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Common Misunderstandings: Hard Water and Kidney Stones

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For some reason, there are many myths about tap water. People have claimed that hard water is the cause of a million different ailments, some with scientific backing, but many without, so it becomes essential to address some of these rumors and misunderstandings. A common myth about hard water is that it causes kidney stones.

Does Hard Water Cause Kidney Stones?

The claim among many who believe that hard water causes kidney stones is that the extra calcium in hard water clumps up and hardens into solid stones in your kidneys because there is too much for your body to process. It sounds reasonable, but is it true? The answer is complicated and requires a deeper dive into hard water and how the human body reacts.

What is Hard Water?

Simply put, hard water is water with dissolved calcium and magnesium above tolerable levels. This contamination is commonly measured in grains per gallon (GPG). Most city and well water supplies contain calcium and magnesium because most water comes from groundwater. Groundwater is water that accumulates at a certain depth underground. Since limestone is so common, groundwater in most of the United States will pick up calcium and magnesium from limestone. Many municipal water supplies and all wells draw from groundwater, but the hard water minerals usually don’t get removed unless a home or business has a water softener.

Long story short, drinking hard water leads to drinking inorganic calcium and magnesium that was once in the ground. Because of this, many have concluded that the calcium from hard water builds up and becomes kidney stones. If that were the case, kidney stones would be more common, and a more significant health problem in the United States. According to the experts at Kidney.org, overeating organic calcium is blamed for causing kidney stones, and that is not the case! Eating three servings of dietary calcium from sources such as dairy is recommended to lower the risk of calcium stone formation.

There are many types of kidney stones, but the “calcium stone” variety is formed by calcium oxalate, so it is more than just too much calcium causing the problem. These stones are a concern for anyone who does not stay hydrated enough, has a high sodium intake, or is low on calcium, as these can lead to increased chances of kidney stones. A person can drink either hard or soft water and still be in the same danger of kidney stones if they do not drink enough. Proper hydration, even with hard water, will help keep your urine more diluted as you flush your system more frequently, which will help prevent build-up in the kidneys and stone formation.

What About Extremely Hard Water?

Water is different all over the world. Some areas in the United States have significantly fewer hard water concerns than others, but some must deal with exceptionally hard water. According to the EPA, any water over 121 mg/L of mineral content is considered hard water, and much of the country falls into that water hardness category. Many communities with this kind of hardness will already have water softeners, but those without may want to consider the investment. Elevated hardness levels in your water can lead to a bitter taste which may make drinking your water unpleasant, and lead to not staying hydrated enough to keep your kidneys healthy. Low levels of hardness usually go unnoticed, but if you are in an area of the country with high levels of hardness, you may want to install a home water softener to improve the taste of your water. Contact your healthcare provider if you're concerned about health problems caused by hard water.

Better Water, Better Hydration

If hydration is the key to avoiding the complications of kidney stones, then the quality of your drinking water is vital. Soft drinks like sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and other sugary or artificially sweetened beverages have been trendy for decades but are also a culprit of kidney stone formation. The recent rise in bottled water's popularity proves that people enjoy drinking water if they think their water is clean enough. Still, bottled water is often tap water sealed in plastic, and disposable plastic bottles are an environmental concern. Why not improve the quality of your water where you live to have a healthy alternative without the hassle of bottled water?

While a water softener cannot completely filter all the potential contaminants from your drinking water, it is often the first step in a complete water treatment solution. Drinking water filters, like carbon cartridge filters or reverse osmosis systems, can get clogged or damaged by high hardness levels and lose the ability to remove the chlorine, nitrates, arsenic, or lead they are intended to. Pairing the high-quality softened water from the TotalCare® and CareSoft® series with an InterFlo® or UltroWater® drinking water filter will give you water that tastes better, making it easier for people to stay hydrated with water they can trust right in their homes. Keeping hydrated with better water is something everyone can agree with.

Other Benefits of Soft Water

Hard water might not directly cause kidney stones, but it is still a concern for many homeowners because of the damage it can do to plumbing and appliances. The same calcium that we talked about before is still able to build up inside pipes and appliances. After enough time, calcium will cling to the walls of pipes and solidify, slowly reducing the water flow throughout your home. Like plaque clogging arteries, hard water minerals can cause long-term damage to your plumbing. Appliances that use water are in danger of damage as well. Scale buildup from hard water can reduce the effectiveness of your dishwasher or cause it to fail. Scale buildup occurs inside water heaters, making water heaters work harder and use more energy to keep your water hot. Clothes washing machines work more efficiently when not burdened with scale buildup.

It is a small price to dump a few bags of salt in a water softener’s brine tank if it maintains the life of your appliances and helps you and your family enjoy staying hydrated. Contact your local WaterCare dealer today to set up a free water test. The test will identify what contaminants are in your water and how hard your water is. With all this information, your dealer can install a custom water treatment system so you can enjoy high-quality fresh, softened, filtered water throughout your home.