Is Calcium in Water Bad for You?
Calcium in water is notorious for causing problems around your home including calcium buildup in bathrooms and blockages in pipes. However, when it comes to health, having calcium in your drinking water is very beneficial. Drinking water high in calcium and other water minerals is associated with numerous health benefits. If you’re looking to drink the healthiest water possible, then water high in calcium and other minerals is the way to go.
Where Does Calcium in Water Come From?
Calcium and other water minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and manganese come from rocks. When it rains, the earth soaks up the rainwater and the water makes its way down into the earth. As it continues to move downward, the water moves through various levels of soil and rock.
Eventually, the water ends up in an underground aquifer which is a reservoir where it stays until it is eventually drilled for or forms a spring on the earth’s surface. Once the water lands in the aquifer, it is already full of different minerals including calcium carbonate (caco3). As it was moving downwards through the earth, the water soaked up and held onto minerals from the rocks that it passed through.
Groundwater Versus Surface Water
There are two main different drinking water sources on earth:
- Surface water
Simply put, groundwater refers to water that is harvested from underground. Surface water is water that is harvested from sources (such as lakes and rivers) above ground water. Overall, groundwater has a higher natural mineral content than surface water. Because the water harvested from underground goes through multiple layers of soil and rock before it is harvested, it picks up a significant amount of more minerals.
On the other hand, surface water usually doesn’t go through any rock or soil before it is harvested and, therefore, contains fewer minerals. So, if you want water that has high concentrations of calcium and other minerals, try to drink water that is sourced from groundwater rather than surface water.
What is the Relationship Between Hard Water and Calcium?
Water hardness is a measure of the concentration of dissolved minerals, including calcium, in the water. The higher the concentration of minerals, the harder the water is. Water that is either treated to have its minerals removed or is naturally very low in minerals such as water that comes from a surface water source, is referred to as soft water.
The two minerals that affect the total hardness of water the most is calcium and magnesium. Certain water treatments including water softening intentionally removes minerals from the water in order to make it softer.
Why Have a Water Softener to Treat Hard Water?
The water softening process removes calcium and other minerals from your household water supply in order to negate some of the common issues associated with hard water. While water minerals are very good for your health, they can wreak havoc on your home’s water system and your home in general. Some of the problems they tend to cause include:
- Mineral buildup in pipes
- Calcium stains
- Broken down appliances
- Dirty surfaces and dishes
- Clothing quality deterioration
Water softeners most commonly use a process called ion exchange in which calcium and magnesium ions are removed from your home’s water while sodium is added in. As a result of removing the hard mineral cations like calcium from the water in exchange for softer ones, many of these household problems go away.
However, while removing minerals from the water reduces the number of problems caused by hard water, the water quality in terms of health benefits decreases. Without calcium and other minerals, soft water is not exactly the best for your health.
Health Benefits of Calcium in Water
The daily recommended intake amount of calcium for adults is about 1000 mg of calcium per day. Drinking water high in calcium not only helps you get closer to that recommended daily intake but also has several beneficial health effects. In order to help your body absorb calcium fully and use it to carry it out of all of its functions, you should consider taking a vitamin d supplement! Vitamin d maximizes the potential benefits calcium has to offer.
Reduces the Risk of Developing Cardiovascular Disease
Multiple different studies have shown an inverse relationship between drinking hard water with high calcium and magnesium concentrations and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Also, one’s risk of cardiovascular mortality is inversely related to high calcium and magnesium intake.
In one particular study, men in England and Wales who drank harder water had lower rates of cardiovascular mortality than men who drank softer water. Specifically, the cardiovascular mortality that decreased was for that of cardiovascular disease. These results are consistent across a handful of different studies.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Drinking mineral water high in calcium and magnesium helps lower blood pressure. This is no surprise as having low blood pressure is commonly correlated with lower odds of developing cardiovascular disease. In one study, a group of individuals already with high blood pressure and low levels of calcium and magnesium in their blood were instructed to either drink water high in minerals or low in minerals.
The results showed that the participants who drank water high in minerals had a significant decrease in blood pressure after just two weeks of beginning the experiment. This goes to show that not only do calcium and magnesium help lower blood pressure, but they can make a significant impact on blood pressure through drinking mineral water alone.
Helps Build and Maintain Strong Bones
Calcium is probably best known for helping to build strong bones. It not only helps build bones, though, but it also helps to:
- Keep existing bones strong
- Prevent osteoporosis
- Maintain bone restoration
One study done in Italy measured the differences in bone mineral density between women who lived in an area where the water was high in calcium and an area where the water was low in calcium. They found that the women who lived in the area where the calcium was high had significantly greater spine mineral density than the women who lived where calcium was low. This study and similar ones show how calcium in water is able to improve bone density.
Protects Against Certain Cancers
Multiple studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between both cancer morbidity and mortality and drinking water high in calcium. Specifically drinking water high in calcium and other minerals has been shown to decrease morbidity/mortality for the following types of cancers:
There are additional studies currently underway investigating the correlation between hard water and other types of cancers as well.
Protects Against the Development of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque in your artery walls. Fat and cholesterol are the primary culprits of plaque buildup. The most common consequences of this buildup is blood clots which can have a cascade of effects including:
- Heart attack
- Chest pain
- Bodily swelling
Diets rich in calcium have been shown to help prevent atherosclerosis. Specifically, calcium helps protect against the development of early-stage atherosclerosis by reducing buildup in your arteries.
