Water: the liquid of life
Water is by far one of the most unique substances in existence. It is one of the only known compounds that is denser as a liquid than as a solid, essentially because it's a liquid crystal. Let me explain what I mean by this. Water is composed of two hydrogen atoms combined with an oxygen atom, like this H-O-H, with the bond forming an angle a little over 90 degrees. Oxygen has a much larger electron cloud than hydrogen, as hydrogen is actually the smallest element. Because of this, oxygen tends to pull the molecule's electrons closer to itself, basically creating a charge imbalance. This makes water a molecular dipole, with the oxygen being the negatively charged end, and the two hydrogen atoms being positively charged.
We've all heard that like charges repel and opposites attract, well the same rule applies for polar molecules. The weak ionic bonds that form between water molecules are known as “hydrogen bonds.” On a large scale, the geometric organization based on water's polarity and bond geometry is known as the “hydrogen bond network.” This is what makes water a liquid crystal. At high temperatures the hydrogen bonds are broken and water forms a gas, but at low temperatures water becomes either a liquid or solid crystal. The geometry in ice crystals is based on the tetrahedral pyramid structure of low energy hydrogen bonds.
The hydrogen bond network gives water an even more interesting property, a fourth phase between solid and liquid. This is known as “structured water,” or exclusion zone (EZ) water, and is essentially a more crystalline gel state of water. EZ water is created when water interacts with particular chemical materials (anything hydrophilic) or electromagnetic frequencies (specifically infrared light). In this phase, water molecules form a more solidified hydrogen bond connection, and its positive and negative poles are oriented so that all positively charged atoms are facing one direction and all negatively charged atoms are facing the other. Because like charges repel, this pushes anything positively charged out of this phase of water, and pools negative charge within it. This is where the name “exclusion zone” comes from. I recommend reading Gerald Pollock's book The Fourth Phase of Water for more in depth info, or watch a his TED Talk on it here.
Structured water plays a pivotal role in cellular and mitochondrial function. Cell walls are very hydrophilic, as are protein structures. This gives cells the ability to structure water in and around them, and many structures in life seem to have evolved specifically for this purpose. As an example let's look at mitochondria. Mitochondria ideally produce most of their energy through a process called oxidative phosphorylation, which primarily requires a current of electrons running across the electron transport chain, and a stream of protons flowing through a proton pump. Mitochondria actually hold far more structured water than any other part of the cell, and they use it as a way to store electrons to keep the electron transport chain running, creating a gel-state water battery. If we look at how mitochondria are structured, they are completely filled with inter-folded cell walls known as cristae. The cristae serve to maximize the amount of hydrophilic surface area touching the water inside mitochondria. This creates a huge increase in water structuring. I hope now you're starting to see why I find mitochondria the most fascinating component of life!
A cellular biologist named Gilbert Ling devised an early theory similar to what we know as water structuring today. Interestingly, he did so to explain how cells are able to balance sodium and potassium. Sodium and potassium work together to maintain water balance inside cells. With too much sodium present the cell will fill with water, with more potassium than sodium the opposite occurs. Through natural osmosis the cell's sodium/water concentration becomes too high for normal cell functions to occur, including proper water structuring. In fact, one of the defining features of cancer cells is that their water balance rises up to 90% water! To prevent this, healthy cells use an ATP dependent enzyme known as the sodium-potassium pump, which pushes sodium out in exchange for potassium going in. Now we've elicited the structure of this pump and we know it is used for this purpose, but Ling pointed out a problem, theoretically the cell isn't able to produce enough energy to maintain this enzyme. In fact, based on standard biology the body can produce only about 1/3,000th of the ATP it needs to run this enzyme alone. Ling ran a number of experiments confirming this which you can read about here. The theory that he devised to answer this problem was based around water.
While Ling's theory isn't perfect, it does offer many insights into the role of water in cellular energy and electrolyte balance. He created what he called the “association-induction hypothesis,” the earliest approximation of what we now know as water structuring. Ling believed that the main function of ATP wasn't to store energy at all, but to carry out its other lesser-known role, protein phosphorylation. ATP basically acts as a phosphate donor, and is used as a cofactor for a class of enzymes called kinases that modify protein structures. ATP unfolds proteins and as a result of this exposes the polar -NH and -CO groups at the ends of amino acids in the protein chains. These groups are hydrophilic and attract and orient water. We know this to be true today based on Pollack's research, but Ling predicted this decades ago! Looking at his and Pollack's work, I'm inclined to agree with Ling that perhaps ATP isn't the main “energy store” in the cell, perhaps instead it serves as a cofactor for water structuring. We know that EZ water acts as an electron sink, pooling electrons which then runs through the electron transport chain to produce more ATP. Certainly, some of this ATP is broken apart to be used for energy, and some is used to alter protein structures, but what about the remaining energy needed to run the cell?
If we look for other primary sources of cellular energy besides calories from food, there are a number of good candidates. One that I've been studying in depth myself is light. Now there are two sides to this:
The first relies on what's called “charge separation.” When sunlight hits water it raises it's energy state making it easier for the Krebs cycle to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. This is actually the fundamental chemical reaction that allows plants to use sunlight during photosynthesis. The genius of mitochondria is that they invert this system. When sunlight hits water, through Einstein's photoelectric effect the light excites electrons while splitting water.
