What Are the Dangers of Drinking Distilled Water?

If you drink distilled water, be aware that it may have some drawbacks. The lack of minerals could prove problematic if you aren't getting them from another dietary source. In addition, the water might cause intestinal discomfort.

The main downside of distilled water is that it lacks minerals. (Image: Claudia Miranda / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages)

Tip

The main downside of distilled water is that it lacks minerals. If this is your main source of water, be sure to get minerals from fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods.

Dangers of Drinking Distilled Water

LIVESTRONG.com interviewed Lisa Richards, CNC, nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet, who offered insight pertaining to the adverse effects of distilled water.

Noting that distilled water is a variety of drinking water that has been ultra-purified, Richards says, "This sounds like a positive thing, and in some cases it is, but it can also be detrimental to health."

While it's beneficial that the purification process removes contaminants, it's not so healthful that it also removes minerals. Because minerals are needed for an array of body functions, distilled water isn't an ideal replacement for other kinds of drinking water.

The lack of naturally occurring minerals, such as sodium, chloride and potassium, in distilled water can pose a negative health effect when fasting or restricting calories. These minerals are known as electrolytes. "When they are missing in our primary hydration source, as well as our diet, we risk severe dehydration and chemical imbalances leading to serious health concerns," Richards notes.

Distilled water also increases the body's acidity. "Through chemical processes, distilled water triggers the stomach to produce more acid, which can cause gastrointestinal discomfort," states Richards.

Benefits of Distilled Water

The benefits of distilled water result from the distillation process involving removal of undesirable substances. These include heavy metals, some toxic organic chemicals, and some viruses and bacteria, reports the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

However, some bacterial strains aren't removed. Distillation also doesn't remove most volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds.

Distilled water offers an advantage over some other kinds of bottled water: it doesn't contain the parasite cryptosporidium. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that bottled water may be contaminated with this pathogen. It can make healthy people sick, but in those with poor immunity, it can cause a serious illness, which is sometimes fatal.

Aside from distilled water, two other types of water treatment protect against the pathogen: filtration with an absolute 1 micron filter and reverse osmosis.

Distilled Water Vs. Purified Water

An evaluation of the two kinds of water shows one difference. "Distilled water is purified water that has had both contaminants and minerals removed, while purified water has had only contaminants removed," says Richards.

What's the best type of water to drink? Richards prefers purified water as a replacement for substandard tap water because the harmful chemicals have been removed while the naturally-occurring minerals are still intact.

Make Distilled Water at Home

Distilled water isn't expensive, but for those who'd like to make their own at home, the process isn't hard. People use several methods, one of which is:

  1. Fill a large stainless steel pot halfway with tap water.
  2. Put a glass bowl in the water. The bowl should float. If it doesn't, elevate it from the bottom of the pot by placing it on top of a round baking rack. The idea is for the bowl to sit on top of the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil.
  4. Start the condensation process. To do this, invert the pot's lid, fill it with ice and place it on top of the pot. This forms a hot-cold barrier, so when the steam hits the lid, it forms condensation.
  5. Continue to boil the water. The steam will rise, condense on the lid and then drip into the bowl.
  6. When you've collected the amount of distilled water you desire, move the pot from the heat source and take off the lid.
  7. Once the water cools, carefully remove the bowl of distilled water from the pot.

Is Bottled Water Really Safer?

The safety of tap water and bottled water are roughly comparable, notes the Mayo Clinic. Because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees tap water, and the Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water, the two types of water are similar. The oversight organizations use similar standards.

Local water utilities follow EPA mandates to provide the public with information about contaminants in the water supply. The EPA doesn't oversee private wells, so if your water supply comes from this source, be sure to test it for contaminants at least once a year.

People with weakened immunity are at greater risk of becoming ill from drinking contaminated water. This includes anyone who is undergoing chemotherapy or living with HIV/AIDS. Individuals with a transplant also have a higher likelihood.

According to Harvard University, bottled water isn't safer or purer than tap water. It's also more costly: Tap water is 3,000-percent less expensive, as it costs $0.02 per gallon, compared to $0.64 per gallon for bottled water. Furthermore, since millions of barrels of oil are used to manufacture plastic water bottles for Americans, the industry is contributing to pollution and global warming.

Importance of Staying Hydrated

It's important to stay hydrated, says Harvard Health. In warm weather, hydration is even more critical; but regardless of the weather, you need a certain amount each day for optimal wellness. People in good health should drink 4 to 6 cups per day, but their need will increase during exercise.

Water has many functions. These include preventing constipation, cushioning joints and regulating body temperature, along with maintaining electrolyte balance, aiding digestion and carrying nutrients to the cells.

Water is the best way to stay hydrated. Sugary beverages increase inflammation and lead to weight gain, while caffeinated drinks can cause insomnia, notes Harvard Health. To get enough water, drink fluids throughout the day, and eat water-containing foods like fruits and salads.

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