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Posted on 10-20-2015

I recently had a patient email me to ask a very good question regarding Reverse Osmosis (RO) water in comparison to other types of "filtered" or tap water. Here is his question and my answer to it.

On 2015-10-19 18:29, Erik wrote:

Hi Scott,
Roseann and I have been questioning the wisdom in drinking RO water and were hoping you could give us your thoughts on drinking RO water and perhaps any preferable  alternatives.
We have been drinking RO water for >7 years. I've researched RO treatment on the internet previously and again today.  I always conclude that there is no definitive answer available whether RO water is detrimental to drink or not and so we stick with the RO unit. 
There are multiple opposing opinions available and both sides reference reputable reports from organizations such as the WHO. Our concerns with RO water are two fold.
Mineral content:  RO units remove mineral content so some people recommend using a remineralization cartridge with RO units.  Supposedly they add minerals back into the water and some also increase pH.  Other discussions I have read state that water only has inorganic minerals that we can't metabolize and that we get most of our minerals from the food we eat.  Therefore they conclude that it does not matter that RO units remove minerals.
pH: Our RO water has a pH <6.8.  For comparison our tap water pH is 7.5. Does drinking RO water reduce the pH of our body?
Thanks for your help.  Hope you have a great week.
Erik Flodin

Hi Erik and Roseann,

Yours is a very good question, without a simple answer, as you already know.

Ideally, we would all be drinking clean, pure spring water directly from the source. I had the opportunity to do this when I lived in Pennsylvania. We would just take our jugs out to the local mountain spring and fill them up. The water was tested periodically to make sure there were no contaminates. Unfortunately, here in AZ we don't have any of those available to us, at least not in Phoenix. 

Natural spring water has a slightly alkaline pH and as you mentioned is full of macro and trace minerals which are vital for our health. Reverse Osmosis water, as you know, has the majority of these minerals removed and is slightly acidic. Of course our tap water, although also slightly alkaline, is full of contaminants and other additives which are most certainly not healthy for our consumption. So, what to do?

Several water "stores" are now offering alkaline water for a significantly higher price than the normal 25-30 cents per gallon, touting it's benefits. Also, many companies offer purification units which will strip the water of "impurities" and then add minerals back in to alkalize the water or do it through ionizers or some other method. Most of these run in a pH rage of 7.5-9.5. 

Initially, this sounds good since most people who do not eat a healthy diet are generally acidic and could use something to help alkalize their system. Many of these companies have incredible success stories of people starting to drink their water and having amazing recoveries from serious health conditions. I don't doubt this. Being acidic leads to inflammation in the body and is the root of most illness. My concern is that, like almost everything else, too much of a good thing turns out to be a bad thing. We can begin to dilute the acid pH of the stomach and GI system which in turn leads to faulty digestion. Also, the minerals added back into some of this "alkaline water" are simply bicarbonates which although very alkaline also leave us with the same mineral deficiency as RO.

It's all very confusing!

There are a few other water systems out there that claim to remove only the contaminates from our tap water leaving the minerals in tact and leading to an alkaline water. As with most of these systems they are expensive initially and also on down the road with replacement cartridges. If I wasn't concerned about finances or lived in an area where cheap RO water wasn't available then one of these systems might be an option. 

For most of us eating a generally healthy diet, getting plenty of the macro minerals isn't a major concern (there are some exceptions to this too depending on your diet). Getting enough trace minerals is definitely a concern for all of us since even if we are eating a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables most of the soil that these foods are grown in has been depleted of these trace minerals. This is where a good spring water could help (but still not be enough).

This is why supplementation is a must! For me doing a green organic "smoothie" every morning or taking a product like "Greens First" or "Essentia Greens" is essential. Organic whole food sources of healthy vegetables and fruits are the best way to get all of the macro and trace minerals our bodies need not just to survive but to thrive! In addition to replacing the minerals lacking in most of our diets, these green drinks are very alkalizing to our systems which can counter all of the acid forming stuff we eat and drink throughout the day, including water.

So, what I do is drink spring water when I can but use RO for the majority of my hydration, realizing that it isn't the best, but for the cost and convenience it certainly isn't the worst. Then I make sure to stay alkaline in my diet by eating approximately 80% of my diet from foods that are alkaline ash and 20% that are acid ash. I can get you a list of these or simply "Google" it. I also regularly check my morning pH to confirm that I am in a good range. And, of course, I utilize some type of Green Drink every day to replenish my minerals and to help balance pH.  

I know you were probably hoping for some simple answer but unfortunately with this issue there isn't one. I hope this helps and if I can be of any further assistance let me know.

Yours In Health,

Dr. P. Scott Timko
Timko Chiropractic

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