Living in Canada, I can probably say that there is nothing here that we take more for granted than water. Bottled water is just one example of this. I love regular tap water; I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a place where tap water is not only drinkable but also tastes great. However, some people would preferably opt for bottled water. They can swear that the taste is different. Somehow, the only difference between the bottled water made in Quebec and our tap water is the plastic bottle. The water source is customarily identical. Yet, bottled water is not our only problem. When given the opportunity between water and other drinks, people would typically choose any alternative options.
I must confess that I am guilty of making this choice, and I am embarrassed by it. Hence, for the last few months, I have been trying my best to remedy the situation. Choosing to adopt intermittent fasting has made this task much easier, but drinking water is still far from enjoyable. When it comes to drinking water, my main bother is the taste, or more precisely, its lack of taste. Yet, over the last months, I have been able to appreciate the subtle taste of tap water. The many minerals found in tap water are responsible for the hints of flavour we can perceive when drinking it. I can definitely say that water from Sherbrooke (my hometown) and Montreal (where I was until recently residing) has a different flavour. This variation is most often credited to their respective filtration and sanitization processes.
Whereas Montreal still uses a system relying on multiple screens and a bed of sand to filtrate the water, Sherbrooke relies on a new system that involves making use of membranes to filter out unwanted particles and microbes. The system Montreal is using hardly clears out 85% of bacteria, which leaves the water undrinkable. To decontaminate it, the city of Montreal must chlorinate and ozonate its water. Sherbrooke’s newer system allows for the elimination of virtually all contaminants without further need for extra sanitization. When added to water, chlorine can add a bitter or metallic taste that can be undesirable. Sherbrooke does not have to use chlorine, and thus its taste relies uniquely on its mineral content. I also have to mention that both cities are not getting their water from the same source. Montreal’s water reservoir is the St-Lawrence River, whereas Sherbrooke is the Memphremagog Lake; hence, they both have two different mineral content profiles.
If asked to choose between Sherbrooke’s water or Montreal’s, I would pick the former. Although, It would still be hard for me to pick between water or something else entirely, something with more taste. The delicious taste of these drinks (sodas and juices) typically comes from the presence of sugars or sweeteners. So, despite the reasonable amount of water it contains, it is unquestionably an option that’s best avoided. It may succeed in hydrating you, but in the process, it also delivers a toxic dose of sugar to your body. Over time, the elevated consumption of sugar can lead to the development of obesity and diabetes. In drinking tap water, you absolve any of those risks. However, this statement is not valid for bottled water. The generic plastic used to make these bottles is not typically strong enough to sustain the repeated stress it has to endure.
The splashing and sploshing of the water inside the bottle and the mechanical stress we create can liberate microplastics in the water. Yet, given that there is now a total of 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste globally, there is already an enormous number of microplastic created and ingested. Indeed, some newspapers have reported that we usually inhale or ingest 5 g of microplastic in no more than a week. If you wondered what 5 g is, well, it weighs the same as one of your credit cards. If you think that this figure is scary, then you might think again before grabbing your next bottle of water. Some scientists may have found hints that consumers of bottled water could ingest twice this amount each week.
If you are still not scared at this point, you may like to know that we presently consider the presence of microplastic in our body to trigger DNA damage, cellular damage, and inflammation. Now, we may all vow to stop drinking water forever, but this is not an option, and we know it. We are all composed of 60% water, and as such, we must all drink around 2 litres of water a day to maintain this body composition. This water serves an immense variety of functions, from digestion to lubrification.
Knowing its importance might be more apparent to us once we are dehydrated. Since I do not particularly like drinking water, I often forget to drink. This behaviour has repeatedly led me towards dehydration. In this state, I realize that my eyes and mouth are considerably dry, my urine becomes dark yellow, and sometimes I even get a headache. Our eyes here become dry since there are no longer enough tears to lubricate them. Tears are composed of water. As for our mouth, it is dry because there is no longer enough saliva, also composed of water. Our pee adopts a darker coloration since there is not enough water diluting it. Our kidneys must reabsorb the water to keep filtering out any waste products created. This process creates extra stress on the kidneys, which we should all aim to avoid. The headaches may come from the shrinking of our brain, which may temporarily pull away from our skull, causing pain.
Water is also responsible for digestion by carrying digesting enzymes to the nutrients. It is also a medium used for the fabrication of hormones and neurotransmitters. It creates a shock-protective bubble around the brain called the blood-brain barrier (often referred to as the BBB). It helps to regulate our body temperature through perspiration. Moreover, our blood needs water to carry its red blood cells in charge of delivering oxygen throughout our body. And you may suspect here that the list is even longer, but here I will add only one last one. Water is necessary for the survival and reproduction of our cells.
This little piece of information is the sole reason supporting the fact that there is unmistakably something such as drinking too much water, especially non-mineralized water. There are even names for it, overhydration or water poisoning. When there is excess water outside the cells, they will absorb water to even out the ions present inside and outside of them. Indeed, the water moves in since the sodium ion concentration is higher within than outside. Absorbing too much water may induce the cell membrane to rupture, causing irreparable damage, which could then lead to cellular death. Once it reaches this stage, it can be fatal. However, before it reaches this stage, our brain sends us a signal warning us about the danger. When they start swelling, the brain cells increase their volume, which also increases the intracranial pressure.
This swelling can create a vast range of cognitive dysfunction that we should all keep in mind. The risk associated with ignoring early signs of these dysfunctions might lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death. Avoiding overhydration is quite simple. It is not about how much you drink but how fast you drink. The kidney can eliminate no more than 1 litre of water per hour, so you should never drink more than that. I realize that reading through this article may have scared you, but be confident that those catastrophic scenarios are pretty unlikely. Just remember to drink enough, not too much, and to drink less sugary drinks and more tap water 😉
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