THE IMPORTANCE OF WATER AND HUMAN HEALTH
“I’m dying of thirst!”
Well, you just might. It sounds so simple. H20. Two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. But this substance better known as water, is the most essential element, next to air, to our survival. Water truly is everywhere, still most take it for granted.
Water makes up more than two thirds of the weight of the human body, and without it, we would die in a few days. The human brain is made up of 95% water, blood is 82% and lungs 90%. A mere 2% drop in our body’s water supply can trigger signs of dehydration: fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on smaller print, such as a computer screen. (Are you having trouble reading this? Drink up!) Mild dehydration is also one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue. An estimated seventy-five percent of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration. That’s a pretty scary statistic for a developed country, where water is readily available through the tap or bottle.
Water is important to the mechanics of the human body. The body cannot work without it, just as a car cannot run without gas and oil. In fact, all the cell and organ functions made up in our entire anatomy and physiology depend on water for their functioning.
In addition to the daily maintenance of our bodies, water also plays a key role in the prevention of disease. Drinking eight glasses of water daily can decrease the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50% and it can potentially even reduce the risk of breast cancer. And those are just a few examples! As you follow other links on our website, you can read more in depth about how water can aid in the prevention and cure of many types of diseases, ailments and disorders that affect the many systems of our bodies.
Since water is such an important component to our physiology, it would make sense that the quality of the water should be just as important as the quantity. Drinking water should always be clean and free of contaminants to ensure proper health and wellness.
HEALTH RISKS OF HEAVY METALS
Like heavy metal? Think again.
We’re not talking Ozzy here, but in fact heavy metals that can be very harmful to your health if found in your drinking water.
Severe effects include reduced growth and development, cancer, organ damage, nervous system damage, and in extreme cases, death. Exposure to some metals, such as mercury and lead, may also cause development of autoimmunity, in which a person’s immune system attacks its own cells. This can lead to joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and diseases of the kidneys, circulatory system, and nervous system.
The young are more prone to the toxic effects of heavy metals, as the rapidly developing body systems in the fetus, infants and young children are far more sensitive. Childhood exposure to some metals can result in learning difficulties, memory impairment, damage to the nervous system, and behavioural problems such as aggressiveness and hyperactivity. At higher doses, heavy metals can cause irreversible brain damage. Children may receive higher doses of metals from food than adults, since they consume more food for their body weight than adults.
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Toxic metals can be present in industrial, municipal, and urban runoff, which can be harmful to humans and aquatic life. Increased urbanization and industrialization are to blame for an increased level of trace metals, especially heavy metals, in our waterways. There are over 50 elements that can be classified as heavy metals, 17 of which are considered to be both very toxic and relatively accessible. Toxicity levels depend on the type of metal, it’s biological role, and the type of organisms that are exposed to it.
The heavy metals linked most often to human poisoning are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Other heavy metals, including copper, zinc, and chromium, are actually required by the body in small amounts, but can also be toxic in larger doses.
Heavy metals in the environment are caused by air emissions from coal-burning plants, smelters, and other industrial facilities; waste incinerators; process wastes from mining and industry; and lead in household plumbing and old house paints. Industry is not totally to blame, as heavy metals can sometimes enter the environment through natural processes. For example, in some parts of the U.S., naturally occurring geologic deposits of arsenic can dissolve into groundwater, potentially resulting in unsafe levels of this heavy metal in drinking water supplies in the area. Once released to the environment, metals can remain for decades or centuries, increasing the likelihood of human exposure.
In addition to drinking water, we can be exposed to heavy metals through inhalation of air pollutants, exposure to contaminated soils or industrial waste, or consumption of contaminated food. Because of contaminated water, food sources such as vegetables, grains, fruits, fish and shellfish can also become contaminated by accumulating metals from the very soil and water it grows from.
Difference between Organic and Inorganic Minerals
We hear day in and day out that we need more minerals. “Vitamins and minerals” are words that go hand in hand when promotion healthy diet items and supplements. In fact, the body needs about 70 different minerals to carry out all the functions a body is required to do. But many may not realize there are two types of minerals: organic and inorganic. Between those two types, it may be easy to recognize which one does a body good. Ever hear people tout the benefits of an inorganic diet?
Here is a brief overview of the differences between these two:
Organic minerals– these are once living, or are living and can bring life to cells. These contain carbon, and their electrons spin clockwise, just like those of the human body. Additionally, these cells can form an ionic bond with the body and can easily break down into materials to help with bodily function, such as tissue repair.
Inorganic materials– these were never living, without carbon and cannot bring life to cells. The body treats these metals like toxins and are tightly held together; they cannot be easily broken down. And, their electrons spin counterclockwise, out of sync with the rest of the body.
