Friday, September 9, 2011

Water Research Center - Guest Report : Can Soft Water Solve Eczema Problems?

Can Soft Water Solve Eczema Problems?
Dry Skin - Eczema

For years there has been discussion about whether or not soft water relieves or even solves eczema-related problems. Companies have long touted the benefits of using water softener systems to turn hard water into soft water, and many machines have been sold based on this woolly ‘precept’. Such claims can raise hopes for parents whose children suffer eczema. According to a news article on the BBC website, ‘anecdotally, there are years of reports of people saying soft or softened water was helpful’.

Here, I want to look at the facts concerning soft water and eczema, and ask the big question: can soft water really be beneficial for eczema sufferers? And does hard water really aggravate eczema?

The difference between soft and hard water

To form a true picture of why someone would postulate the health benefits of soft water, we must turn to science and look at the composition of both water types. Water in its most fundamental state is represented by that most famous of chemical formulae: H2O. This abundant compound consists of one single atom of oxygen and two of hydrogen, chemistry 101 at its most basic.

Water can take many different forms: it can be a liquid, a gas or a solid; it can be light (deuterium-depleted) or heavy (lots of deuterium); and, of course, it can be soft or hard.

Hard water contains a high level of mineral content, namely calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). When water passes through crevices, nooks and crannies in the ground, and over minerals such as calcite and gypsum, it ‘collects’ these minerals and forms hard water. In the United States, the majority of households suffer from hard water.

Soft water does not contain calcium and magnesium. Instead, it contains an abundance of sodium, and water softening machines turn hard water into soft water by a process known as ‘ion exchange’. Rain is an example of naturally occurring soft water. The main reason why water softeners are used in households is because hard water, when heated to specific temperatures, creates lime scale deposits that block pipes and ruin kettle and boiler elements. However, hard water is far better to drink than soft water because of its natural calcium content.

Following this logic, it must stand to reason that calcium and magnesium do nothing for eczema, or that sodium alone has some benefit to eczema sufferers. Can this be true?
The Big question: can soft water relieve eczema symptoms?

A study conducted by the University of Nottingham in the UK (known as the Softened Water Eczema Trial – SWET Trial) looked at 336 children with moderate to severe eczema. The experiment evaluated whether or not ion-exchange home water softening systems could reduce eczema symptoms.

The study lasted for exactly twelve weeks and used two groups of children to objectively determine any positive effects. Unfortunately, the trial provided no direct evidence to suggest water softeners relieve eczema symptoms via the use of ion-exchange water softener machines.

Guest Author

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Paul Gardner

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Eczema in Adults
Eczema and Hardwater

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