Water Facts and Myths
From Life Experience - Why Water Matters!
The following explains a few of the many ways in which dehydration impairs the body.
Energy: Suboptimal hydration slows the activity of enzymes, including those responsible for producing energy, which produces fatigue. Even a slight reduction in hydration can lower metabolism and reduce ability to exercise efficiently.
Digestion: The body produce an average of 7 liters of digestive juices daily. Those secretions are limited and the digestive process is inhibited. when the body is dehydrated. (Note that drinking too much water all at once, particularly with food, can also dilute digestive juices, reducing their efficacy and leading to indigestion.)
Regularity: As partially digested food passes through the colon, the colon absorbs excess liquid and transfers it to the bloodstream so that a stool of normal consistency is formed. When the body is low on water, it extracts too much liquid from the stool, which causes the stool to be hard, dry and difficult to eliminate. Slowed elimination contributes to body-wide toxicity and inflammation.
Blood Pressure: Chronic dehydration results in thicker and more viscous blood. Additionally, in response to reduced overall blood volume, the blood vessels contract. To compensate for the increased vein-wall tension and increased blood viscosity, the body must work harder to push blood through the veins, which leads to elevated blood pressure.
Stomach Health: Under normal circumstances, the stomach secretes a layer of mucus (which is composed of 98 percent water) to prevent its mucus membranes from being destroyed by the highly acidic digestive fluid it produces. Chronic dehydration, though, impedes mucus production and may, therefore, irritate and produce ulcers in the stomach lining.
Respiration: The moist mucus membranes in the respiratory region are protective; however, in a state of chronic dehydration, they dry out and become vulnerable to attack from substances that might exist in inhaled air, such as dust and pollen.
Hydration: Dehydration causes enzymatic slowdown, thereby interrupting important biochemical transformations; with acidifying results at the cellular level. The acidification of the body’s internal cellular environment can be further worsened when excretory organs responsible for eliminating acids (e.g., the skin and kidneys) lack the liquid they require for proper function. An overly acidic biochemical environment can give rise to a host of inflammatory health conditions.
Weight Management: Feelings of thirst can be confused with hunger, both because eating can soothe thirst and also because dehydration-induced fatigue is often misinterpreted as a lack of fuel (e.g., sugar). Both dynamics can lead to false sensations of hunger, triggering overeating and weight gain. Inadequate hydration can also promote the storage of inflammatory toxins, which can also promote weight gain.
Skin Health: Dehydrated skin loses elasticity and has a dry, flaky appearance and texture. But dehydration can also lead to skin irritation and rashes, including conditions like eczema. About 24 ounces pf sweat is needed daily to properly dilute and transport the toxins being eliminated through the skin. When chronically dehydrated, the sweat becomes more concentrated and toxins are not removed from systems as readily, which can lead to skin irritation and inflammation.
Cholesterol: Cholesterol is an essential element in cell membrane construction. When in a state of chronic dehydration and too much liquid is removed from within the cell walls, the body tries to stop the loss by producing more cholesterol to shore up the cell membrane. Although the cholesterol protects the cell membrane from being so permeable, the overproduction introduces too much cholesterol into the bloodstream.
Kidney and Urinary Health: When there is a lack of liquid, kidneys struggle to flush water-soluble toxins from our system. When toxins in the urine are not adequately diluted, the toxins irritate the urinary mucus membranes and create a germ- and infection-friendly environment.
Joint Health: Dehydrated cartilage and ligaments are more brittle and prone to damage. Joints can also become painfully inflamed when irritants, usually toxins produced by the body and concentrated in the blood and cellular fluids, attack them, setting the stage for arthritis.
Aging: The process is associated with a gradual loss of cell volume and an imbalance of the extracellular and intracellular fluids. This loss of cellular water can be accelerated when there is a lack of liquids, or when cell membranes are not capable of maintaining a proper fluid balance.
6 Tips for Staying Hydrated
1. Start each day with a glass of water (no ice). Drink it down before coffee, tea or juice. It will help replace fluids lost overnight and get hydration efforts off to a good start.
2. Eat two or three servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal. They are brimming with water and include the minerals that help the body absorb and use it properly. Keep in mind that most processed foods (including sugars, flours, salty snacks and processed meats) result in a lowering of the body’s water table. Eating a lot of meat puts pressure on the kidneys and tends to increase the body’s need for water.
3. Establish regular water breaks, if possible.
4. Substitute sparkling water and low-sodium vegetable juice for soda and fruit juice. While it’s true that all beverages count toward daily tally, the sugar in regular soda and fruit juice, as well as the chemicals in diet versions, can trigger a host of unwanted reactions in the body, including blood-sugar spikes.
5. Install a Structured Water unit in the home and use a portable unit at the office to fill a bottle or glass.
6. Cook with high-quality sea salt. A good, unrefined sea salt is rich in trace minerals, which are key to cell health and hydration. Bonus: Sea salt is also lower in sodium than table salt.
Eight Myths about Dehydration
Myth No. 1: Dehydration is relatively rare and occurs only when the body is deprived of water for days.
