Is Water the Magic Pill for Good Health?
In 1999, I attended a conference focused on health and longevity. The best piece of advice offered was to avoid inflammation, particularly the kind caused by sugars and preservatives in the diet. When my wife Elisabeth and I came to the conclusion that if we wanted to avoid inflammation and promote good health and longevity, we had to stop and look at what we were drinking. It became our life mission to provide the naturally purest drinking water for our children, and as we couldn’t find it on the store shelves, we would have to find it ourselves. The first thing we did was consult with world-renowned experts. More recently, we had an in-depth conversation with Dr. Keith Berkowitz, the Founder and Medical Director of the Center for Balanced Health, whose expertise as an internist practicing traditional and complementary medicine has been of great insight and knowledge to our company’s mission of delivering the world’s highest-quality drinking water. It is our pleasure to share a recent conversation we had with Dr. Berkowitz, who is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle.
Karlheinz Muhr/KM: Welcome Dr. Berkowitz and thank you for your time. To level the conversation, what is inflammation?
Dr. Keith Berkowitz/KB: Inflammation is the way the body fights off disease. Anytime we cut ourselves, have an infection or any other process, our body works by inflammation. The problem we're seeing in a lot of these issues is that inflammation can actually not only be a positive in the early phases, but could be a negative when it's chronic or when it overwhelms the system.
KM: Why is it so prevalent now?
KB: Well, as you aptly noted through introduction, we're now learning that COVID-19 is leading to an overwhelming inflammatory syndrome called cytokine storm, a new term where your body's own immune system attacks itself. We're seeing more people developing a hypercoagulable state, where people are forming blood clots. Current studies of people with COVID-19 who end up on the ventilator or in fact dying, reflect it's actually from overwhelming inflammatory response, leading to blood clots in the lungs. Even now we're hearing about young people having strokes as well from this underlying condition.
KM: It's incredible what we have found out in a very short period of time, but what has been known about inflammation prior to COVID-19 has largely been disregarded for the most part. To that end, what is the impact of inflammation on the body?
KB: Inflammation is what we use to heal, to fight off pathogens, but when the inflammation doesn't resolve, it becomes a negative process. Environmental factors make this worse as well, such as poor lifestyle and an unhealthy diet, which can cause obesity. One of the major inflammatory markers in our body is actually pre-diabetes or insulin resistance syndrome, known as metabolic syndrome. It is a condition where your body responds to glucose, which is what your body takes in when it gets food, making too much insulin.
KM: Besides the pandemic, are there any other influencers to inflammation?
KB: A main factor is environmental toxins. We always have a conversation about this when it comes to water, right? About a lot of the things we eat and drink. We're actually ingesting environmental toxins. When in essence, the things we eat and drink should help us get rid of environmental toxins, not add more to that process.
I read an old study from the early 1800s. People now eat up to 80 times the amount of sugar in a year that they did 150 years ago. And that keeps on rising. Our bodies respond to these unhealthy products with increased inflammation as they are pro-inflammatory foods.
KM: You and I have talked over the years about what causes inflammation? You addressed at that time sugar and fructose intake and that people sometimes forget that the intake of acidic water is exactly the same. While the body cranks over time to neutralize it, this doesn’t address all the other contaminants we're taking into our body. Simply put, what changes can people make to protect one's health?
KB: Let me address water first as it's so vital. What does water do? Again, our body is mostly water. We know that. And small changes in hydration status can cause major health issues. Water serves a great purpose as our number one toxin eliminator. We ingest water to help us eliminate toxins for us. So what happens when water becomes that toxin? We're actually in this essence sabotaging that process and that could be catastrophic.
In diabetes or other diseases, people forget, when people have very high blood sugar and actually get hospitalized, the number one treatment is actually hydration, intravenous sodium chloride, and not diabetic medications first. Fluid helps regulate glucose going in and out of the cell. So I always think one of the most basic things is actually water. We can live for a short while without food. We cannot live very long without water.
After the right water intake, the other factor is dietary and actually choosing healthy foods. We want to change foods from being a source of things that do harm to us to something that's beneficial, that's something that has a nutritional value. Eating in proper portions and we're learning now, not eating so late at night. I think we're actually going back to basics. Water first, then food.
KM: People always ask about supplements and vitamins. How should people address the need?
