Best Water Filters

water filtersMany of us are already aware that even mild chronic dehydration contributes to fatigue, brain fog, headaches, constipation, insomnia, and many more health challenges! Quantity matters.

You may also be aware of the “extra organ” in your body called a microbiome that’s comprised of billions of bacteria, trillions of viruses, and which keeps you alive.[i] It exists predominantly in your digestive tract, and it eats and drinks what you eat and drink. Unsurprisingly then, the quality of our drinking water significantly influences the health of our microbiome, with profound implications for our overall health. (The chlorine in our city water is not selective for just “bad” bacteria.)

Filtering our water is one simple way to reduce the toxic load on our body and support overall health and wellness. It’s also an essential alternative to bottled water. However, the technology is far from simple to understand, marketing tactics can be quite sneaky, and environmentally responsible practices are difficult to discern. I recently took a deep-dive into water filtration, and hope that this quick review will help you find the right water filtration option for you and your family.


What’s in Your Water?

Sometimes the first step to water filtration is simply identifying which chemicals you want to remove.


Does your water contain fluoride? Fluoride may support strong teeth, but a significant body of research questions long-term safety of fluoridated water. As of early 2022, Kingston water remains non-fluoridated, but this has been the subject of much debate and I’m concerned that this might change. Further, fluoride is difficult to filter out of tap water. (Brita filters do not filter out fluoride.)


What about lead? For some Kingston homes – especially ones built before 1940 – lead in water pipes is a concern. You can learn more on the Utilities Kingston website about what leaded pipes (or copper pipes with lead solder), might look like. This heavy metal is a concern because it builds up in a person’s body over time and increases risk of a whole host of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, Parkinsonism, and cognitive decline.


Other contaminants: Most municipalities publish annual reports on drinking water quality. Utilities Kingston has some posted on their website, here. If you’ve had health testing done that demonstrates high body burden of heavy metals (e.g. mercury, arsenic, cadmium), you’ll want to find a filtration system that addresses heavy metals. If your water comes from a well, pay attention to contamination by pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate.



Reverse Osmosis Water


Reverse Osmosis (RO) water is likely of the purest water you can drink. This is especially likely for RO systems that have an additional carbon filter cartridge. If you need clean water, this is your top pick. But I have two concerns: Environmental sustainability and mineral depletion.


The average reverse osmosis system generates about 4 or 5 litres of wastewater for every 1 litre of filtered water. In the City, this wastewater cycles back to the water treatment plant again, which contributes to climate change. If you live in the country and this wastewater returns to the ground rather than to a treatment plant, then maybe an RO system is ideal.[ii]


The other concern involves minerals. Reverse osmosis water is so clean that it “leaches” minerals from the body and contributes to mineral deficiencies. This is why some RO systems have an additional cartridge that puts minerals back into the water. If you drink RO water regularly, be aware of your dietary mineral intake and consider supplementing your diet with minerals. (Don’t rely on those RO mineral cartridges to replete your nutrient deficiencies.)


Countertop Units or Pitchers


Countertop filtering technologies are extremely variable and, well, technical. The simplest advice I might offer here is to look for NSF certification for standard 53 (i.e. filters that demonstrably remove contaminants such as lead)[iii], and standard 401 (which includes contaminants like DEET and ibuprofen). Most filters already comply with standard 42 for chlorine.


These standards unfortunately neglect to test non-RO filters for removal of important contaminants like fluoride, glyphosate, or nitrates. If you’ve found non-RO system that claims to remove these things, it means that the filter is not certified by NSF. Hopefully they’ve used another reputable company to back up these claims.


Water filter brands that appear to comply with all 3 NSF standards include the newer Brita “Longlast+” filter (which is not the same as the standard Brita filters), some Aquasana products (especially if you want a system that installs under your sink), and Multipure. Non-certified brands that claim to filter more contaminants than those tested for by NSF, (i.e. claim to remove things like fluoride and glyphosate), include Clearly Filtered, Epic Pure, and Berkey systems.


It’s worth noting that some of the most effective filters use solid carbon blocks, which rely on contact with the water to remove contaminants. Be prepared for slow water filtration if you choose one of these units. (This might include components of filters by Epic, Berkey, and Multipure.)


Finally, consider your plastic waste and how to minimize this. For example, a small family might use 2 or 3 Brita Longlast+ filters each year, compared to 6 to 10 other pitcher filters, and these can be recycled through Terracycle. (For now, you may have to mail these in to Terracycle, since Terracycle will not accept used filters at current bin locations in Kingston. A Terracycle collection bin for other plastics is still hosted by Harlowe Green on Brock Street in Kingston.)



Alkaline Water


Some good products promote alkaline water (i.e. a high pH), as health-promoting. However, I don’t believe it’s that simple. Afterall, our bodies work hard to create a very acidic environment in our stomach for a healthy microbiome. It’s possible that the health-promoting effects of alkaline water have more to do with the dissolved mineral content than the pH. Overall, I suggest not choosing a water filtration system based on pH. Choose it based on purity and sustainability, and ensure that you consume adequate dietary minerals in a whole-foods diet, or that you supplement.



Whole House Systems vs Point-of-Use


For City dwellers, the most useful pearl I found here is that the chlorine in city water could help keep harmful bacteria out of the plumbing. It makes sense to use a water filtration system as close as possible to your drinking water tap.


The advice is similar for people installing RO systems: Metals can dissolve or ionize into water, which corrodes metal pipes. This “RO Corrosion” is a known problem for older homes.



Structured Water


This is where water really becomes interesting. Water can act as its own filter. When liquid water passes over a biological membrane (such as a human cell, plant cell, or bacteria in our microbiome), the molecular structure of water rearranges to include a negative charge alongside its contact with that membrane. The process involves pushing impurities to the periphery, and an overall electrical charge strong enough to act as a battery! A similar process happens when water is exposed to sunlight or near-infrared light, or when it moves in a spiral shape (like a water eddy or circular current, in nature).[iv]


Ultimately, we’re exploring the physics of water rather than just the chemistry. The implications of this evolving science are far-reaching for health and include the awareness that our daily consumption of water could be much less than 8 glasses if the water quality includes significant electric potential. I hope to write more about this in the future!



[i] To learn more about the microbiome and its critical role in our health, please review these articles on our website.

[ii] Well water can be prone to contamination with infectious agents that cause illness. RO systems or countertop systems filter the water – they are not water purification systems. Additional water treatment interventions may be required.

[iv] Photobiomodulation devices such as the one we use with patients, use near infra-red light to support healing of chronic pain and neurological conditions. The mechanism of action includes our mitochondria that absorb the light and use it to create more energy molecules in our body. Some interesting research suggests these extra energy molecules are used to create structured water inside the cell, that then promotes cellular repair. We have much to learn here and I’ll be keeping an eye on this research.


*Photo by Silvan Schuppisser on Unsplash

environment, Naturopathic medicine, nutrition, Structured water

Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND

Dr. Sonya Nobbe is a Naturopathic Doctor and Director of Kingston Integrated Healthcare Inc. She has been practicing in the Kingston area since 2007. Dr. Sonya maintains a family practice, with a clinical focus on complex chronic disease, including Lyme disease and Fibromyalgia.


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