Water – To Drink or Not To Drink

by Henri Roca, MD, Clinical Functional Medicine Specialist

Fresh water quality and supply is the great geopolitical issue of our time. With climate change, the health and safety of our water supply becomes more questionable.

What happens when we have enough water, but that water is so polluted that we can’t drink it? And what happens if we just don’t know what to do? Witness West Virginia or New Orleans after Katrina, or New York City after Sandy. And the list grows.

Before I became a physician, I worked as an environmental consultant and geologist cleaning up soil and groundwater. Water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are designed to prevent acute illness. The chemicals that usually have this kind of testing are those that have historic occupational exposure risks.

Most chemicals do not have human exposure testing. Even if they did, there is absolutely no information about the long-term effects of sub-acute (low level) exposures. Our knowledge of these chemicals is painfully inadequate.

In general, if there is measureable chemical in the water that is not removed (or removable) by the water treatment system, then don’t drink the water (and since many of these chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, I wouldn’t wash with it either).

This rule of thumb becomes even more important for the following groups:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children – the younger, the more vulnerabl
  • Elders – the older, the more vulnerable
  • Those who have trouble with medication side effects
  • Those who already have high levels of toxins – coal-related, silica-related, metals, solvents
  • Those who have autoimmune disease, fatigue, pain syndromes, or cancer

Why these groups? These individuals are considered vulnerable populations. Their vulnerability results from impaired detoxification capacity, reduced mitochondrial function, underdeveloped systems, genetic inefficiencies, depleted nutrients, or inefficiencies due to age. These are the canaries in the coal mine.

While the best choice is to avoid the exposure, the next best choice is to support our biochemical detoxification pathways and mitochondrial functioning.

Step 1: Focus on vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables unless they are otherwise excluded from your diet for medical reasons. These will include parsley, cilantro, dandelion, chard, kale, greens, spinach, chlorella, as examples. Juicing these as a green juice once or twice a day is preferable. Cooking them will remove their useful components.

Step 2: Make sure that B vitamins and magnesium are optimized. You may need to be tested to see if there is a need to replenish these nutrients.

Step 3: Be sure your digestion is working well. Particularly, be sure that you have one soft bowel movement a day.

Step 4: Control your stress. Stress can enhance toxicity by reducing the effectiveness of your detoxification pathways.

Step 5: Supplement with mitochondrial and detox support nutrients – N acetylcysteine, S-acetylglutathione, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Milk Thistle.

The science doesn’t exist to guarantee that the above suggestions will prevent any negative consequences from the chemicals polluting the waters of West Virginia or other locations. However, it is the best we can do short of complete avoidance.

And of course, each of us should advocate as strongly as possible for excellent environmental stewardship – both in regulation and in policy by government, and through responsibility by industry.