A healthy stomach plays a crucial role in our digestive system. In addition to breaking down protein, our stomach does a lot of lifting in the digestion process. It pummels our food, churns and mixes it, and stores it until it’s ready to enter the small intestine for absorption.
The stomach also plays another important role that we are just beginning to understand. Gastric acid secreted by the stomach plays an important role in killing pathogenic bacteria that enters our digestive system. This is not new.
What is new is that our stomach is not completely sterile and shouldn’t be; it houses a core microbiome that, in turn, creates a healthy stomach. As a result, research into our gastric microbiome and what it does is being heavily researched.
Our gastric microbiome helps:
- Tweaks the immune system in our stomach
- Regulates acid secretion
- Likely plays a major role in the development of stomach cancer
- Regulates integrity of the gastric barrier
The most famous of the gastric microbes is Helicobacter pylori. This rock star bad-boy is famous for its role in ulcers, gastritis, and stomach cancer. However, healthy members of the gastric mucosa include those in the phyla Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Fusobacteria.
So how do we take care of our gastric buddies? One important but often ignored factor is our drinking water. In today’s blog we’ll discuss the importance of our drinking water and how minerals within it likely help foster a healthy stomach.
Why is mineral water important for a healthy stomach?
Each area of our GI tract houses a distinct set of microorganisms known as a microbiome. These microorganisms do a lot for our digestion including breaking down food, synthesizing nutrients, and sculpting the environment they reside in.
Many different factors play a role in the selecting the members of its environment. What we eat, metabolic health, sleep, stress, exposure to dirt and animals, and where we live are all important factors.
Just like us, members of our microbiome have essential nutrients they need to survive and reproduce. We know minerals are important to microbial fermentation.
Fermented foods contain minerals often bound to things like phytate that bacteria liberate for use. This also makes those minerals more bioavailable to us.
But something like water kefir requires the addition of minerals or it simply just won’t work. Those microbes need minerals.
Based on its location, the stomach may benefit greatly from the consumption of mineral water. Being in ionic form, the minerals in water are more easily used by members of the gastric microbiome. Unlike food, they don’t need to be liberated.
Thus, mineral water may have some benefit over water that’s been depleted of minerals such as from a reverse osmosis filtering system. However, it’s important to point out that even tap water has some minerals in it.
Evidence for mineral water in stomach health
Needless to say this isn’t a well-studied topic. However, a study published last year looked at the use of mineral water for stomach health. They looked at 90 people with GERD separated into 3 groups all receiving the standard care for GERD (PPIs and diet).
One group simply did the treatment, but the other 2 groups did the treatment with 1 of 2 different types of mineral water. One group consumed a mineral water with boron, bicarbonate and sodium The other consumed a sulfate-hydrocarbonate sodium-magnesium water.
After 1 month, there was no change in the treatment only group. However, the group consuming the sulfate-hydrocarbonate sodium-magnesium water eliminated the bloating/fullness and pain symptoms and resolved the GI inflammation and improved bile flow.
Of course this is only a small study and needs replicating. But drinking mineral water is such a low risk-high reward approach that one can implement to help improve stomach health.
It’s incredibly important to point out that consuming more minerals in ionic form, though likely beneficial, may have drawbacks. The use of PPIs and diet therapy in this study gave a leg up to commensal bacteria by reducing inflammation and acid erosion to the stomach wall.
Potentially pathogenic microbes such as H. pylori also require minerals. And habits, diets and actions such as alcohol intake that promote a dysbiotic environment may be made worse with the addition of mineral water.
The prime location of the stomach microbiome makes the drinking of mineral water a potentially beneficial factor for stomach health. There are a number of mineral water options available to you, and supplements such as Concentrace that people use to re-mineralize water.
While drinking mineral water may have some benefit to you, it’s important to point out the limitations. It’s not a way to subsidize poor habits or a poor diet. Rather, it’s may be useful to promote stomach healing while addressing H. pylori overgrowth or other issues in the stomach.
Whether it has benefits to an already healthy person has yet to be studied, but the mechanism makes sense. People widely consume mineral water across the World, so switching to mineral water has little downside with potential upside.
Additionally, a recent paper found that adding mineral water to the culture media led to an increase in microbial diversity of mouse feces. While this is not strong evidence, it does indicate that the mechanism may be valid.