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2010/12/02

What are you drinking?

As we’ve mentioned before most bottles of spring water display on their label a Typical Analysis of the organic minerals that are in the water. The Typical Analysis usually takes the form of a table, showing the minerals measured by milligrams per litre.

So what are these minerals, what do they do and are they good for us?

Let’s start with a group of minerals called electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve in water and carry an electrical charge. Sodium, potassium and chloride are electrolytes. They are found everywhere in the body and they carry an electrical charge. Sodium and potassium have positive charges whereas chloride has a negative charge. Their electrical charge allows them to move easily through cell membranes. Body fluid levels need to remain in balance and the movement of sodium and potassium in and around the cells helps to achieve this balance.

The other electrolyte, chloride, in conjunction with sodium and potassium, helps to control the flow of fluid in blood vessels and tissue, and also acts to regulate acidity in the body. Chloride also helps to alleviate fluid retention, balance blood pH and assist in the proper functioning of the kidneys.

All three electrolytes work to keep body fluid levels in balance, not too acidic, not too alkaline. Electrolytes also work to carry impulses along the nerves, and help muscles contract and relax.

Another mineral found in all spring waters is calcium. Most people are aware that calcium is important for the development and maintenance of healthy bones, however calcium also plays a vital role in helping to regulate heartbeat, control blood pressure, clot blood, contract muscles and to build connective tissues.

Just as important as calcium to the functions of the body is magnesium which is required to make over 300 different enzymes (or catalysts) that ensure the body can properly use other vitamins and minerals.

For example, magnesium plays an important role in helping the body to effectively absorb calcium and vitamins C and D. It also acts to help muscles relax (naturopaths often prescribe magnesium to people who experience muscle spasms in the back).

In most Typical Analysis tables you will also see Bicarbonate listed and this is another essential mineral for a healthy body. Bicarbonate acts as a chemical buffer that keeps the pH of blood from becoming too acidic or too basic. This is especially important for protecting the tissues of the central nervous system.  Bicarbonate also acts to regulate the pH balance in the small intestine.

The above mentioned minerals are those that usually appear in the Typical Analysis tables printed on bottled spring water labels. Of course, some of the spring water brands in the market mention other minerals and in another posting we’ll look at some of these in more detail along with the government guidelines on the levels of substances that can be present in your favourite bottle of spring water.



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