Reality: Low-grade dehydration (versus acute and clinical dehydration) is a chronic, widespread problem that has major impacts on well-being, energy, appearance and resiliency. Christopher Vasey, ND, a Swiss naturopath and author of The Water Prescription (Healing Arts Press, 2006), believes that most people suffer regularly from this type of chronic dehydration because of poor eating and drinking habits.
Myth No. 2: The body needs eight, 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
Reality: The body does need a steady supply of water to operate efficiently and perform the many routine housekeeping tasks needed for good well being. .
That said, there is no scientific evidence to back up the very specific and well-worn advice that you need to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day (a.k.a. the 8 x 8 rule). In 2002, Heinz Valtin, MD, a retired physiology professor from Dartmouth Medical School and author of two textbooks on kidney function, published the definitive paper on the subject in the American Journal of Physiology. He spent 10 months searching medical literature for scientific evidence of the 8 x 8 rule only to come up empty-handed.
In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a division of the National Academy of Sciences, actually set the adequate total-daily-water intake at higher than 64 ounces – 3.7 liters (125 fluid ounces) for men and 2.7 liters (91 fluid ounces) for women. But those numbers refer to total water intake, meaning all beverages and water-containing foods count toward your daily quota. Fruits and veggies, for example, pack the most watery punch, with watermelon and cucumbers topping the list.
But the “it all counts” dynamic cuts both ways. Vasey believes that many people suffer from low-grade, chronic dehydration because of what they are eating as well as what they are drinking. The “I don’t like water” crowd could probably make up their water deficits by eating the right kinds of foods, he asserts, “but most don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Instead they eat meat, cereals and breads, which don’t have much water and contain a lot of salt.”
Animal proteins require a great deal more moisture than they contain to break down, assimilate and then flush from the body. And many processed foods, such as chips and crackers, for example, are nearly devoid of moisture, so – like dry sponges – they soak up water as they proceed through the digestive system.
The body requires only 3 to 5 grams of salt a day to stay healthy, but most people gobble up 12 to 15 grams of the stuff daily. To rid itself of the overload, the body requires copious amounts of liquid.
Myth No. 3: The absence of thirst indicates the body is hydrated.
Reality: As water levels in the body drop, the blood gets thicker. When the concentration of solids in the blood rises by 2 percent, the thirst mechanism is triggered. The body’s can chronically lack water at dehydration levels that are below the trigger point.. .
Myth No. 4: Hydrating is all about water.
Reality: Nope. It takes a delicate balance of minerals, electrolytes and essential fatty acids to get and keep water where it needs to be – properly hydrating your bloodstream, your tissues and your cells.
Minerals, especially electrolytes and trace minerals, are essential to maintaining cellular equilibrium. Minerals help transport water into the cells, where they also activate enzymes. And enzymes are the basis of every biological process in the body, from digestion to hormone secretion to cognition. Without minerals, says Haas, enzymes get sluggish and the body suffers.
Without essential fatty acids – which form the basis for cellular membranes – cells can’t properly absorb, hold and stabilize the water and other nutrients they’re supposed to contain.
Myth No. 5: Healthy urine is always clear.
Reality: Urine color is directly linked to hydration status because the yellow tint is a measure of how many solid particles, such as sodium, chloride, nitrogen and potassium, are excreted. The color’s intensity depends on how much water the kidneys mix with the solids. Less water equals darker urine. More water equals lighter urine. Dark or rank-smelling urine are signs the body may need more water. But light-to-medium yellow urine is fine. Very clear urine may actually be a signal that the kidneys are taxed by the amount of fluid moving through them and the minerals are being too diluted.
Also note that some vitamins, such as riboflavin, or B2, and nutritional yeast can turn urine bright yellow
Myth No. 6: Drinking too much water leads to water retention.
Reality: The body retains water in response to biochemical and hormonal imbalances, toxicity, poor cardiovascular and cellular health – and, interestingly, dehydration. “If you’re not drinking enough liquid, your body may actually retain water to compensate,” says Vasey, adding that a general lack of energy is the most common symptom of this type of water retention. “Paradoxically, you can sometimes eliminate fluid retention by drinking more water, not less, because if you ingest enough water, the kidneys do not try and retain water by cutting back on elimination,” he explains.
Myth No. 7: You can’t drink too much water.
Reality: Under normal conditions, the body flushes the water it doesn’t need. But it is possible – generally under extreme conditions when you are drinking more than 12 liters in 24 hours or exercising heavily – to disrupt the body’s osmotic balance by diluting and flushing too much sodium, an electrolyte that helps balance the pressure of fluids inside and outside of cells. That means cells bloat from the influx and may even burst.
While the condition, called hyponatremia, is rare, it happens. Long-distance runners are at highest risk for acute hyponatremia (meaning the imbalance happens in less than 48 hours), but anyone can get in trouble if they drink water to excess without replacing essential electrolytes and minerals. Extreme overconsumption of water can also strain the kidneys and, if drunk with meals, interfere with proper digestion.
Vasey hopes that health-motivated people will return to the simple pleasures of water in much the same way they’ve recently rediscovered the myriad benefits of whole foods over heavily processed and aggressively marketed industrial fare. “Nature gave us water, not soft drinks,” he says. “It’s time to get back to basics.”
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