The Science of Green Hard Water Treatment
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
What we learned from the medical community’s research and remedies on treating kidney stones: While there are innumerable laboratory studies supporting the hindering effects of citrate on hard water scale formation, a real world, tried and tested parallel comes from methods used to prevent and treat kidney stones. All research supports the importance of calcium (the primary component of hard water) in our diets while cautioning against additional salt.
The National Kidney Foundation estimates that one in ten people in the US will suffer from kidney stones at some point in their lives.(1) Once you have your first kidney stone you are at a heightened risk of developing additional kidney stones.
What is a kidney stone?
A kidney stone is a hard mass that is formed in the kidneys. The most common type of kidney stones (70%) is formed when calcium binds with oxalate to form calcium oxalate stones.(2,3)
From where do we get oxalate?
Oxalate is a naturally occurring compound found in almost all plant-based foods, from leafy vegetables like spinach, to grains and nuts. (Yes, these are the good food dieticians encourage us to eat!) In addition, oxalate is created in our bodies as a metabolic byproduct.
Preventing calcium oxalate stones while getting all the other benefits of plant based food.
Oxalate rich foods are rich in other essential nutrients and fiber. University of Wisconsin Health notes that the benefits from these foods far outweigh the risk of forming kidney stones4. Trying to prevent kidney stones by cutting these food sources out of your diet to reduce or eliminate your oxalate consumption unless you suffer from chronic kidney stones is not recommended (the Harvard Medical School News Letter states that doctors may advise that patients struggling with chronic kidney stones avoid or reduce consumption of oxalate rich foods ).
There are three recommended steps to prevent calcium oxalate stones: (3,4,5)
1. Drink plenty of water: A high fluid intake prevents kidney stones in two ways. First, fluids prevent stone-forming minerals from bonding to each other in the kidneys, and second, fluids flush excess minerals from the kidneys before they can be formed into stones.
And whenever possible include citrus beverages: Both University of Wisconsin Health and Harvard Health recommend including a citrus beverage, like lime juice or orange juice, with your fluid intake. The citrate in these beverages blocks stone formation in two ways: by binding to calcium which reduces calcium’s availability to oxalate, and by binding to tiny calcium oxalate crystals, preventing small calcium oxalate crystals from growing into large stones.(5,6) This is similar to the way NuvoH2O’s CitraCharge prevents hard water scale. Hard Water
( i. Calcium citrate is too soluble to form stones.
ii. Although not universally recommended as a preventative measure, potassium citrate is used to treat some patients afflicted with calcium phosphate stones. Approximately 10% of kidney stones are made of calcium phosphate.(7)
2. Eat calcium-rich foods with oxalate-rich foods: The goal here is to prevent oxalates from reaching the kidneys. When plant-based foods are eaten together with calcium-rich foods, calcium binds with oxalate in the digestive tract and is excreted rather than absorbed and deposited in the kidneys.
But, If possible avoid calcium supplements: A Harvard study found that consuming calcium supplements increases the risk of developing kidney stones because, unlike dietary calcium which binds oxalate in the digestive tract, calcium from supplements cannot. (The National Kidney Foundation recommends consulting a physician and a registered kidney dietitian before taking calcium supplements)(8,9) Blue Water
3. Lower your sodium intake: Diets high in sodium increase the amount of calcium in kidneys and urine. More calcium means more chances to form stones, especially if you are prone to kidney stones.
Other diseases linked to high sodium and kidney stones: Several studies, including a recent report in the journal Nature, link kidney stones from high sodium diets to osteoporosis.(10) For reasons not fully understood, when your body eliminates excess sodium, some calcium is lost with it (remember the 1% of calcium in soft tissues). If your diet lacks the calcium needed to replace the calcium eliminated with sodium, your body will compensate by moving calcium from your bones to your soft tissues, contributing to osteoporosis. Blue Zones
(High sodium may also lead to other illnesses such as hypertension. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, requires that public water systems that exceed 20 mg/L sodium notify local and state public health officials (U.S. EPA 1996). This is a guidance for individuals on a restricted sodium diet and not for the entire population)(11) Hard Water
Benefits of eco-friendly hard water treatments
Eco-friendly hard water treatment methods, like NuvoH2O’s CitraCharge, let you keep all the good, essential nutrients in your hard water while preventing hard water scale. (CitraCharge is the only method available that follows the science used in kidney stone treatment to prevent scale buildup by altering the chemistry of scale). Unlike traditional salt-based hard water treatments, CitraCharge does not add unhealthy elements from salt to your potable water, or environmentally damaging chloride to your wastewater and dwindling fresh water supplies.
Disclaimer: No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
About the Author
Dr. Mahika Weerasekare is a synthetic organic, and analytical chemist with over 20 years of work in research and development. Her experience ranges from small molecular drug development to biomaterial synthesis. Dr. Weerasekare became interested in water chemistry while developing synthetic biopolymers that mimic natural underwater glues for use as water-borne surgical adhesives.
6. Citric Acid and Kidney Stones | Health and Nutrition Facts for You | Patients & Families | UW Health | Madison, WI