Are you concerned about what’s in the water you’re drinking? Maybe you’re wondering if you can drink distilled water? The simple answer is yes, you can.
Some people think that drinking purified water is better than drinking tap water — but, is it any better for your health, and what are the benefits?
What is Distilled Water?
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between filtered, spring, and distilled water? Are they any better or worse than the water that comes from your faucet at home?
The distinct difference is that distilled water has had all the mineral content removed (1). In plain terms, this is done by boiling the water, collecting the steam, and condensing it back to water (2). Impurities are left behind, resulting in a microbe and mineral-free water that is pure H2O.
Filtering water removes microbes but leaves the mineral content behind. This is where spring water excels since it’s naturally filtered by the rocks it passes through.
Many have turned to bottled water as an alternative to tap water. Statistics show that the consumption per person of bottled water in the US has risen from 16 gallons to 42 gallons per year between 1999 and 2017 (3).
The Benefits of Drinking Distilled Water
Potential advantages to drinking distilled water include:
1. Cleanses the Body
Although this hasn’t been proven, some schools of thought follow the line that drinking pure water will help cleanse your body. Some take the view that distilled water improves the functionality of the kidneys in cleansing the body (4).
2. Reduce the Risk of Waterborne Diseases
Bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing microbes that live in water, are removed when water is distilled. Drinking this pure water could, therefore, reduce the chance of illness.
3. Reduces Consumption of Harmful Chemicals
The number and levels of chemicals that are allowed in drinking water is determined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (5). The EPA has a zero-tolerance assessment on carcinogenic chemicals or microbial contaminants, such as bacteria and viruses. However, many other chemicals are assessed depending on how they affect health, and limits are imposed on these.
This means your water supply can still contain chemicals. Conversely, distilled water will have had all these removed. As a result, depending on the quality of your town’s water supply, drinking distilled water could be better for you.
The Disadvantages of Drinking Distilled Water
There are some risks posed by using distilled water as a sole method of hydrating your body. These are mainly connected to a lack of minerals, including magnesium and calcium. Some of the disadvantages include:
1. Lack of Taste
When all the minerals are removed from the water, it could leave it tasting flat. This means you might not enjoy the water as much, and therefore, drink less of it. The downside of this could be dehydration.
2. Impaired Metabolism
Calcium and magnesium play vital roles in keeping our bodies functioning correctly (6), (7). We obtain these, and other minerals, from our diet as well as from water. If you aren’t eating a healthy diet, and drinking distilled water, then deficiencies could arise.
3. Mineral Replacement Failure
Our bodies lose water and minerals when we sweat and urinate (10). To make sure our body still works as it should, these need to be replaced.
Distilled water has no mineral content and doesn’t replace those we lose through natural bodily functions. That being said, by consuming different foods and beverages, minerals and salts can still be replaced.
With that in mind, fasting and then drinking only distilled water could be dangerous. You won’t be giving your body the nutrition it usually gets from a balanced diet.
4. Changes to Mineral, Electrolyte, and pH Levels of Tissues and Blood
Drinking distilled water and not maintaining a balanced diet can cause changes in the levels of electrolytes, minerals, and pH levels in your body.
The pH of distilled water is lower than that of tap water or mineral water, making it more acidic (11). While it’s 7 immediately after distillation, after a few hours it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, bringing the pH to around 5.8. This, combined with a lack of minerals and electrolytes, can harm the balance of nutrients in the body (12).
These imbalances can cause muscle cramps, fluid retention, fatigue, headaches, and a disrupted heart rate (13).
It’s not just distilled water that can do this. Water that is desalinated, nano-filtered, deionized or purified with reverse osmosis, and not remineralized, can leave people at risk.
5. Environmental Effects
The process of distilling leaves behind water that’s high in salinity or limescale. Consequently, it can affect the ecosystem around the area where it’s produced.
6. Possible Contamination
Although distilled water starts pure, it can pull traces of minerals and chemicals from the vessels it’s contained in. This is mainly a concern when it comes to plastic, and especially if stored in a hot area (14).
The molecules that make up the plastic heat up and leach into the water. A chemical that might be familiar to you is bisphenol A (BPA) (15). This could have health effects on unborn fetuses and affect the behavior of children.
That being said, the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) regulates the safety in the production of bottled water and the packaging it’s put in (16), (17). This means that, although some chemicals and minerals might get into your distilled water, they won’t be at harmful levels.
The Difference Between Distilled Water and Purified Water
The main difference between these two types of water is that distilled water has all contaminants and minerals removed. Purified water has contaminants and chemicals removed, but it could still contain some minerals.
Pure water, other than distilled water, is processed in two ways. The first is via reverse osmosis — this involves filtering the water through a semipermeable membrane to remove salt and impurities (18). This is one way of desalinating seawater for human consumption (19).
The second is deionization. It again removes salt and other minerals from water by using two ion exchange materials (20).
What Else is Distilled Water Used For?
Due to the lack of minerals in distilled water, it has many uses other than for drinking. For example, you can put it in your aquarium, fill your steam iron with it or water your indoor plants. It’s also used in the cooling systems of cars and to top up car batteries.
Some medical devices, such as a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device, use distilled water. In this type of environment, it helps prevent false results in laboratory experiments.
Can You Drink Distilled Water?
As you can see from our research, yes you can drink distilled water. However, you should make sure you follow a healthy balanced diet as well, so your body is getting all the nutrients it needs.
There are some factors to keep in mind when considering distilled water. These are the quality of your local tap water, whether you like the taste, and how much it would cost to drink distilled water instead.
Do you drink distilled water? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. We would love to hear your experience, and please don’t forget to share this article.