by Frederic Patenaude
Editor’s Note from Lee Euler: This is a fascinating article about drinking water that deals with many questions I’ve wondered about for years.
One of the big ones is about those expensive machines that alkalinize your water. Do they do you any good? Our guest columnist Frederic Patenaude tackles the question. Keep reading for his answer to that, and much more. . .
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Mr. Patenaude’s article below also discusses whether mineral supplements are as effective as mineral-rich foods, and whether drinking distilled water leaches minerals out of your body and wrecks your health.
I’m not saying his is the last word, but his viewpoint seemed so sensible to me I asked the publisher of this article, my good friend Kevin Gianni, if I could run it here. He was kind enough to say yes, and he is also offering a guide on how to make sure you’re getting safe, high quality water. In the guide, other leading experts on natural health tell you practically everything you could ever want to know about healthy drinking water. Go here — — and you get it for $20 off if you use this coupon code: WATERSPC8. I also recommend Kevin’s excellent website at www.renegadehealth.com — Lee Euler
Tips for Choosing the Best Drinking Water
We know that water is of great importance. The surface of the earth and our bodies are made up of approximately 72% water.
Although water appears to be a very simple element — H20 — a lot of confusion and hype exists in the field of natural health when it comes to what kind of water to drink.
For example, you may at some point ask yourself:
•How much water do I really need?
•What is the best kind of water to drink?
•Is distilled water good or bad for me?
•Should I be worried about the quality of tap water?
•Do I need “living” water?
•Do I need an expensive ionizer?
•What is the best purification method?
There is so much confusion about water, but more importantly, so much bad science out there. Based on recent discussions that recently surfaced on the Internet about water products, I present to you in this post accurately researched information that will hopefully make it much easier and cost-effective to get water, in the right amounts, in your body.
Minerals in Water
“Can minerals in water actually be assimilated by the human body or are they better assimilated when they come from food sources?”
It’s much better to obtain minerals from our food instead of from our water. But that doesn’t mean that minerals from water won’t be absorbed by the body. It just won’t be a very effective way and most will be lost. That’s why so many supplements are a waste of time.
Most minerals are best absorbed when attached to some sort of protein molecule. This has to do with the stomach lining. It’s just best suited for proper absorption in that form. Calcium in water is a salt, which means that it has a positive ion and a negative ion. You can absorb it to a degree but when we are talking about efficiency, it’s better when it’s attached to other molecules.
So overall, you can absorb only a tiny amount of the minerals in the water you drink, so it’s better to plan getting them from food instead!
The Difference Between “Organic”
and Non-Organic Minerals
I heard many times from raw-food circles that only minerals in plants can be assimilated by the human body. Rock minerals or minerals in water are not assimilable. In some Natural Hygiene books, minerals from plants are called “organic” minerals and those from rocks are called “non-organic”.
Some people have even claimed that the cooking process turns organic minerals into toxic, non-organic ones.
I did some research for people who are interested in this topic, so this next section is going to be a bit technical.
I apologize about that but if you want the quick answer: minerals in plants are best but we can still assimilate a tiny amount of minerals found in water and other sources.
Here’s the longer answer:
How well a mineral ion is absorbed in the body depends on the environment it is in.
The stomach acids break everything down while the intestines reduce the acidity so that it can better absorb what was eaten.
So in doing so, additional anions, (negatively charged ions that the body produces) may bind with the mineral ions that you ate. So while you need iron in your diet, sucking on an iron bar is likely not going to help you.
In your body, iron is surrounded by the heme molecule. Many of the trace minerals in your body have some sort of protein molecule attached to them. This prevents the mineral ion from reacting with the alkaline chemicals your body produces. In many cases these protein molecules effectively surround these metal ions.
It helps with better absorption because some of these molecules can easily attach themselves to the intestine. This doesn’t mean that a non-organic mineral is useless. It just means that once ingested, it has to “compete” with the chemicals that the body produces for proper absorption, with other mineral ions, and bind with protein molecules to attach to the intestine to be absorbed.
Plant sources already have the minerals attached to these biomolecules and hence are better absorbed.
Alkaline Water Scams
Can you explain why the pH of water is not of concern to human health? Can you comment on companies selling machines to make “alkaline water”?
