By Sue Becker
Most of us have become very concerned about the food we eat while neglecting the importance of what we drink. A person can fast from food for as long as 40 days and see much improvement in health, yet a fast from water for longer than 3 days brings death! Water is essential for life and proper functioning of the body.
Water makes up 65% to 75% of the human body. While water is neither carbohydrate nor protein, vitamin nor mineral, it is second only to oxygen in order of importance in sustaining life. Most of us, however, do not clearly understand its life-giving role, nor do we drink enough.
In a previous newsletter, the importance of increasing our fiber intake was stressed in the article entitled “Bulk Up On Fiber. This issue I would like to discuss another vital change we all need to make in our quest for a healthier life. Drink more water!
Valuable nutrients, as well as oxygen, are continually brought into our cells by water, while it also functions to carry away from the cells, carbon dioxide and other waste products. This process of transporting and eliminating is essential for the health and function of every cell in our body. Necessary nutrients vary from cell type to cell type but the transport vehicle remains the same – WATER!
Water is as an effective cleanser of the inside of our bodies as it is of the outside. Water is instrumental in flushing out wastes and toxins, therefor if the body does not receive enough water, these toxins tend to build up hindering the proper function of the cell. Our digestive and eliminative processes as well are adversely affected due to this build up of toxins.
Mineral balances, so important to our cells, can also be critically upset by our consumption of large amounts of fluids besides water, such as soft drinks, tea, coffee and sugar filled fruit drinks. Since we would no more consider cleansing the outside of our body with one of these beverages why do we think they can replace the incredible cleansing of the inside of our bodies performed by pure clean water? The sugar-laden soft drinks are particularly hard on our livers and their high sodium content causes great upset to the delicate sodium/potassium balance of our cells. It also takes some 30 glasses of water to neutralize the phosphoric acid obtained in just one average size soft drink! An improper pH and mineral balance can cause degeneration of the cells and improper cell function, which in turn leads to the shutting down of proper organ function and the promotion of chronic disease of every kind over a period of time.
The kidneys, especially, can’t function properly without adequate water. The kidneys remove wastes such as uric acid, urea, and lactic acid that must be dissolved in water. If not enough water is available, these substances are not removed effectively, and may cause damage to the kidneys. When the kidneys are inefficient, the liver must take over some of the load.
One of the liver’s primary functions is to metabolize stored fat into usable energy for the body. If the liver has to do some of the kidney’s work it can not operate at full capacity, which means less fat is burned, therefore more fat is stored, leading to weight gain and less energy. A build up of toxins from inadequate removal also causes such symptoms as muscle aches, headaches and extreme fatigue.
Water is critically important in relieving constipation. When the body gets too little water, it siphons what is needed from internal sources. The colon is one of the primary sources. Water is absorbed by the indigestible fiber in the colon, which in turn increase the bulk of the stool. The lack of bulk in the colon reduces the urge to eliminate. Too little water then in the colon can lead to dry, compact stools and infrequent bowl movements. Adding fiber to the diet is necessary, but without the addition of adequate water, constipation can still be a problem.
Drinking enough water is also the best treatment for fluid retention. Fluid retention is your body’s way of conserving water when supplies are low. When the body gets too little water it perceives this as a threat to survival and begins to hold on to every drop. Water is then stored in the space outside the cell, which results in swollen feet, legs, and hands. Diuretics are only a temporary and potentially dangerous solution. While forcing out the stored water, many essential nutrients are removed as well. Continued or prolonged use of diuretics can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies. The body also perceives this rapid water loss as a threat and will replace the water at the first opportunity. Thus the condition quickly returns. The best way to overcome water retention then is to give the body what it is demanding – PLENTY OF WATER!
Increasing water consumption can help even conditions, such as back pain. In his book, How to Deal With Back Pain, Dr. Batmangheledj, MD writes that back pain is due to an insufficient amount of water. He explains that most of the pain experienced in the back is from strain, injury or over work of the back muscles. He further explains that cells need ample amounts of water to flush out acid particles created by work or stress. When we become dehydrated, the cells are unable to rid themselves of these acid components. As a result, the cells produce kinins, which are hormones that remain dormant unless your water level drops too low or your salt level goes too high. The pain produced by kinins is a signal to get water into your system. Also the disks in the lower back that separate the spinal vertebrae shift either toward the back or toward the front. The ability of these discs to act as shock absorbers and shift one way or the other in response to stress is completely dependent upon adequate amounts of water. As discs are compressed with movement, they extrude water. When that pressure is relieved or the discs shift frontward or backward, a vacuum is created inside the disc space and water rapidly flows in, rehydrating and cushioning the vertebrae. Without this powerful water surge, discs flatten and slip out of alignment, causing acute and chronic pain. Standard treatment for disc slippage is to surgically remove the disc. Once a disc is removed or a joint fused, the chances are increased of other discs deteriorating, since a good portion of the shocking system has now been removed and the stress in the remaining discs has been increased. In no way does one want to neglect proper treatment of back pain or over simplify its causes, but certainly we must consider the logic behind supplying what our bodies need to function properly. Alleviating pain in arthritic or low back conditions cannot be done by simply drinking several glasses of water. Relief will occur only after the body has had adequate and increased intake of water for several weeks.
HOW MUCH WATER IS ENOUGH?
The common recommendation is to drink at least 2 quarts of water per day. Since water is daily used up or eliminated from our bodies through urine or sweat, it must be replaced regularly. The average person loses 8-12 cups of water each day through these normal body functions. Drinking less than the amount lost can bring damage to our bodies. Hot weather and vigorous exercise increases the loss, so intake must be increased even more during these times. The requirement for overweight people is also greater; therefore an additional glass for every 25 pounds of excess weight should be added. A good rule of thumb is to drink about half your body weight in ounces of water every day
At least ½ your daily requirement should be drunk throughout the morning since this is your primary elimination time. Starting each day with a large glass of water, before consuming any food, not only helps initiate the elimination process, but also allows you to better distinguish between hunger and thirst throughout the day. I call it “priming the pump”. I find that “priming the pump” first thing in the morning helps me to be thirsty throughout the day. As we age our thirst sensation is greatly reduced. We must therefore learn to drink water even when we do not “feel” thirsty.
Cool water is absorbed more quickly than hot. In the winter, however, I enjoy sipping a cup of hot water in the morning instead of the usual unhealthy hot beverages. Try it – you might be pleasantly surprised!
When the body gets the water it needs, its fluids are perfectly balanced. When this happens, the body can function properly and natural thirst returns. Man is still unaware of the many benefits of water and the ones we do know about are too numerous to discuss here. But I hope that just the few mentioned will encourage you to drink more water. It’s certainly worth a try. It is one of the few healthy things in life that’s not expensive and you will feel the difference quickly. When will we learn that it is the simple things in life that can so often do us the most good?
“And you shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless your bread and your water; and I the Lord God will take sickness away from the midst of you.” Exodus 23:25 (emphasis mine)
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. Consult you health care provider for your individual nutritional and medical needs. The opinions are strictly those of the author and are not necessarily those of any professional group or other individual.