Myth or Fact? #5 – Does drinking distilled water kill you?

in science •  3 years ago  (edited)

I remember the days in school where my chemistry teacher warned us about the danger of drinking distilled water. We will suffer a painful end and nothing would save us. Ever since then I was afraid of distilled water. One day I met a friend who told me he drinks his tea only with distilled water. I couldn’t believe it. Was he making fun or was I hoaxed all these years? It sounds logical that your cell will literally explode by the distilled water. On the other hand we are made of around 65 percent water. I wanted to get to the bottom of things and started my research. Is this fact or fiction? We will find out!

The molecule of life

Water is the only chemical compound which can be naturally found in the three basic aggregate states: solid (ice), liquid (water) and gas (water vapor). It is made of hydrogen and oxygen in a ratio of 2:1. About 71% of the earths surface is covered by water. The molecule itself deserves much more than just a simple post and I might write one soon about this very interesting molecule. In this article however, we will focus on the biological processes that are determining how water is regulated in our cells. To be more accurate, we will have a look at the osmosis. The water we usually drink, whether it is from the faucet or the bottle from the supermarket has many ions. To give some examples: calcium Ca²+, Magnesium Mg²+, hydrocarbonate HCO3-. If you want to know what exactly is in your water have a look at the back of the bottle, there you will find detailed concentrations of the ions. Distilled water is free of any minerals and has no ions, it only consists of pure H20. Extracting distilled water is very easy: you boil water and let collect the condensed water separately. The condensed water is free of ions and is distilled.

To explain osmosis we will first have a look at the following illustration:

Fig.1 Schematic illustration of osmosis. Credits

We see a container with a liquid and a semipermeable membrane inside. Let us assume the liquid is red colored water and the little balls represent molecules or ions. On the left side we see that the concentration of ions is not evenly distributed. The molecules however can’t move through the semipermeable membrane. Semipermeable means it is only “open” to certain molecules. Applied to our cells this can mean for instance that no ions can move through this natural barrier. Water is able to move through the semipermeable membrane. In order to balance the concentration of each side of the membrane water is moving towards the part where the concentration of ions is higher. Now on the right side we can see an evenly distributed concentration. Concentration can be defined as the quotient of the amount of substance divided by the volume. With this definition you will now see that the concentrations within the left container is higher on the right side of the membrane. In the left container however the concentration is even.

Now replace the container with our blood cells.

Fig.2 Blood cells in different mediums. Credits

Our blood cells move in isotonic blood plasma. Isotonic means that the osmotic pressure is even. The concentration in and outside the cell is the same. Then there is hypo and hypertonic. Hypertonic means that the concentrations of ions outside our cell is higher and water flows out of the cell. On the other side hypotonic means the concentration of ions inside the cell is higher and water flows in. What would happen if we ONLY drink distilled water? Our blood plasma for instance would have a lower concentrations of ions and water moves into our blood cells, making them explode. A deadly effect.

The dose makes the poison

Like many things in life the dose makes the poison. Salt for instance is essential, in too high concentrations however deadly. (The first who gives the correct answer on what salty water does gets 10 SP from me). Same goes to distilled water. A cup of distilled water or two are fine, if however you would drink too much if might have consequences. Again, even too much drinking water is dangerous. A balanced nutrition is the key. The distilled water mixes with the minerals from our food in our stomach and thus would have no impact on our body.

No badge this time. Distilled water can cause death but it is very unlikely to happen, means this myth is partly true.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Myth or Fact. The next one will follow tomorrow.

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Distilled water is the best water to use with coffee machines , steam cleaning mop , for washing glasses , and for cooking. There are no residues after using it , and for cooking it does not change the taste of our ingredients...

I try to only drink distilled water. Doing my best not to ingest fluoride for the last two years, and I feel great. Distilled water is just water stripped of minerals and chemicals (pure water). Of course you need minerals, so you eating extra fruits and vegetables are probably needed when drinking distilled water.

i have done many experiments over the years. i would not recommend this to everyone. the myths that we are taught abound. i learned, for instance, that if you don't drink water, you may not live much past 3 days. i went without water, except that which i got from my food, for over 2 years. i am not dead. this is not an experiment that i would try again. subsequently, i have been drinking only distilled water for 5 years now. i also eat a highly nutrient dense diet. i am still not dead. isn't rain water distilled? isn't the atmosphere a huge distillery? there are the the particulates that are the nuclei that forms the droplets that eventually become rain. are the nuclei of necessity soluble in water? i don't know. i do know that i drink distilled water, and i am not dead.

