A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Is healthier water a hoax?

Young woman drinking out of a stream - Is raw water healthier?

Drinking raw water, such as from springs and streams, and alkaline water with a pH of 8-9, are health trends you can skip.

New health trends, fad diets and cleanses catch on every year. The latest trends have reached one of the most basic building blocks for good health – water.

Some trend followers are buying “raw water,” or untreated and unsterilized water, as a health supplement. Raw water drinkers say it improves digestion and skin health because the water isn’t stripped of minerals and probiotics like treated water.

“It’s part of the movement to use more natural products,” said Chrisanne Urban, a Marshfield Clinic dietitian.

On the other side of the spectrum, some people insist alkaline water, which is treated to reach a pH of 8-9, is the way to go. They claim it helps the body fight disease and promotes weight loss.

Health benefits aren’t proven

People who claim raw or alkaline water does great things for their body may be reaping the general benefits of drinking more water, Urban said. Weight loss, clear skin, better digestion and improved overall health are benefits of drinking more tap water without a fancy label or price tag.

Water from a natural spring can be safe, but your best bet is to have it tested for contaminants before you sip. Raw water from unknown sources could be contaminated with runoff that contains bacteria and chemicals that put you at risk for getting sick. Instead, stick to a source like tap water or treated bottled water that offers benefits without the risks.

Your city treats and tests the water to make sure it’s safe for drinking. You can contact the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to have private wells tested for bacteria and agricultural chemicals. The DNR suggests testing wells yearly.

Don’t drown in the details

Rather than worrying about how natural your water is or its pH, focus on getting enough water from tap or bottled water.

Our bodies are about 60 percent water. We lose water in our sweat, urine, bowel movements and from breathing. We need to replace it by drinking. Most people need about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but some people need more or less based on their activity level and medical conditions. Being dehydrated can make you feel tired, confused, dizzy and cause more serious symptoms.

“Water is calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available in the United States,” Urban said. “The important thing is drinking enough water.”

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