Improved Gastrointestinal Health
Water high in calcium and magnesium has been shown to positively affect your digestion. Overall, hard water eases your digestive system, creating a more regular flow that eases stomach pain, and prevents you from feeling bloated. Specifically, calcium helps to:
- Relieve constipation
- Encourage healthy stomach bile
For a more regular digestive flow, calcium is the way to go.
Downsides of Calcium in Water
Most of the downsides associated with calcium in water have less to do with drinking the water and more to do with using the water for things like cleaning.
Calcium Stains and Buildup
Perhaps the most well-known downside of having high levels of calcium in your water is the formation of calcium stains in your bathroom, on your water fixtures, and on just about anything you use hard water to clean. Dishes, clothes, and surfaces cleaned with hard water can all end up covered in white mineral stains.
When water high in minerals evaporates, it leaves little white spots behind which buildup over time. These spots are actually minerals that didn’t evaporate along with the water. Overall, while they are mostly harmless, these stains can negate a lot of your cleaning efforts. They can also deteriorate the quality of the surfaces you clean, your dishes, and even your clothes.
The best way to combat calcium stains and buildup is to use a water softener for your home’s water system. As a result, not only will your home and the items in your home be cleaner, but the longevity of your appliances will increase as well. On the downside, you will no longer have tap drinking water high in calcium.
Blockages in Water Pipes
A second problem caused by calcium in water is blockages in your home’s water pipes. After a certain amount of time, minerals flowing through your home’s pipes will start to build up and cause blockages. Similar to how fat and cholesterol can build up in your arteries, this can lead to potential problems such as the cutting off of water flow or bursting of pipes.
If you have hard water in your home, it’s very important that you regularly get your pipes cleaned and checked to prevent blockages of calcium and avoid any disasters caused by them. You will likely have to pay more money to have professionals inspect your pipes, but getting things checked up every so often could potentially prevent a water-related disaster in your home.
Formation of Kidney Stones
While water high in calcium and other minerals is overall seen as good for your health, one potentially negative health effect they can have is helping promote the formation of kidney stones. Kidney stones form when your urine contains too high levels of calcium or magnesium salts. If your body is unable to dilute these salts, they will crystalize and form into kidney stones. Anyone who has ever had a kidney stone knows that it can be extremely painful.
If you have a diet too high in crystal-forming minerals like calcium, then your body is more likely to form kidney stones. Therefore, if you drink water that is highly concentrated in calcium, your chances of getting kidney stones could technically increase.
However, most hard water sources do not contain high enough concentrations of calcium and other minerals to directly cause kidney stones. Unless you live in an area where the water is extremely high in calcium, it’s highly unlikely that the calcium in your hard water would directly cause a stone to form.
Types of Water High in Calcium
There are several different types of water that have high concentrations of calcium and other minerals. Some of the waters are naturally high in minerals while others are artificially infused with them. If you want to increase your calcium intake, any of these water options would make a good choice.
1. Mineral Water
Mineral water is water that has a high mineral concentration. Technically, in order to be called mineral water, the water must have at least 250 parts per million (ppm) of total dissolved solids. Mineral water is typically sourced from groundwater high in natural minerals or from mineral springs. Both of these sources tend to have the highest calcium levels of any type of water source.
Additionally, minerals can be artificially infused into other types of water that are lower in minerals such as tap water. While this is overall less natural, the minerals added artificially are the exact same minerals as the ones found naturally in groundwater and mineral springs.
2. Spring Water
Spring water is very similar to mineral water; the only difference is that it doesn’t quite reach 250 ppm of dissolved solids. Yet, it is still very high in calcium and other minerals and could be considered a close second in terms of the highest mineral concentrations after mineral water.
3. Electrolyte Water
Electrolytes are synonymous with minerals. The most likely context you’ve heard of electrolyte water before is within the realm of sports. That’s because electrolyte water helps rehydrate your body during exercise by supplying it with high levels of minerals.
In order for your body to stay hydrated and perform at peak levels, it needs not only water but also minerals like calcium. Basically, sports drinks that advertise themselves as high in electrolytes are basically artificially infused mineral waters. Overall, they have just about all of the same good benefits for your body as mineral water does.
How to Add Calcium to Your Water
If your home’s tap water is low in calcium and other minerals, there are a few ways in which you can re-add the minerals to your water in order to increase your intake of calcium.
1. Add mineral drops: Adding a few drops of trace minerals to your water is a simple way to add naturally occurring minerals to your water. In addition to calcium and magnesium, sulfate, chloride, and sodium are all common minerals in mineral drops.
2. Add pink salt: Pink Himalayan salt is one of the most mineral-rich salts in the world as it contains 84 different trace minerals. Just a pinch of the salt added to your water is enough to supplement any minerals lost during treatment.
3. Use an alkaline water filter: Alkaline water filters raise the alkalinity of your water by adding calcium, magnesium, and other minerals back into it. They also effectively filter different contaminants from your water and help balance its pH. Check out our list for the best alkaline water pitchers!
4. Use a pH balancing reverse osmosis filter: Most traditional reverse osmosis filtration systems remove almost all of the healthy minerals in the water. However, you can add a pH balancing filter to your reverse osmosis system in order to increase the water’s calcium and magnesium concentrations while raising the pH of the water. This way, your water is both clean and mineral-rich!
The Bottom Line: Drink Water High in Calcium for Good Health
Calcium in water is far from bad for you. If you have a hard time getting enough dietary minerals from food alone or just want to get more of them, then drinking hard or moderately hard water that is high in calcium and other minerals will do your body well.
Bonus tip: To get even more good-for-you minerals from drinking water, try squeezing a lemon into your water.