Let’s look further at what negative effects inorganic minerals have. Inorganic minerals are removed from water during nature’s water cycle, that is, during evaporation from the sun, only the water itself is removed, with the inorganic chemicals behind. The distillation process is one filtering process that mimics what nature does on its own. So, why are these minerals removed from pure drinking water?
Inorganic minerals are picked up as the water supply runs through the ground. These inorganic, or non-living, minerals cannot be utilized by humans or animals. However, plants can. And, they are the organisms that turn them into the organic minerals we can use through photosynthesis. But, the inorganic minerals that pass into our drinking water cannot help us and can in fact, harm us.
This is because inorganic chemicals cannot absorb as nutrition into the cell walls and thus gets deposited elsewhere into the body. This can cause arthritis, joint pain, kidney and gallstones and even clogged arteries. Lime (calcium carbonate) is one of these minerals. Just think about what that does to your bathtub! Yeah- takes a special cleaner and a lot of elbow grease to scratch the surface of those deposits. (Remember- this is the main ingredient in cement!) In fact, some people suffer from such high concentrations of lime that their hands and fingers can become massively disfigured.
Dr. Norman W. Walker, who wrote a book on this area of water, says that of a person drinks two pints of water a day in a 70-year life span, it will total 4,500 gallons. If it is not distilled, Dr. Walker estimates this water will include 200 to 300 pounds of rock, including lime, magnesium and other mineral deposits that the body cannot use. He does note that much of this will be collected by the body’s water, blood and lymph systems to be eliminated through excretory channels. However, some of will stay in the body, causing those problems mentioned above.
Does your water contain these inorganic minerals? Fill up a pot and let it evaporate. As note above, the water cycle only takes the hydrogen and oxygen from the liquid and leaves behind what else is left. If you’ve got mineral deposits in your pot, you may want to look into getting only distilled water or getting a reverse osmosis filtration system.
According to recent news and reports, most tap and well water in the U.S. are not safe for drinking due to heavy industrial and environmental pollution. Toxic bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals routinely penetrate and pollute our natural water sources making people sick while exposing them to long term health consequences such as liver damage, cancer and other serious conditions. We have reached the point where all sources of our drinking water, including municipal water systems, wells, lakes, rivers, and even glaciers, contain some level of contamination. Even some brands of bottled water have been found to contain high levels of contaminants in addition to plastics chemical leaching from the bottle.
WATER AND PETS
You’ve seen it; even probably done it. Drinking bottled water, or filtered water from the refrigerator while your cat, dog or other pet’s water bowl is filled from that, ugh, tap. Why should our furry (or scaly) companions drink lower quality water than us?
We all know that public water systems can contain certain levels of bacteria. But we knew that- that’s why we are drinking the “safe” water. Still, many continue to feed fill pet bowls with tap water. Animals, like humans, need water to survive. And, like humans, animals are about 80% water. So, most animal experts will agree that pets should be given the same quality water as humans: bottled and/or filtered. As stated earlier, municipal and well water can contain many harmful things, even parasites. And, they don’t discriminate between pets and people!
One of these parasites is Giardia, a single-celled organism that ends up living in the mucous lining of the intestines. This parasite can cause diarrhea in animals as well as humans. If a puppy or kitten is suffering malnutrition, the effects of Giardia can be worse. Treatment in the form of antiprozoal drugs can be administered to infected animals.
There are also things in water that can cause cancer- just like in humans. (Fluoride, for one.) Giving a pet filtered water will remove a potentially sickness-causing organism or metal from being ingested.
Cats and dogs, the two most common pets, need fresh water and plenty of it. On a side note, cats are very finicky about their water; they like it fresh. The longer the water sits out, the more oxygen it loses.
Fish, who live in water, can be greatly affected by water with high levels of chlorine or ammonia; chemical used in some treatment plants. A certain pH value is needed in tank water for fish to have a proper living environment. Also, poor quality water can be more prone to ‘bad’ algae. Check with your aquarium retailer for specifics.
For amphibians and more “wet” pets, they do not drink water, bit absorb it. Frogs, salamanders and others in this category need water to absorb through their skin and the higher that quality, the longer they will live. If one finds a tadpole and wants to keep it as a pet, it is best to not use tap water; they are very sensitive to water quality.
One more note of interest. It doesn’t really matter what type of water is used in a pet’s bowl if the bowl is not cleaned frequently. Bacteria can grow from mold in the air in your pet’s bowl. (That’s what those growths are!) So, clean the bowl often and keep it filled with fresh, filtered water. Additionally, drinking more water can also reduce urinary tract disorders in cats and dogs.
With water being a crucial part of a pet’s health, it is no wonder that many pet supply manufacturers offer water fountains, water filters, special bowls, special dispensers and more. When it comes down to it though, a normal stainless steel or glass bowl filled with water from a home-filtration system works well.