Water: it’s the one thing we absolutely need to survive. Without water, dehydration quickly sets in and all of the major organs begin shutting down one by one. Fortunately for those of us living in the U.S. or Canada, plenty of drinking water is readily available. The question is not so much, “Is there enough drinking water?” but rather, “Is treated water safe?”
There has been a lot of debate in health news circles about the quality of tap water. Fluoride is commonly added to the water supply as hydrofluosilicic acid, silicofluoride, or sodium fluoride. Fluoride is also found as an additive in toothpastes and some mouthwashes, as a tooth decay preventive ingredient. But is fluoride really good for our health over the long term?
Fluoride is somewhat unique in that it is accumulated in your body but not secreted, making it possible for levels to become elevated over time. What happens when you get too much fluoride? The most common problem is something called “dental fluorosis.” This condition is characterized by the failure of tooth enamel to crystallize properly in permanent teeth. This can cause chalky, opaque blotching of teeth to severe, rust-colored stains, surface pitting and tooth brittleness.
Other health problems may be more significant, however. Some research suggests that too much fluoride stored away in the body can cause gastrointestinal disorders, rashes, and headaches. One clinical trial even established a link between too much fluoride and cancer.
Although it’s quite possible that most of us will never experience any serious symptoms from drinking fluorinated water, you can offset fluoride intake by paying attention to your nutritional health. In particular, consider tamarind — the fruit from the tamarind tree, to be exact. This healing food is often used in South Asian cooking.
Researchers conducted a clinical trial to determine if an extract of tamarind fruit pulp could remove fluoride stored in the body. In this animal study, 30 rats were divided into five groups. A “no fluoride” group acted as the control, followed by rats with no treatment, or a low dose, middle dose or high dose group. The latter received sodium fluoride orally at the rate of 200 milligrams per kilogram of body weight daily for 14weeks.
Rats from the low-dose, middle-dose and high-dose groups simultaneously received tamarind fruit pulp extract at three doses: 25 (low), 50 (medium) and 100 mg (high) per kg of body weight orally, respectively. Fluoride concentration in blood, urine and bone of the experimental rats was monitored to assess the efficacy of the extract.
The researchers found that there was a significant increase in urinary fluoride excretion from day 28 onwards in the tamarind-treated rats. The mean fluoride concentration in long bones of treated rats was significantly lower than the values recorded in fluoride-exposed rats. The researchers concluded that the use of tamarind fruit pulp extract can reduce fluoride concentration in blood and bone and enhance urinary excretion, indicating the potential of fruits of tamarind to reduce fluoride toxicity.
You can buy tamarind paste in most grocery stores, which can be used as a condiment. You can also buy tamarind fruit, which can be eaten as a type of dessert. Look for tamarind extract at your local health food store.