A lot of people imagine that we have to worry about the pH of our water.
What they don’t realize is that even in nature, the pH of water will vary from one type of water to the next. PH of pure water is always 7.0, i.e it is neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline.
When certain minerals (also called salts) are dissolved in water, its pH may vary and it may become acidic or basic according to the properties of the minerals dissolved.
In the body, when we consume water, along with its minerals, food and other components, they all reach the stomach.
The gastric juices are highly acidic and all the food exiting the stomach into the intestine is highly acidic. Bile neutralizes these acids and makes the food alkaline.
Thus, when water and food passes through the stomach it will always be acidic and in the intestines it will always be alkaline irrespective of the original pH of our diet.
Urine is the only body fluid that can have its acidity changed by food or supplements.The rest of the body pH cannot be changed by anything you eat or drink.
The machines claiming to sell alkaline water use pseudoscientific hype with use of some technical terms to support claims that cannot be substantiated medically or scientifically.
It is just a very expensive way of consuming calcium tablets!
Most people who have spent a lot of money on such machines and believe it has had a positive effect on their lives are probably going through a placebo effect, which means if you think something is going to make you better, it probably will.
It is an established medical phenomenon and it is observed in about 40% of people taking placebo medication in drug trials.
There is some supporting research that alkalized water is beneficial and is used by the food industry to wash fruits and vegetables to remove and destroy harmful bacteria and viruses.
But once it is ingested, any alkalinity is neutralized by the acids. There is no evidence that drinking or ingesting alkalized water is beneficial to human health.
So the machine may be good to wash your fruits and vegetables in. While it is not beneficial to drink it is also not harmful but I think there are better things to spend money on.
“Can you comment on water ionizers and their alleged health benefits?”
There are no reported health benefits to water ionizers. I think the main attraction is the free radical scavenging properties and the fact that they have been effective against bacteria and viruses in washing fruits and vegetables.
But when ingested, the body will “seek” to bring ionized water to the pH it needs for its own purposes. So it won’t alkalize the body or the blood.
In the studies I have read, some of the papers are interesting. The Ionizers are effective disinfectants. But using them for that purpose is very expensive.
Distilled Water and Health
“I heard that drinking distilled water can leach minerals from your body. Is this true?”
A lot of people believe distilled water to be dangerous based on information read on the Internet or other Natural Health books. In fact, here’s what Dr. Mercola has to say about this:
“Many health fanatics, however, are often surprised to hear me say that drinking distilled water on a regular, daily basis is potentially dangerous.
“Paavo Airola wrote about the dangers of distilled water in the 1970s when it first became a fad with the health food crowd… Distilled water is free of dissolved minerals and, because of this, has the special property of being able to actively absorb toxic substances from the body and eliminate them.
“Studies validate the benefits of drinking distilled water when one is seeking to cleanse or detoxify the system for short periods of time (a few weeks at a time).
“Fasting using distilled water can be dangerous because of the rapid loss of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) and trace minerals like magnesium, deficiencies of which can cause heart beat irregularities and high blood pressure. Cooking foods in distilled water pulls the minerals out of them and lowers their nutrient value.”
At this point, I will agree with the conclusion that distilled water is not the best kind of water to drink, but will also point out that a lot of what Dr. Mercola said in his article (which you can find at: http://www.mercola.com/article/water/distilled_water.htm) is almost certainly mistaken.
Water, whether it is found in a spring or the tap, contains trace elements and minerals.
If the water is distilled, in that it is devoid of all minerals, it will draw from its stores, what it needs for biological processes (for example: the calcium in your bones).
So calcium in your bones, the biggest mineral store, will be used.
Distilled water is used to remove toxins from the body. It is what is used in kidney dialysis machines to cleanse the blood of toxins. It can also reduce potassium which is needed for proper heart function. Same with magnesium.
Distilled water can and does remove minerals from the body.
But fortunately, I don’t think there’s any evidence that this would be very dramatic — as long as you get enough minerals from your food in order to offset this.
In one article on Dr. Mercola’s website, it was claimed that: “There is a correlation between the consumption of soft water (distilled water is extremely soft) and the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Cells, tissues and organs do not like to be dipped in acid and will do anything to buffer this acidity including the removal of minerals from the skeleton and the manufacture of bicarbonate in the blood.”