The mitochondria uses light as the external energy source. This creates a system that can regenerate its own energy stores indefinitely. The infrared part of the sunlight spectrum contributes to the mitochondria's energy efficiency by creating more structured water. The infrared light can actually penetrate up to about 9 inches below the skin, so water structuring is enhanced in just about every cell in the body. This may be what gives the body enough ATP and EZ water to sustain its high energy requirement through the day.
The other way the cell uses light is a bit more complex. It's something I've been studying more recently, but I'll explain what I've learned so far as best I can. When we look at a living system like a cell or mitochondria, the system is designed to do two things. First it liberates stored energy from food, and second it captures light energy from the environment. The stored energy comes from breaking apart molecules that other organisms (plants/animals) have created to contain energy, like fats or sugars. This is what most people think of when they think about where their body gets energy. These compounds act as electron stores and proton stores. These particles are separated out by glycolysis, beta-oxidation, and the Krebs cycle. Light energy is captured through the mechanism I mentioned previously where light breaks apart protons, electrons, and oxygen. Electrons are run through the electron transport chain, which pushes free protons out. The protons flow either flow back in through the proton pump creating ATP, or are recycled back into water by the enzyme cytochrome C oxidase.
In an ideal system, any energy used could be conserved and recycled. If this process was perfected the cell would need no external input whatsoever. Mitochondria use specific interactions between water and protein structures to minimize energy loss. One example of this is the protein nanotubes that compose the cellular architecture. In his research Pollack actually found that these nanotubes possess the ability to structure water. In the cell they absorb and channel light, and turn structured water into a proton and electron superconductor. They are made up primarily of semiconductors like collagen, and seem to serve as “wires” with the ability to transmit energy throughout the cell. This allows cells to synchronize reactions across a distance and create resonance between neighboring cells (read more here).
Heat put off as infrared light by the mitochondria is used to maintain body temperature, but also has other roles as well. Infrared light not only structures water, which provides numerous benefits I've already covered, but also increases the temperature of water in and around the mitochondria which actually causes to structure more tightly. When it "shrinks" like this, it pulls the protein complexes in the electron transport chain closer together preventing mitochondrial heteroplasmy (an aging-related process). Infrared light also stimulates various enzymes in the mitochondria, including cytochrome C oxidase.
I've spent a lot of this article going over how water helps store and distribute energy throughout the cell and mitochondria, but there's another aspect of cellular water I want to cover before I wrap things up. This last part involves a hydrogen isotope known as deuterium.
Hydrogen is the smallest atom, normally only consisting of one proton and one electron. However, there is another less common version of hydrogen with a different composition known as deuterium. Deuterium contains one proton, one electron, and one neutron. Since electrons weigh next to nothing this makes deuterium about double the weight of normal hydrogen. Even though deuterium is only present in small quantity compared to regular hydrogen, this difference in density gives it quite a large impact on how mitochondria function.
As I mentioned earlier the hydrogen atoms in water (and sugars and fats) are broken apart to form individual protons and electrons which are used in to produce energy. When deuterium is present in place of hydrogen in water or other molecules you can end up with a proton and neutron bound together where a single proton should be. When this happens the heavier deuterium “proton” will dramatically slow the function of the electron transport chain or the proton pump, crashing oxidative phosphorylation. This happens due to something called the kinetic isotope effect. Many enzymes, including those in the electron transport chain, work by enhancing a process called proton tunneling, where protons have a probability of jumping from one place to another with little to no energy requirement. Deuterium blocks electron transport chain function because it has little to no ability to tunnel.
All water contains deuterium to varying degrees. Sugars like glucose also contain deuterium and can be even more damaging, acting as a Trojan horse for deuterium to make its way into the mitochondria. Most people think the Krebs cycle is used to make extra ATP, few realize it actually serves a far more interesting purpose, it filters deuterium out of glucose and produces deuterium-depleted water. It does this by taking a glucose byproduct (pyruvate), and switching out all its hydrogen atoms by swapping them with those in other molecules. It does this to filter out deuterium. In the process it also collects protons for use in oxidative phosphorylation, produces ATP, and funnels electrons into the electron transport chain. The protons it gathers are later converted back into water by cytochrome C oxidase, and the cycle continues.
Defects in the Krebs cycle are linked strongly to cancer. This may actually be a result of impaired deuterium filtering crashing mitochondrial function. Defects in the water recycling enzymes in the cycle (like fumarate hydratase) are associated with faster cancer metastasis and higher mortality. There have been a number of promising studies so far showing that deuterium-depleted water may help reverse tumor growth, though robust human research is still pending. Interestingly grains, carbs, and processed foods are high in deuterium while fats are fairly low. Many of the benefits of diets like keto, or low-carb, may actually be a result of reduced deuterium intake.
I hope this has given you a taste for the incredible role that water plays in the human body. Without water, life itself would not exist. One question I get a lot is, how much water should someone drink each day? The answer depends on the individual, so I recommend using a calculator like this one. I also recommend adding minerals to your water, as studies show this can enhance its absorption. You can use a pre-made electrolyte blend, or make your own at home using magnesium, potassium and sea salt. Personally, I like to add inositol or a bit of lemon juice to taste. Dehydration is rampant in our modern environment, especially with frequent consumption of diuretics like alcohol or water, and high levels of EMF which destroys water balance in cells. This is an excellent book documenting the remission of numerous health conditions using no medication other than a surplus of water. After reading this article, I'm sure you know this is possible. Now, go see for yourself.