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Water and Health Flow Hand in Hand

  [ 31 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Deborah Cooper • • December 5, 2000

The most important nutrient in the body is often the most overlooked – water. Water is responsible for about 60 percent of the body’s weight. Dehydration, or loss of water, produces harmful effects even when the loss is small, such as five percent. Typical symptoms of fluid loss are fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, forgetfulness, increased risk of kidney infections, constipation and even an elevation in heart rate. Since we lose water all the time simply by carrying out our daily activities, replenishing our supply is crucial to maintaining our health and recovering from illness.

As Janice Wittenberg RN, author of The Rebellious Body: Reclaim Your Life from Environmental Illness or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome comments, “Your relationship to water has a powerful influence over your mental and physical well-being. The majority of your body is comprised of water so your affinity for it is based on survival as well as nurturance.”

Similarly, in the book Your Body's Many Cries For Water, author F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., asserts that, "... every function of the body is monitored and pegged to the flow of water." He also discusses how many of the symptoms that we recognize as ‘diseases’ are actually the body's way of notifying us that it is dehydrated. According to Batmanghelidj, "This is the most basic mistake that has deviated clinical medicine. It has prevented medical practitioners from being able to advise preventative measures or offer simple physiological cures for some major diseases in humans."

Why this interest in water? Water is responsible for many vital functions in the body, and almost all organs need water to work properly. Water content differs throughout the body. Blood is made up of 83 percent water, bones are 22 percent water, and muscle is 75 percent water. Water is also a major part of tears, saliva, mucus and gastric fluid.

Water is necessary for the utilization and movement of nutrients entering our body through food, and for the removal of toxins out of the body, after food has been processed. By maintaining the correct levels of hydration, toxins are flushed out of the body before they have a chance to build up or be absorbed into the cells. Good lubrication also contributes health in other ways, from the smooth working of the joints, to the elasticity and appearance of the skin. Wittenberg explains, “The body depends on water for digestion, elimination, circulation and the movement of nutrients and toxins. Flushing the system moves toxins that would otherwise accumulate in the fat cells, muscles and joints.”

Water is depleted in the body in several ways – even just breathing can result in a daily loss of about a cup of water (eight ounces). However, experts are unable to come up with a definite figure about the amount of water lost and the exact amount needed to replenish the body. Several factors affect water loss – diet, exercising – which increases water loss through sweat and urination, and warmer climates.

Nutritionists usually recommend that people drink eight cups of water daily. Although some of us may feel like we will float away if we drink this amount of water, bear in mind that there are other ways to increase fluid intake. Foods are a great source of hydration. Several foods are water-heavy, for example, one third of a cucumber consists of 96% water and provides 3.2 ounces of water per serving. Similarly, one tomato is filled with 94% water and provides 3.9 ounces of water per serving. Other water-rich foods include, watermelon, broccoli, carrots and grapes. Even a half-cup of cooked rice can give you 1.9 ounces of water. Of course, this is not to suggest that you substitute water for food, but hopefully you can feel encouraged that healthy eating habits will help you to maintain optimum fluid levels for the proper functioning of your body.

Surprisingly, many people are not aware that drinking liquids can actually further deplete the body of its essential water supply. Anything that contains caffeine acts as a diuretic, meaning that it pulls more water out of the body than it puts in. Of course, coffee, tea, and sodas are the main offenders. Even some herbal teas can be astringent, which has a drying effect on the body. Just remember to also drink a glass of water for the equivalent amount of these drinks you consume.

Water has benefits that extend beyond the purely biological. As many patients and doctors now recognize the link between body, mind and spirit is important to recovery from sickness. Water can also help strengthen this link. For many centuries, people have turned to baths and springs for their relaxing and nurturing effects. When herbs and essential oils are added to bath water, their medicinal properties are absorbed through the skin. Baths have been a part of many cultures’ rituals since antiquity and the fact that they remain popular is a testament to their beneficial effects.

Recently, questions have been raised about the cleanliness and safety of tap water, and this could be particularly important to people with chronic illness. However, there are now many different brands and styles of water filters available to ensure water quality, from small inexpensive units, which attach to the faucet, to larger under-the-counter units. Filtered water and spring water can also be delivered to your home. It is always a good idea to drink the best quality water you can.

Water sustains life, helps the body function and helps people to lead more relaxed lives. Whether you drink it, play in it, or sit in it, be sure to include water as part of your daily health plan. You are sure to feel healthier – and cleaner!

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