Here, Mercola is dead wrong on the issue!
Distilled water is neither acidic nor alkaline! What happens is that the body removes minerals from various parts of the body to use the minerals it needs for biological function.
It’s not like acid is streaming through the body and dissolving your bones!
Overall, I think that drinking water that has some mineral ions in it is best, but I don’t think that drinking distilled water can be bad for health if you get minerals from other sources, such as a diet abundant in fruits and vegetables.
Dr. Mercola Continues:
“Those who supplement their distilled water intake with trace minerals are not as deficient but still not as adequately nourished in minerals as their non-distilled water drinking counterparts even after several years of mineral supplementation. The ideal water for the human body should be slightly alkaline and this requires the presence of minerals like calcium and magnesium”
There is no study, as far as I know, that shows that people drinking distilled water aren’t as adequately nourished as their non-distilled counterparts.
There will be too many factors to take into account.
I guess he is correct that the presence of the minerals will make the water slightly alkaline but drawing the conclusion of alkaline “good” and acidic “bad” is hardly scientific!
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998. He is the author of several books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies.
He was named Best Health Blogger of the year in 2011 by Renegade Health. Frederic has experimented with many diets and specializes in raw food, vegetarian and vegan topics, as well as how to balance a healthy diet in the real world. He lives in Montreal, Canada.
Hi! This is Lee again. I hope that gave you a lot to think about. I don’t know if the argument about alkaline water will ever be settled, but I have to tell you I lean toward this fellow’s point of view. Something that IS settled is that artificial sweeteners are bad news. If you missed our article about this, just scroll down and read it now.
Killing You Sweetly: Why Sugar Substitutes aren’t Worth the Risk
Here’s something that will make you want to take your coffee black: sucralose might cause cancer. You probably know sucralose under the brand name Splenda, widely available in those little yellow packets. It’s marketed under other names as well, so if you don’t know what’s in your artificial sweetener, you should check (I recommend avoiding ALL of them).
The risk was uncovered by an Italian laboratory that found the sweetener caused leukemia in mice. I’ll tell you a why a risk exists in the first place for this popular sweetener. But — what’s most important — there are plenty of healthy, non-disease-causing sweeteners out there, as long as you know where to look. Discover your options below. . .
The scary truth about Splenda
Most people choose Splenda/sucralose because they’ve been told it’s healthier than sugar. It prompts neither blood sugar nor insulin spikes. The FDA blessed its use as a tabletop sweetener in 1998, and most of the public still believes the FDA.
In 1999, it was approved as a general-purpose sweetener. And it’s better than sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium (found in candies and gum , it’s also known as Ace K and marketed as Sunett and Sweet One).
Sucralose is a chemically-altered form of sugar. The process is patented, but essentially comes down to inserting chlorine into the sugar molecule. That makes it a chlorocarbon. Unfortunately, chlorocarbons have long been known to cause organ, genetic, and reproductive damage.
Sucralose is also known to shrink the thymus gland by up to 40 percent. Given that the thymus is the foundation of your immune system, shrinkage can lead to many other problems.
To put it bluntly, any creature that eats chlorine risks cancer. It’s a known carcinogen as stated in both the Merck Manual and the OSHA Hazardous Waste Handbook. Obviously the risk varies according to the amount you take and how often you take it, but no matter how you look at it, chlorine is still a toxin.
That’s why the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently downgraded sucralose to a “caution” rating, as opposed to listing it as safe to consume. The CSPI has reviewed the Italian study and finds it used a superior protocol, even though the study is yet to be published. According to CSPI senior scientist Lisa Lefferts, “That’s why we put ‘caution’ instead of ‘avoid.'” A “caution” label means “try to avoid it, we need more testing.”
Defenders of sucralose might argue that chlorine embedded in a larger molecule differs from unbound chlorine. But the new studies suggest sucralose is toxic, too.
Natural and not-so-natural sugar substitutes
Of course, sugar itself is still a risky beast in the health world, and the daily mass quantities consumed are the main reason for our shockingly high rates of obesity and Type II Diabetes, in my opinion and that of many other researchers. I would love to be wrong — nobody’s more fond of cake and pie than I am — but this substance is a killer.
