01 May Lets Drink To Your Health!- Part 1
Water is an essential nutrient required for life. Humans can go without food for weeks but, without water, dehydration ends life within just a few days. About one third of our body’s weight is made up of water. Every system in the human body depends on water but the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey indicates that many people are chronically mildly dehydrated. This month’s newsletter focuses on water- an essential nutrient which is often overlooked. In next month’s newsletter, we’ll discuss the different types of water available and discover which is best for your health.
The essential functions of water:
Water is a major component of every cell. It moistens tissues such as those of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and other mucous membranes. It lubricates the joints. It helps to prevent constipation and flushes out waste products and toxins. It carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells (in the form of plasma in the blood). It protects our body’s organs and tissues. It also regulates body temperature. Water is critical for the chemical reactions which sustain life.
Drinking water decreases the risk of diseases:
• Drinking adequate fluid (and, water in particular) is protective against kidney stones
• Adequate water consumption is linked with decreased risk of childhood and adolescent obesity
• Good hydration lowers the risk of a heart condition known as mitral valve prolapse
• It is also an important factor in the proper function of salivary glands
• Fluid consumption even decreases the risk of breast, colon and urinary tract cancer
• Good hydration is linked with overall health in the elderly
Many of us, and especially as we age, do not have a strong sensation of thirst. Also, the early symptoms of dehydration (including headaches, dizziness, weakness, and lethargy) are difficult to detect. That being said, research suggests that dehydration of as little as 2% loss of body weight can result in impaired ability to perform. What this means, is that chronic under-hydration (not just extreme dehydration) can have a tremendous impact on your health. By the time you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. This makes it critical to keep drinking water throughout the day- even if you do not feel thirsty.
We’ve all heard the rule of thumb that about 8 glasses of water a day is a good idea. This is based on the fact that we excrete about 6 cups of urine a day and also loose about another 4 cups through breathing, sweating, and in our bowel movements. Solid foods contain about 2 cups of water. In addition to water intake from solid foods, the average person needs about eight 8oz glasses of liquid a day. That being said, there is variability in how much an individual needs to drink to remain well hydrated. In general, men require more fluid than women. Those who exercise vigorously or spend much time outdoors need to increase fluid intake. And, of course, those living in hot or humid climates also need more water. When one has symptoms of illness which increase water loss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or even a fever, increasing fluids (and electrolytes) is very important. A generally good measure of hydration is the color of your urine. Your urine should be colorless or slightly pale yellow. Also, you should rarely feel thirsty.
Too much water?
It is possible to drink too much water. In fact, a psychiatric disease, known as polydypsia exists in which patients intentionally drink excessive amounts of water. Too much water upsets the electrolyte balance within the blood. This can be a very serious condition but it is quite rare. For the average person, drinking too much is not usually an issue.
Are all beverages created equal?
In general, water should be your beverage of choice. Caffeinated beverages cause your body to loose more water than you would loose drinking the same amount of an uncaffeinated beverage. That being said, you won’t lose more fluid than you take in when you indulge in a late- so you can definitely count your tea or coffee towards your total liquid goal for the day. Alcohol, on the other hand, has a strong diuretic effect which means that it has a powerful dehydrating effect on the body. Despite what Homer Simpson says, beer is not the beverage of choice on a hot summer’s day, especially if it’s a replacement for the water you’d otherwise drink.
Increasing your water intake:
Water really is critical to health. Many of us are chronically underhydrated. A good way to increase water is to challenge yourself to increase the amount you drink by one cup of water a week. Carry a water bottle with you so that you can sip throughout the day. If you don’t like the taste of water, add a squeeze of lemon juice or even a splash of fruit juice. Vegetable juices and soups are also a good way to hydrate yourself.
The bottom line: As summer approaches, make drinking water a priority in your day!
Please Note: This information is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a licensed health care practitioner is recommended for anyone suffering from a health ailment. You are free to use the information in this newsletter or pass it on to others, but please keep it intact and credit it to Dr. Leat Kuzniar, ND.