Fluoride in tap water

By which we mean fluoride, just to clarify.

Fresh, clean water running from our taps is something to be genuinely grateful for & certainly not a commodity we should take for granted. However, we also believe that optimising our nutrition as much as is possible is a fundamental element when it comes to improving & maintaining good health.

We require hydration for many bodily functions; to eliminate waste products, cushion the brain, spinal cord & delicate tissues, & form the base part of most liquids in the body, including synovial fluid (found in our joints), blood, lymph & mucus. We are in fact largely made of water, so you can see how essential it is for every cell in our body & thus life itself!

Therefore getting water right is essential. An adult body requires around 2 litres of water to perform all bodily tasks & functions. This varies a little based on size & is of course much less for children & babies.

So how do we optimise our hydration? Using a water filter is a simple way of removing impurities from our water.

Tap water can contain chlorine, residues of certain medications, traces of minerals, industrial heavy metals & in some areas, fluoride.

That said, tap water in the UK is safe, clean & not all areas of the UK add fluoride to water.

However, fluoride continues to be an area of controversy, but why? As always we want to give you the facts so you can make an informed decision so find our breakdown below.

Let’s talk about the F word:

Fluoride is a mineral found in your bones & teeth. It’s also found naturally in soil, plants, rocks, air & some water sources.

Fluoride is commonly used in dentistry products to strengthen tooth enamel (the outer layer of our teeth) & for this reason, fluoride can help to prevent the need for fillings by protecting against the deterioration of said tooth enamel. It is added to most toothpaste & mouthwashes, & as stated above many places will fortify their water supply with small amounts.

For human health the reported benefits of fluoride are:

  • Rebuilding (remineralisation) of weakened tooth enamel.
  • Slowing the loss of minerals from the enamel over time.
  • Prevention of the growth of harmful oral bacteria.

So fluoride helps us have healthy teeth, which sounds excellent, but when does fluoride stop being beneficial to health? The answer is very much related to dosage. In small amounts it can be beneficial to dental health, but as that exposure level rises we start to see a strong association with various disorders & health conditions.

Like all nutrients (especially ones that are not water-soluble) there is very much a sweet spot with the amount we take in as we can store these. The issue with having fluoride in drinking water & dental products is that long term ingestion can see it evolve from beneficial boost to cumulative toxin. This is of greater concern with children who are at a higher risk of overconsumption.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that excessive ingestion of fluoride is a significant health concern that may result in dental & skeletal fluorosis.

It is important to note that this isn’t always due to the adding of fluoride to water but also the presence of it naturally in water due to environmental conditions, but it can be both in some cases.

DENTAL FLUOROSIS
Dental fluorosis occurs in children while the teeth are still forming under their gums, resulting in white spots forming on the surface of the teeth. This is more of an aesthetic issue than a health concern in the short term however it is an indication of overconsumption of fluoride which if continued could lead to more pressing concerns.

It tends to be seen in children under the age of 6 who have permanent teeth still coming in & is often attributed to children being more likely to swallow toothpaste which contains significantly more fluoride than fluoridated water.

NEUROLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT IN CHILDREN
This is a big one & what we would tend to be more concerned about if we were to encounter dental fluorosis in a child.

Studies have shown that high levels of fluoride negatively impact neurological development in children by influencing gene & protein expression, enzyme activity & inducing oxidative stress (the process of oxidation within the body causes changes to structures, creating damage & potentially altered cell division).

This can result in challenges with learning, & some trials even suggest a lower IQ level in areas with high fluoride levels in the water.

SKELETAL FLUOROSIS
This is a chronic metabolic bone & joint disease caused by ingesting large amounts of fluoride, this time most usually from water.

Fluoride can alter the resorption of bone tissue (the process that continually occurs within our skeleton to maintain optimal skeletal strength & density). Early symptoms can often be missed as they include quite ‘normal’ things like joint pain & stiffness.

If left unchecked however over time we can see alterations to bone structure & calcification of ligaments which limits range of movement within joints, increases friction & causes pain.

Conversely to dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis is seen mainly in adults & is usually attributed to fluoridated water, whether through targeted addition, or in some areas, leaching from large geologic deposits of fluoride. The latter situation being uncommon in Europe however.

THE FINAL WORD
This is a difficult one to conclude upon because it is a grey area, the science is evolving over time & that leads to it being more controversial as you will find steadfast opinions on both sides. What we are all waiting on is more extensive studies to establish what the safe & correct dosage of fluoride is.

If you are interested you can look up the water quality of your area online. In the UK, the naturally occurring fluoride present in water is around 0.014 ppm (parts per million). In areas that add fluoride, it is about 1.5 ppm. Toothpaste is usually between 1,000 and 1,300 ppm, which we largely spit out, although we will absorb some of through the sides of the mouth & through swallowing our saliva.

Our sway is that filtered water will always be purer, with less chlorine, chemical residues, residual medications & (depending on where you are in the world and the water supply) potentially bacteria & pathogens.

It also seems clear that children & pregnant women are most at risk of overconsumption, so limiting fluoride during this time if you can is pretty important.

It may be that we have filtered water but still use fluoride in dental products, or you may choose to go fluoride free with both. There certainly are dental benefits to some fluoride.

In a world where our toxic load is already relatively high from environmental pollution, pesticides, chemical cleaning products, cosmetics & the rest, we see filtering our water at home as an opportunity to support our bodies to be as well as they can be by making our drinking water as clean & health-promoting as possible. It will be a sure-fire way of reducing toxic load overall, & it is also a much more environmentally friendly way to drink clean water than buying bottled mineral water in plastic bottles.

When you look at the Berky water filter, the lab reports are very impressive — effectively reducing traces of heavy metals, hormones, bacteria, & fluoride if you choose the extra filters. You can get an 8-litre filter that sits nicely on a kitchen worktop or shelf. They are large in terms of the amount of water they process but physically don’t take up much space.

If you don’t want to invest in a larger filtration system like Berky, you can also use something simple like a Black + Blum charcoal stick & just add this to a bottle or jug; it isn’t quite as thorough as Berky but still a great well worth having.

As a final note though the downside to such excellent filtration is that they also filter out much-needed electrolytes.

Electrolytes allow our body to utilise water effectively. Without them, we may never feel fully quenched, experience muscle spasms, aches & pains, & find we are simply drinking water only for it to go straight through us.

These are important to add to filtered water everyday; however even more critical after exercise or heat exposure, when we will lose more electrolytes through sweating.

There are some excellent electrolyte products that don’t contain sugar, artificial flavours or sweeteners. We like Viridian’s sports electrolyte fix & the Elete hydration complex.

Using Celtic sea salt in cooking is also an excellent way to get these essential minerals into our bodies.

Whilst we’re talking water some of you may release you aren’t achieving that sweet spot of ~2 litres per day so below we’ve included some of our favourite ways to maintain optimum hydration:

  • Have a jug or bottle by your workstation to remind you to top up through the day.
  • Add fresh herbs like rosemary or slice up something delicious & visually enjoyable such as lemon, lime, ginger, or cucumber.
  • Explore different herbal infusions – there are thousands of herbal teas out there; find the ones you love most!
  • Make a warm five-minute broth with ginger, garlic, turmeric & your choice of herbs; you could even add some powdered bone broth for an instant nutrient boost! We love the Planet Paleo range.
  • Dilute something else delicious & nutritious, half kombucha or water kefir & half filtered water is 1 of our favourites, or try the Three Spirit Elixirs or Mother Root Switchel.

 

Written by Rose Dalrymple

Associate Nutritional Therapist & Yoga Teacher