Because of the risks that come from ingesting too much sugar, the CSPI says diet soda—commonly sweetened with aspartame—is still better than sugary-sweet sodas. (I should note here that aspartame has also been linked to cancer in laboratory settings. As I said earlier, there is no good artificial sweetener.)
What can you drink instead? The CSPI urges plain water (know as “still” water), sparkling water, or unsweetened ice tea. Works for me (just don’t drink so much tea you disturb your sleep patterns.) The average American consumes an incredible 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, which adds up to 355 calories. If you’re on a kick of avoiding GMO foods, be aware that half the white table sugar made in the U.S. is beet sugar made from genetically modified beets.
There is life after sugar
In a moment I’ll suggest some natural (or mostly natural) sugar substitutes. But first let me pitch you on giving up sugar completely. It CAN be done, and this may actually be easier than trying to cut back or use substitutes.
You see, sugar is an addictive substance. It is the heroin of foods. Thus when you cut back, what happens is that a mere taste of it sets off all the pleasure centers in your brain and you end up going on a binge. You may start with the intention of having a bowl of ice cream but you end up eating the whole quart.
For this reason it’s actually easier not to touch it at all rather than wrestle with yourself day and night about whether a little bit will be okay, or whether you can do it “just this once.” Don’t try to make a decision every day about sugar. Make one big decision and stick to it.
I weaned myself off soft drinks a long time ago, and I take my coffee and tea without sugar. Soft drinks now disgust me. I once spat out a mouthful of Hawaiian Punch, a drink I used to love as a child. I couldn’t believe how sweet it was — utterly saturated with sugar. And believe it or not, coffee and tea taste excellent without sugar. For the first time in your life, you’ll actually taste the beverage, not the sugar.
Now for the “safe” sugar substitutes
If you really can’t live without sweetening up your morning cup of Joe, there are better ways. Consider these alternatives:
Agave nectar: This is a tiny improvement over cane or beet sugar. Also known as agave syrup, this sweetener comes from the agave plant, a relative of the cactus commonly found in Mexico. Agave nectar can also be extracted from the blue agave, which is the same plant used to make tequila. The syrup is 25 percent sweeter than sugar, which is a pro because you end up using less of it. It also dissolves quickly and contains a prebiotic that nourishes intestinal bacteria. But I wouldn’t call it healthy. It has the same amount of calories as table sugar—that’s 16 per teaspoon. On the processing scale, agave has to be hydrolyzed down to fructose. That’s one more step than honey and one less than high-fructose corn syrup.Stevia: This sweetener comes from the leaves of the South American shrub Stevia rebaudiana. It’s between 25 and 30 times sweeter than sugar and has been used for years in Europe, Japan, and South America. Yet stevia isn’t as natural as most people want to believe. The stuff is highly processed to remove its natural and slightly bitter aftertaste that smacks of licorice, though some brands don’t bother with this, so the slight licorice taste remains. It also gets blended with maltodextrin so it pours like table sugar. It does help you cut calories and avoid blood sugar problems. It’s just a question of whether you can stand the taste.Truvia: This one comes from rebiana, which is a compound found in the leaves of stevia. Truvia is trademarked as a “natural” sweetener, but is the brainchild of Coca-Cola and Cargill and is sweetened with erythritol. It doesn’t pack any calories, but also doesn’t taste much like stevia.
Honey: It’s a kitchen staple, yet most people don’t think of using it when they’re looking for a sweetener. But honey packs a concentrated dose of antioxidants. If you buy honey local to your area, it can even help you fight seasonal allergies. Setting aside the nutrients and just considering honey as a sweetener, I doubt if it’s much healthier than cane or beet sugar. It still packs calories and raises your blood sugar.
Blackstrap molasses: Molasses is a by-product of sugarcane processing and can be used to replace as much as half the sugar in any recipe. It’s also a proven way to sweeten everything from coffee to beans. Plus, this black-gold liquid has iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, and several antioxidants—more than any other natural sweetener. Again — better than table sugar but not what I’d call healthy.
I think a good rule of thumb is to never eat anything artificial. Real food doesn’t have to be tested for unheard-of risks. And while sugar should be consumed in moderation just like everything else, at least consider using these alternatives so you can ingest somewhat fewer calories while you curb your chemical, processed food exposure.