KB: Let’s look at it from a water perspective. So again, you talked about the quality of water. Water is also a source of supplementation. People forget about water’s natural minerals. I was actually on the Hallstein Water website and you critically address the importance of calcium magnesium and why having the proper ratio is so important. In ‘The Nurses Health Study’ done out of Boston, they actually gave them all very high levels of calcium. These individuals actually ended up having depleted magnesium levels and ended up with more heart disease. So again, that proper ratio, which as we know, and you have it on your website, is two to one, calcium to magnesium. They're dependent on each other.
KM: You've done such great work with your center on COVID-19. With regard to supplements and the current pandemic can you discuss what's needed in the context of our overall discussion?
KB: Sure. In COVID-19 we're seeing really four main supplements that require discussion: zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D and quercetin. Let’s start with zinc. It’s important as a natural substance that prevents viral replication, which prevents the virus from growing. The next one, and actually, which may be the most important we talk about, is vitamin C, which is natural in the holistic world, but actually used in intensive care units for really sick people, helping the body's natural vasopressor system fight infection and help support proper blood pressure.
Next is vitamin D, which has been helpful in lowering mortality in COVID-19 patients. It works on the renin-angiotensin system, which is how the kidneys regulate fluid and blood pressure. COVID-19 novel virus hijacks the ACE2 body levels, however vitamin D increases those levels so the body is able to prevent that virus from latching onto the cell and entering the system.
The fourth one is quercetin, which is made from the citrus peel. It's called the citrus bioflavonoid and has been well-studied for years in HIV and Hepatitis-C. Quercetin is important because it blocks the virus from assembling. It also acts in allergy season as a natural antihistamine. I think it's more important to build supplementation over time, because one day does not build what I call steady state. It could take months.
KM: One question top of mind is the ratio of calcium to magnesium. Is that more important than the pH level? We know pH obviously reduces inflammation, at least high natural pH. Give us your thoughts.
KB: I think both are important. Magnesium is critical for normal heart function. A long-term study done in Hawaii with about 8,000 patients found supplementation with magnesium lowered heart events, which is heart attacks or people ending up needing stents by 50%. And we know calcium's effect on the bones and other things. So I think they're all important. The body is like a whole orchestra that needs to work in concert to be successful.
KM: It is so incredible what you say now. And so true. All our early investigations and studies, pointed to the fact that high pH water without having it with low sodium is no benefit at all because your sodium causes hypertension. So you need high pH water, with very low sodium content, ideally created in nature.
KB: Well actually, if you think about most high pH waters you see out there are actually created by adding sodium. So the most common reason they raise the pH is through a process using sodium bicarbonate. So sodium is actually an add-on to raise the pH in the water.
KM: Let me recap in terms of protecting yourself and making changes to your health. We addressed diet and optimal hydration, supplementation, to some extent you addressed it, exercise. Can you comment on exercise and then answer the impact of inflammation on longevity and some of the future research that you were doing in this area?
KB: With regard to exercise, it can be both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory. We know again, when you overexert yourself in the beginning, it actually puts stress in your muscles, but we know long-term, it actually lowers inflammation. The other aspect is that exercise lowers insulin resistance. It helps your body better utilize glucose by producing less insulin. If we have to pick the strongest and most villainous inflammatory marker in the body, that would be insulin.
KM: I know many of the audience are listening because they are conscious about their own health and the body. Alexander, our oldest son, who you met and then myself, we survived COVID-19. And I attribute a lot of it to a fairly good basic health condition and the diet that we watch and what we eat and clearly the water we drink. But I think it's something which is not just random. I think we're just fortunate, perhaps it's our genetic makeup, but you can hopefully do some of these things to improve your basic condition.
KB: And what's interesting about genetics is you may have a genetic predisposition, doesn't mean you can influence how that affects your body. The body can actually make changes based on that.
KM: Excellent. And finally could you talk a bit about the future research you are working on regarding preventive medicine versus treating the patient when they are arrived at your door in the hospital.
KB: One of the things I'm very interested in is dementia. At the Center we look at a lot of diseases. And I always tell people for heart, you can put a stent in. For diabetes, you can take medication. For dementia, there's really not a lot of options. We're learning more and more that dementia is an inflammatory process. Actually in Parkinson's, which is a major form of it, we're learning that it actually starts in the digestion.
So we're learning that you can actually influence the disease by improving digestion. Through diet and hydration, but also regulating blood sugar. So again, the foundation of a lot of these chronic diseases is inflammation and again is influenced by digestion and actually regulating blood sugar. And we're learning more and more that by making changes when you're younger, you can change that pattern long-term.
To learn more about Dr. Berkowitz’s work, click here. And for more about Hallstein Water take a look at our video, A Hallstein Tale on our website www.hallsteinwater.com and join us on Instagram @hallsteinwater