How Important Are Minerals in Your Water?

Many people are under the impression that it is important to drink water containing natural minerals. The logic follows then, and it is a widespread belief, that it is bad to drink water that has been processed by reverse osmosis because it has been stripped of its mineral content. Both of these assumptions are generalizations that may lead you down the wrong path toward health.

There is evidence to suggest that minerals in drinking water do provide a health benefit in terms of lower rates of heart disease. And yet it is also clear that water can contain too many minerals and is then less capable of hydrating the body by penetrating cell membranes. As with anything it’s all about balance. I prefer to drink water with a low level of minerals (aka total dissolved solids), between 30 and 200 – 250 parts per million (ppm). At this level we find the balance between hydration and minerals your body can utilize.

Another issue is which minerals are in your water. The mineral content of your water is a reflection of the ground which your water has dissolved before it gets to you. Therefore mineral content has more to do with local rock formations than with the needs of your body. It will be high in some minerals and low in others. Yet your body has specific mineral needs and works to maintain a balance. Spring water with too much of one mineral and not enough of another can actually throw you out of balance.

For example, several years ago I had my hair analyzed for the purpose of checking my body’s mineral content. I’ve been drinking spring water for 12 years (200 ppm tds). What I found was that my calcium and magnesium levels were high and out of the desired range and I was deficient in six minerals. None of the six are present in my water. Since I have a good diet, including high raw and high organic, I was stunned by this result.

Many medical practitioners suggest that we don’t get minerals from water at all and that we get it from food. After this discovery I modified my diet to eat specific foods containing the minerals I lacked. After two years I tested again. Nothing had changed. I was lacking the same six minerals and remained high in calcium and magnesium.

It turns out that minerals have a relationship with one another. So, for instance, I was low in both phosphorous and potassium which play a key role in the utilization of calcium. So lacking these could be at least partly responsible for my being high in the other, regardless of the actual source of the calcium.

Next I bought supplements for the same six minerals and took those twice each day for seven months. Then I tested my hair again. These minerals were now in the normal range and calcium was reduced, still high, but coming down.

Since then I’ve stopped supplementing and new test results show that my mineral imbalance is back.

What have I learned as a result of this testing?

One thing I’ve learned is that balancing the minerals in your body is much more complex than we may think. Whatever history you’ve lived until now has affected the balance within your body. The idea that supplementing minerals or drinking water containing minerals will sort this out seems to be contradicted by the testing I’ve conducted on myself.

1) Drinking spring water, as a generic recommendation, isn’t going to aid your health. However if it’s contaminant free and has a tds below 250 and a pH of 7.4 then I’d say there’s no better water.

2) If you’re interested in maintaining a balanced mineral profile in your body, test where you’re at now, whether using a hair or blood analysis. Work with a Naturopath to guide you in taking the appropriate steps to restore mineral balance.

3) Know what’s in your water either by looking at a local water report if you’re on public water or by testing if you’re on private well water.

4) Think of water’s primary purpose as hydration. You need to hydrate your body. Appropriately filtered water is the best way to do that. If you can also gain minerals from water that’s a nice side benefit.

My conclusion is that while minerals in water might be nice, they are not the most important factor when considering how to treat your drinking water. The level of minerals (tds) and the presence of contaminants are the things to consider when determining whether a simple kitchen filter, a whole house water filter, or reverse osmosis is the appropriate water purification system for the water that’s coming out of your tap. This also holds true for nearby springs. Test it or review an existing test before assuming that it’s good.



For references used in writing this article visit: Minerals in Water

Jim McMahon is an ecologist and owner of Sweetwater LLC. Jim sells water purification systems from his home in the mountains of southern Utah overlooking the lovely Santa Clara River. Jim will review your local water report with you or sell you a well water test and then make a recommendation on how to best treat your water to achieve optimum health.

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About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Healthy Drinking Water, Reverse Osmosis, Sweetwater LLC, Water Purification, Whole House Water Filtration and Purification. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Important Are Minerals in Your Water?

  1. Mary says:

    Hi Jim,
    I have an RO system and the pH level of my water is right around 6 from what I can tell. After reading for hours about RO systems and Ionizers and Remineralization and Calcite filters, I am more confused now than ever! I am to the point where I wish I could just stop drinking water!!! I think I have decided to just get a calcite filter but am paranoid on the health effects from that also… what do you recommend?

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