Stay healthy! :)

never felt better. thanks.

Don't drink it plain, just add a splash of fruit or vegetable juice to put some minerals back in.

Exactly... If fasting for a few days, distilled water might be bad...

Thanks for this the "drinking distilled water is bad for you" idea is an old myth. As soon as it enters your mouth it is no longer distilled anyway.

What would happen if we ONLY drink distilled water? Our blood plasma for instance would have a lower concentrations of ions and water moves into our blood cells, making them explode. A deadly effect.

No that would only happen if you injected it and even then if you did it slowly enough and you had good renal function the cells would not necessarily burst. You are thinking in terms of red blood cells etc. being immersed in pure distilled water but that will never happen in your body. By the time the distilled water actually enters your blood stream (assuming you are in good health) it will be isotonic with the rest of your body.

As for whether distilled water is worse for your health than regular water I don't know as I have not seen any research or papers on it. There may be theoretical differences but I have not seen anything either way.

Thanks for your feedback! I totally agree with you. The example with the blood cells is that they are put in different mediums. In order to have pure distilled water in your body you need a transfusion. Like I wrote in the post, the distilled water mixes with the minerals in us and it won't harm us :) My teacher hoaxed me!

I think he just believed the same stories we have all been told. Often these kind of myths can pervade even professionals.

The dose is what matters. I think you would literally need to be in a water drinking contest to try and get sick....why is that? Well because your body has regulatory mechanisms. ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) is a hormone released to regulate this balance. If for instance you flooded your body with extra-water, ADH would be low (not being released as much). Therefore, water would flow through the collecting ducts of the kidney (only water goes through the channels, not sodium) and you would pee a vey low solute urine (a very clear urine)...this would in most cases help regulate the electrolytes. So no, drinking distilled water would not be much of a problem...unless you were in one of those radio contests where they ask you to drink as much distilled water as you can in 5 minutes or something haha. Without ADH, this would for sure be a factor. Diabetes insidious (not DM sugar diabetes) is when there is not enough ADH being released or not responding in the kidney). This would cause you to pee constantly....SIADH (which can happen for many reasons--typically in older individuals) is when too much ADH is released and you would pee less and more concentrated urine. These two really throw off the electrolyte balance. SIADH victims at baseline have a very low serum sodium level. I would avoid distilled water with this condition because the sodium would drop rapidly!

Good demonstration of osmosis though. I explained this in my Type I diabetes physiology blog. It is a great way to think why diabetics pee so much. Sugar brings that fluid back into the vasculature.

  ·  3 years ago (edited)

Also, you asked why you would die for the opposite of taking in too much salt. So for distilled water (lets say drinking an insane amount in 5 minutes), the blood cells would swell and burst (like you said) and the surrounding vasculature would be hypotonic. This would lead to vascular collapse....MIs, brain death...and so on due to no effective volume.....almost like if someone is in cardiogenic shock.

I would also add that electrolyte balance in itself could lead to death due to cardiac arrhythmias. Cardiac muscle does not contract properly when potassium, Ca2+ and so on are disrupted. I think the osmosis effect would probably kill you first though. As a medical student, I have seen the effects of potassium imbalance, the most likely to cause V-fib (at least with hyperkalemia).

Thank you for the detailed explanation. Few things I didn't know yet and will look up :) also I will have a look at your blog about the psychology part. Guess what we can learn from this is, not never take part in a radio contest haha. Following you for the very good input

Thank you for that lecture. very interesting :)

Great post! We just had a debate today about the potential dangers of distilled water, and here you are with the answer!:)

What a coincidence :D

I had never even heard of anyone saying drinking distilled water is bad for you. Having been in third world countries where the water may have bacteria in it that could literally kill or make us quite sick, it seemed common knowledge to boil the water and only drink the distilled part.

I haven't been exposed to an osmosis diagram since grade school, but always found it fascinating how the balance was made and an equilibrium established.

My dad actually uses distilled water in his sleep apnea mask machine to keep him from not breathing while he sleeps. This may be in fact due to there being no ions and no chance to have "hard water" build up within the machine.

Our steam cleaning mop (no #steemclean pun intended) also calls for distilled water. I personally prefer filtered tap water over distilled, but I never would have thought the quantity most people would consume would even have that big an impact on the body vs. from the source water.

It'd be interesting to see a study done on athletes performance with different types of water. I'm sure it has been done, but I'd like to spend a bit of time looking into it when I have a spare moment.

