Most health professionals do want people to drink more water in general. There is a lot of confusion about how much water we need to drink and whether bottled water is safer than tap water.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
You may have heard that we should drink 8 glasses of water per day. I’ll be honest… I don’t like this recommendation. The biggest issue here is the definition of “a glass.” Don’t glasses come in many different sizes? In fact, if you were to open the cupboards in my kitchen, you’ll see I have sets of glassware of all different shapes and sizes – there are tall skinny glasses, short squat ones, wine glasses (not for me, but for when my in-laws come over), not to mention different coffee and tea mugs! And this is probably what everyone’s cupboards look like.
Some of the more intelligent health professionals will be even more specific and may say, “You should drink 8 cups of water per day.” Ok, this is better. We can make sense of 8 cups – a cup is 8 fl. oz. so 8 cups a day means we should consume 64 fl. oz. of water per day.
While this is an improvement over the 8 glasses per day recommendation, I still have issues with this. This is because depending on a person’s body weight, age, gender, level of activity, where they live, etc… the water recommendations will vary.
The best way to know whether you are drinking enough water each day is to look at your urine color. I know it sounds disgusting, but let’s be honest, you’re probably looking at it anyway (if you aren’t, you should start now). Your urine should be a light lemonade color. So this means there is a hint of yellow. If it’s dark yellow, you may be dehydrated. If your urine is clear, you’re consuming too much water. Don’t stress too much if here and there your urine is too dark or clear. Just try and make sure that it’s a light yellow most of the time. Obviously, you don’t want your urine to be dark yellow most of the time because long-term dehydration is unhealthy. The reason you actually don’t want your urine to be clear most of the time is because over-hydrating may lead to the body getting rid of some important nutrients. You can actually dilute your blood too much and that can lead to its own set of problems.
Sources of Water
Water sources is an interesting topic because here in the United States, our water supply is considered one of the safest in the world, yet there are instances where water coming out of our faucets may not have been the cleanest. Just this past year, there were highly publicized water quality concerns in the city of Flint, Michigan. (For those of you that are unaware, the water being supplied to the public in the city of Flint wasn’t being properly treated and was contaminated with lead, which is a known toxin.) In the U.S., the water supply must be carefully treated by local water agencies. This treatment involves a series of highly regulated processes. This is all monitored by our Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) along with local water agencies. This system has worked very well for most of its history. Occasionally, there are these issues like we saw in Flint, Michigan where it fails; however, water coming from the tap is still considered the cleanest and safest.
Some of you may notice that your tap water smells like chlorine or doesn’t really taste all that good. This is likely because the water is treated with chemicals to make sure it is free of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. While it is safe to drink, the taste may make you want to purchase forms of bottled water that don’t share this same flavor profile. I’ll talk about bottled water in a second, but there are ways to remove some of those unpleasant chemical flavors.
Water Filtration and Reverse Osmosis
I have added a reverse osmosis water filtration system in my house. I like this because it serves as an extra filtration device–so not only is the water you are consuming from the tap free of disease-causing pathogens, but the reverse osmosis water filtration system will then help remove some of those chemicals that cause that funky taste. Depending on which system you end up going with, as a bonus, it may help remove any excess lead, fluoride, and chlorine. You can either buy or rent these systems and they’re usually fairly reasonable. If you rely on something like a Brita® water filter, please know that these will not remove as many of the chemicals as a reverse osmosis system would.
Bottled water isn’t as tightly regulated in the United States. Bottled water companies can use any source of water they want, put it in a plastic bottle, and sell it to you. In fact, there have been instances where bottled water companies basically take tap water (the very same water that we have access to in our homes), bottle it, and resell it to consumers for a marked-up price. In the U.S., this is perfectly legal.
Alkaline or Ionized Water
Alkaline waters are ionized, meaning minerals are added to increase the water’s pH. When you increase pH, you are making the water less acidic. The belief is that by drinking water that is less acidic (more alkaline), you can reduce your risk for certain diseases, like osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, and even cancer. The question always is, “Does it really do any of those things?” I will paraphrase published findings from the British Medical Journal:
“Despite the promotion of the alkaline diet and alkaline water by the media and salespeople, there is almost no actual research to support these ideas.”
It’s probably best to save your money on this one.
For carbonated water (which is different than sugar-sweetened soda), this is probably fine to consume in moderation. It won’t erode your teeth or cause stomach ulcers or lead to osteoporosis.
Here’s the bottom line: in the U.S., tap water is still considered the cheapest, cleanest, and therefore, safest to consume. If you can’t stand the taste, consider purchasing or renting a reverse osmosis system for your home.