How does contaminated water affect the digestive system?

TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Last updated on – November 13, 2023, 1:00 PM IST

​Water – elixir to the cause of illness

Water is an important aspect of human life and is responsible for maintaining overall health. Whether pure water, flavored or enriched with fruits or vegetables, water works wonders in every way. However, when contaminated, it poses a serious threat to various body functions. Drinking contaminated water affects the digestive system and can lead to infections and illnesses.

According to WHO, “Microbiologically contaminated drinking water can transmit diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio and is estimated to cause about 5,05,000 deaths from diarrhea each year.”

​“Water pollution can lead to a variety of gastrointestinal diseases”

According to Dr. Sudeep Khanna, Senior Consultant, Gastroenterologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, “Water pollution can have a significant impact on the health of the digestive system and lead to a variety of gastrointestinal diseases.” Pathogens present in polluted water such as E. coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter can cause gastroenteritis, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, disrupting the intestinal flora and potentially leading to serious problems. Heavy metals in water such as lead, arsenic and mercury can cause chronic abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and long-term damage to major organs such as the liver and kidneys. The gastrointestinal tract is the main route for the absorption of toxins and is therefore particularly susceptible to the harmful effects, potentially leading to long-term stomach problems.”


“Prolonged exposure can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system”

Dr. Khanna further says, “For example, pesticides and industrial chemicals can affect the health of the digestive system and cause gastrointestinal disorders such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.” Prolonged exposure to these substances can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, causing inflammation and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. intestinal mucosa and increase the risk of chronic gastrointestinal diseases.”

“Therefore, access to clean and safe drinking water is crucial to limit the risks of water pollution. Implementing appropriate water filtration systems and regularly monitoring water sources can help prevent the ingestion of dangerous contaminants. Raise awareness and educate communities about water quality.” “The health risks associated with contaminated water are critical to gut health. Individuals can protect themselves from water-borne toxins and diseases by prioritizing water safety and taking necessary precautions,” he adds.

Bacterial infections

Contaminated water is often a breeding ground for infections such as E. coli, which can wreak havoc on the digestive system if consumed. E. coli infections can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. While these symptoms can be treated with medication, in some cases it can cause significant harm to the affected person’s health and require hospitalization.

​Parasitic infestation

Parasites, another group of water contaminants, can enter the human digestive system through consumption of contaminated water. Protozoan infections can cause gastrointestinal problems, including chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain. In fact, these infections can also trigger vomiting, which leads to extreme dehydration. These parasitic infections also result in lower absorption of nutrients, likely leading to deficiency.

​Chemical contaminants

Water pollution, which in turn leads to contamination, also arises from industrial effluents, improper waste disposal, etc. When consumed, these chemicals disrupt the balance of enzymes and good bacteria in the digestive tract and intestines. Water contaminated by chemical discharges can affect the digestive process, cause hospitalization and cause long-term damage to the body.

​Weakened immune system

Contaminated water can also weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses. A weakened immune system is less equipped to fight the onslaught of harmful bacteria and parasites introduced by contaminated water. Not only does this increase the immediate digestive problems, but it also fails to prevent further infections and other chronic problems.


​The connection between contaminated water and dehydration

Diarrhea, a common symptom of waterborne infections, can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. The loss of fluid and essential electrolytes disrupts the balance that is important for good digestion. The resulting electrolyte imbalance contributes to muscle cramps, weakness and fatigue, and further worsens the body’s ability to maintain healthy digestive function.

How to protect your water from contamination

To ensure good health, it is necessary to protect your water from pollutants and contaminants. First, regular water testing can be conducted to detect contaminants and promote improved hygiene practices in urban and rural areas. Additionally, agricultural practices that minimize toxic runoff are suitable for people living in semi-rural areas. If this is not possible, make sure your home installs water treatment devices such as filtration systems (RO).

If you live in an area with high water toxicity, a double boil to remove any contaminants is extremely important. Get alerts on the latest TOI news


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