by Marcel Hernandez, ND
Water is not only vital for the smooth, continuous functioning of every body organ, it plays a major role in keeping our immune systems functioning.
The body is composed of 60 percent water, and when we are under-hydrated the entire immune system may become compromised.
Are you the least bit thirsty right now? If so, you are already dehydrated. Drinking water should be proactive, not thirst-responsive.
Why? For several reasons:
Water provides lubrication for the joints. The cartilage in all joints, and in the spinal disks, is comprised of roughly 80 percent water. Dehydration can make these tissues stiff and inflexible, reducing their shock-absorbing ability and leading to pain and chronic functional impairment.
Water forms saliva and mucus. Saliva contains enzymes that facilitate digestion and keep the mucus membranes of mouth, nose, urinary tract, digestive tract, and eyes moist. Adequately moistened mucus membranes prevent bacteria and viruses from adhering and causing infections. Adequate water, of course, also helps keeps the mouth clean.
Water helps oxygenate tissues. Blood is composed of more than 90 percent water, and because blood carries oxygen to all parts of the body, keeping the blood thin allows the heart to pump it more easily.
Water helps keep skin moist and wrinkle-free. Dehydration causes the skin to become more vulnerable to rashes and premature wrinkling.
Water cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues. Thus dehydration impairs brain function.
Water regulates body temperature. Water cools the body by evaporating from the skin as sweat. Dehydrated makes the body more vulnerable to heatstroke.
Digestion malfunctions when the body is dehydrated. Constipation, heartburn, and ulcers are likely consequences of dehydration.
Water is essential for detoxification. The body’s natural detoxification systems (through sweat and waste elimination) are severely compromised when there’s insufficient water to flush toxins away. This condition is called “auto-intoxication” and can cause a wide number of systemic malfunctions.
Water helps maintain blood pressure. Insufficient water can cause the blood to thicken, leading to hypertension and increased risk of stroke.
Water helps keep airways open. Dehydration causes the airways to narrow, as the body tries to conserve moisture. Asthma, allergies and other respiratory challenges are worsened by dehydration.
Water makes vitamins and minerals more available. Most vitamins and minerals are water-soluble. By diluting them, water makes them more easily absorbed and utilized.
Water safeguards the kidneys. The primary job of the kidneys is to regulate fluid balance in the body and filter the blood. Dehydration reduces kidney function and can predispose a person to kidney stones.
Water boosts performance during exercise. New research indicates that being adequately hydrated can enhance performance during sports and strenuous activities – studies have shown that even moderate dehydration can reduce the body’s exercise capacity by up to 40 percent.
Water and weight loss. “Preloading” with water before meals can help promote a sense of satiety and fullness.
Now here’s the big question: How much water should we be drinking daily?
Unfortunately, there is no single answer. It’s possible to take in too much water, especially if one has certain health conditions such as thyroid, kidney, liver, or heart problems, or while taking medications that make the body retain water.
A healthy person’s water needs will vary, especially if they are losing water through sweat. A general rule of thumb for healthy people is to drink two to three cups of water per hour during sweat-generating activity, or more while sweating heavily. For sedentary activity, like sitting in an office, eight ounces per hour will keep all systems adequately lubricated.
Forcing water intake, as has been unwisely recommended particularly by exercise drink companies, is dangerous, and has resulted in a significant number of deaths.
Many of my patients tell me that they simply aren’t thirsty for much of the time. I recommend that they leave a glass of water where they can’t avoid seeing it, and take a sip every time they pass. While away from home, you might carry a water bottle to sip from. Once a person develops a sipping habit, the pattern becomes engrained and a natural part of the daily routine.
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