver roots
  • Boosts the immune system since it makes the water alkaline and it has high antioxidant properties. Also has a cooling property
  • Help to soothe the nerves since it lets out a fine aroma to the drinking water.
  • Through its anti-inflammatory properties, it is able to heal wounds and is useful in reducing joint pain and inflammation commonly seen in arthritis.
  • Helps to get a clear skin by stimulating new cell growth and healing any kinds of cuts or wounds and marks left by pimples and so on.

 

 

How to use vetiver roots11

Vetiver roots can be added to drinking water. The procedure is outlined below:

  • Take enough vetiver root for a pot of water. Wash the roots once to remove impurities.
  • Place vetiver inside the pot. One can also tie up the root bundle, wrap it in a cotton cloth and place it in the pot.
  • The vetiver roots are light in weight and hence they float on top.
  • Wait for 4 – 5 hours so that the extracts of the root slowly seeps into the water.
  • Immerse a glass in the pot and see the water. The water is clear but when you drink it, you can find a distinctly different taste!
  • It has a very mild and earthy flavour and will make you feel refreshed.

 


References

10 http://www.plantsjournal.com/vol1Issue1/Issue_may_2013/6.pdf

11 https://aranyaani.in/resources/ecosystem/vetiver/

12 http://un.uobasrah.edu.iq/papers/622.pdf

13 Guidance from secondary data for remineralization of RO water

14 https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/tds.pdf


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