Updated: April 16, 2021 by Zac Harding
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a method that removes harmful contaminants from tap water and can be useful for anyone who lives near an agricultural farm, industrial plant, or a mine, and wants to ensure their water is free of pollutants such as chlorine and lead.
However, RO water is so purified that the process strips away the good stuff as well as the bad.
So while it gets rid of harmful chemicals, it also takes away healthy minerals such as magnesium and calcium, too. Removal of these vital minerals could lead to deficiencies and health issues.
You don’t have to remineralize RO water, but it is possible to do so, and this will ensure your water is free of the bad stuff, but still enriched with the good stuff.
What Happens to the Water During Reverse Osmosis?
RO filters have become a pretty popular health trend in the western world.
An RO filtration system is water filtration at its simplest but the key thing here is that dit filters the water at a microscopic level, using the membrane and filters to catch the water before it’s poured out in its purified state.
The RO membrane catches particles that are 0.0001-micron pore size. To get an idea of just how tiny that is: 1 micron is equal to around 0.00004 inches and a human hair is around 75 microns in width.
So, while the membrane catches all those harmful particles, bacteria, and pollutants, it’s so effective that it prevents minerals such as sodium, magnesium, and calcium from passing through as well.
This means that RO water is super pure and safe to drink, but it also doesn’t contain the minerals you’d normally drink, so unless you’re getting those elsewhere in your diet, you may end up lacking in these.
So, is Reverse Osmosis Water Bad?
We get most of our minerals from food rather than water, and if this is the case, you may be wondering if it’s really an issue that RO water removes these minerals.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) however, it is an issue. The WHO even released a report on the dangers of reverse osmosis water and why it presents a problem.
Research that assessed households using RO water treatment in Czech and Slovak populations between 2000-2002 found that within weeks users reported magnesium (and possibly calcium) deficiency. The symptoms included cardiovascular disorders, tiredness, weakness, and muscular cramps.
RO water can even pull the minerals out of the food we eat, which is then urinated out of the body, reducing the amount that’s available for absorption. Similarly, if demineralized water is used in cooking, the essential minerals will be leached from the vegetables, for example, to compensate for the missing minerals in the water.
As much as 60 to 70% of the minerals available in water are removed through RO, leaving very little behind for the body to make use of.
Do you need to add minerals to reverse osmosis water? Yes.
How to Remineralize RO Water
Due to advancements in water filtration, plenty of modern RO systems now come with
a built-in remineralization filter. This ensures those healthy minerals are added back into your purified water.
If you have an older RO system, and you still want to reap the many benefits of RO water, there are a few other ways in which you can ensure your water isn’t lacking in minerals.
1. Add a mineral-rich salt to the water
For this, we’re not talking about table salt, but a very dense and mineral-rich salt such as Himalayan salt, which contains the full complement of 84 trace minerals.
If you purchase the ‘fine’ variety, it won’t give your water a salty taste, and you can simply add a pinch to every glass, or add around a quarter of a teaspoon to every gallon of water. This is one of the cheapest ways to remineralize your water.
2. Add mineral drops to the water
This is another simple yet effective way to remineralize your water, and you should be able to treat up to 200 gallons of water with just one small bottle of mineral drops, so it’s pretty cost-effective, too.
3. Alter the RO water with a filter
You can also add another filter such as a pH-balancing or remineralization filter to your RO system which will remineralize the water.
These filters add some of the minerals back into the water but are dependent on factors such as flow rate, water temperature, and the existing pH level of the water.
However, this is a great way of updating your RO system without having to replace it entirely.
4. Use an alkaline pitcher
Finally, another simple way to raise the pH level of your water and remineralize it is by using an alkaline pitcher.
These are readily available on the market and will increase the pH level of your water and add the lost minerals back in without you having to invest in a whole new RO system.
Why Minerals Are Important For Us
Calcium is the most common mineral in the body and makes up around 2% of the body’s weight.
It keeps bones and teeth strong, but also has a significant role in many of the body’s functions including vascular and muscular contraction, blood clotting, regulation of enzymes and hormones, and carrying messages between the nerves and the brain.
Magnesium is another key mineral that is found in water. On average the human body contains around 25g of magnesium, 60% of which is found in the bones, and the remainder of which is found mainly in soft tissues.
Magnesium deficiency could cause profound side-effects such as weakness, nausea, and fatigue, while continued deficiency could lead to symptoms such as numbness, cramps, seizures, disruption to the rhythm of the heart, and even personality changes.
While calcium and magnesium are the main minerals found in water and removed by the reverse osmosis process, many other “trace minerals” are also filtered out. These include fluoride, copper, chromium, manganese, selenium, iron, zinc, and molybdenum iodine.
So if you’re still asking if you need to add minerals to reverse osmosis water — yes, you really do.