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As a doctor living with diabetes for more than 25 years and caring for more than 8000 people with diabetes, I know that diabetes can, though does not need to, cause accelerated aging of the vascular and nervous systems. Eating the best foods, including plenty of fresh raw vegetables and fruits, taking vitamins and anti-oxidants, controlling blood sugars, blood pressure and cholesterol are all crucially important in keeping healthy with diabetes. But there has been one element left overlooked by most people: water.
Essential Substance Polluted
Why is water so important? Since the body is 65-70% water in composition, this substance is vital to our health. Without water, death occurs in two to three days. Unfortunately, as the Sierra Club has pointed out, just because water is crystal-clear does not mean that it is safe. Ground water acts as a big sponge, holding toxic, often invisible substances, and dumping them into our drinking water. Rain water is not entirely free of "impurities" either. As it passes through polluted air, it collects a considerable amount of dust, bacteria and chemicals, resulting in environmentally hazardous "acid rain." This rainwater, in turn, can taint lakes, springs, and streams.
Most of our water comes from public water systems or private wells and both are treated with chemicals to control the level of contamination. However, toxins still exist along with the added chemicals.
Even the much-touted mineral waters may contain minerals, metals and other inorganic compounds that the body can't use, which may actually harm consumers, especially those with diabetes.
Although our bodies need a certain amount of these minerals, they should come from food, not water. Water with high-minerals can cause calcium and other mineral deposits in heart chambers, valves and arteries, promoting arteriosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries." Left untreated, arteriosclerosis can lead to heart attack or stroke. When affecting the arteries in the legs, it can cause pain and eventual limb loss due to reduced oxygen supply.
Furthermore, many water supplies contain a number of chemicals that are either added to the water (like chlorine to kill germs or fluoride to prevent tooth decay) or that flow into water supplies (these may be inorganics like lithium, arsenic, radium or cobalt.) If you don't regularly drink water, think about the water used in other potables such as soda, beer, and powdered athletic drinks, which many people consume in large quantities.
Tainted Tap Water
Other dangers lurk in city water supplies. Despite their state-of-the-art water-filtering facility, 19 people died last year in Las Vegas after being exposed to a parasite in the city's tap water. The micro-organism, cryptosporidium, is known to be practically impervious to even the most advanced filtration methods. As a result, this June Federal officials encouraged people with weakened immune systems to boil their drinking water.
Tap water in the midwest has also been targeted as particularly prone to dangerous levels of herbicide. In August, 1995, in Danville, Ill., levels of the weed-killer cyanazine in one water sample were found to be 34 greater than the federal standard. A glass of drinking water tested in Fort Wayne, Ind., contained nine different herbicides.
In Gideon, Mo., it was reported that half the population became ill with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in 1992. Upon investigation, the Missouri State Health Department found that the illnesses were most likely caused by salmonella, a major bacteria causing severe illness in the stomach and bowels.
On National Public Radio on January 13, 1994, Morning Edition host Bob Edwards highlighted some of the United States' problems associated with water contamination. In 1993, Washington D.C. residents were advised to drink bottled or boiled water because of contamination. Also in 1993, a protozoan parasite in Milwaukee's drinking water made 400,000 people ill and lead to over 100 deaths. In the same Morning Edition report, it was revealed that public health officials had discovered a high level of an industrial chemical called tetrachloroethylene in a handful of towns in the Cape Cod resort area. This chemical has been found in many water supplies around the U.S. In Cape Cod; it apparently leaked from the water pipes themselves.
Public Drinking Water Linked to Cancer
David Ozonoff, Chairman of the Environmental Health Department at Boston University, stated, "Populations exposed to (tetrachloroethylene) were found to have as much as eight to nine times the risk of leukemia." Ozonoff went on to say, "I think the problem today is that turning on your tap water is an act of faith, and I am not sure this act of faith is particularly well-placed."
Mr. Daniel Zwerdling of Morning Edition indicated that the greatest hazards to public drinking water may come from industrial pollution more than from bacteria. Chlorine added to water kills bacteria, but also interacts with materials in water to form chlorinated by-products, which are widely believed to contribute to rectal and bladder cancer. Mr. Zwerdling also spoke with James Elder, Chief of the Drinking Water Division of the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Elder was surprised by the number of problems that seem to occur in water supplies, and indicated that he would not take the safety of public drinking water for granted. Very little testing is done today, despite regulations of the Clean Water Act. Compliance with the act would require most communities to revamp antiquated, pre-World War I systems and use very expensive new technologies.
What's Pure? Distilled Water
So is there water that is pure and safe?
Distilled water, which is virtually free of minerals, chemicals and biological contaminants. Distilled water is made pure by first being heated to the point of vaporization, leaving almost all impurities behind. Then the water is condensed in a large storage reservoir. This process, which duplicates Nature's Hydrologic Cycle, results in water in its purest form. Distillation is the single most-effective method of water purification and can now be done at home with an appliance that uses rainwater.
In addition to these benefits, distilled water is an excellent solvent. This makes it theoretically capable of dissolving mineral deposits accumulated on artery walls. It may also dissolve the mineral deposits that often in tissues as one gets older, possibly reversing arthritis in joints which are caused by these minerals. For those with diabetes, distilled water may help ward off the accelerated aging affects of the disease, and the early onset of age-related problems such as nervous system, joint and vascular disorders.
People with diabetes have enough problems trying to stay healthy with proper medication, diet and other therapies. Water should be life-giving, not another problem.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.