Very interesting and well written @timsaid!

Thanks bendjmiller222! So the steemcleaners want distilled water? Just kidding :) I will have a look for the athletes performance study. Maybe I will find something. Further I agree how fascinating biology can be.

Thanks for reading!

Haha most steemcleaners want distilled water :) Definitely interested if you find a athletes performance case study using multiple different water types / brands :)

Drinking non distilled water is equally likely to kill you in similar amounts.

Absolutely! I can't remember where I read but it said more than six liters water at once is deadly

The high amount of salt in the body would have the same osmosis effect on our veins. The blood would thicken and you´d die by a heart attack or an aneurism because of blood clotting.

That's what I was looking for :) it's actually the osmosis again! The opposite of drinking distilled water. The medium around our blood cells becomes hypertonic

Sending you the 10 SBD today

Regular tap water is hypotonic, and I suspect that distilled water is only very slightly more so. To make it isotonic, you have to add considerable concentrations of ions.

There's a thing that occasionally happens to marathon runners and ecstasy users called "water intoxication." I think that's what it's called. It means that they've drunk way too much regular water and it's displaced too many ions in their blood.

Anyway, the point is that the problem you describe of drinking too much distilled water would be a problem if you drank too much regular water as well.

Just adding a bit of feedback. I enjoyed the post!

I heard of water intoxication. It's a vicious circle! The more they sweat the more they want to drink. Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate :)

This is a total myth, and was first circulated by water filter salesman who felt threatened by the rise of home water distillers being marketed! lol

It's a complete myth, The only water your body was designed to drink is pure distilled water. It will remove INorganic minierals which your body does not need and is bad for you. And will not effect organic minerals. You will feel great and have lots of energy and loose weight. check out

I hope it's not lethal because it is the only fluid I put in my body & I have been that way for 3 years. In that time I have never seen a doctor because I have never been ill. I'm homeless too I was staying with people and they all got flu last year they went down for a week. I felt the bug I had a tickly throat for 3 hours and it passed. Never will I drink anything else again.

Interesting article. I just made this on distilled water

I've been drinking distilled water for years. It does not show any signs of having reduced any mineral content from blood test results. At worst, it might not be as good for your teeth because there is no fluoride in it but if you brush daily with fluoride toothpaste or use mouthwash with fluoride then it's not a big deal.

I can't think of any specific mineral you would miss that you can't take a multi-vitamin to get. In places where drinking water isn't so pure or is heavily polluted, distilled water might not be so bad.

This post has been linked to from another place on Steem.

Learn more about linkback bot v0.4. Upvote if you want the bot to continue posting linkbacks for your posts. Flag if otherwise.

Built by @ontofractal

I know lots of people who have cured themselves of cancer and other serious diseases with distilled water therapy. This article is completely misleading, and missing some very deep research and concrete evidence. New born babies are given distilled water. I've seen my own mother cure herself of serious immune based illness and hypothyroidism with distilled water. People with kidney disease are given distilled water, all life is based on distilled water, hundreds of doctors who are not supporting the mainstream agenda to cause illness for profit will tell you to only drink distilled water. Distilled water cleans out the inorganic minerals and limescale and fluoride, it decalcifies the pineal gland and internal body. Here are twenty four doctors that encourage distilled water therapy.

“It is Mr. Bennet’s theory that old age and ill health are caused by the collection in the arteries and about the joints of lime and clay sediments contained in drinking water. This mineral coating, he believes, interrupts the proper circulation of the blood, prevents the necessary irrigation of the skin, produces stiffness of the joints and dulls the action of the brain.”
“Distilled water and olive oil, one used internally, the other used externally, are my elixirs of youth,” declared Mr. Bennett. “They will counteract the decaying conditions in the body. You must DRINK LARGE QUANTITIES OF DISTILLED WATER, rub yourself with pure California olive oil, and take a moderate exercise. That is the secret which my friends have so long wished to learn.”
“Why, ten years ago I could not read without glasses. Today, I can read the smallest print without artificial aid of any kind.”

I don't think drinking distilled water will kill some one. But if you used to do water planting without provide other minerals, plants will die. Same as RO water, they are purified water until they lake of minerals. We don't live depend on water only. With balance nutrients intake from balance foods, we'll still live well.

Totally right! Heard of the term turgidity?

Drinking salty water causes dehydration. You'd have to urinate more fluid than the amount of salt water you drank to flush the extra salt from your body.

And it tastes bad!