By Dr. Mike Dostrow
Ancient Greek, Hindu and Buddhist philosophers theorized that all things were composed of five vital elements; air, earth, fire, aether (space) and water. Indeed, water has been a pivotal factor in the formation of human society since the fertile crescent. Unfortunately, modern society’s unquenchable thirst combined with population growth and global warming have created a quandary in regard to the world’s limited supply of drinkable water. For the sake of brevity, however, and to avoid being slashed by Lunch’s infamous red pen, this article (the first of a three-part series) will limit its scope to the physiologic need for water. Part II will explore water purity and purifiers. Part III will delve into the undeniable link between water, plastic and the environment.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Water is the only drink for a wise man.” Although I don’t agree with him completely, I do concur with the physiologic fact that it is the most important drink for a wise man, woman or even Labrador. Humans are composed of nearly 70% water, with almost every cellular process being dependent on its presence. Water is considered to be the most neglected of essential dietary nutrients (i.e., protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and water). Most Americans fall well short of the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Although “8×8” remains a good rule of thumb, it arguably lacks scientific verification. Certainly, around 8-10 glasses (about 2 liters) is a reasonable goal for most individuals. Of course, other factors such as gender, body weight, altitude, heat and exercise can change your need for water. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and certain heart and kidney diseases require medical consultation before major changes in water intake are initiated.
Ironically, our thirst mechanism is actually not very efficient, so by the time you feel thirsty you might already be a couple of glasses behind.
You should be taking in enough water to produce a pale yellow or clear urine with an output of between 1.5 and 2 liters daily. Coffee, soda, milk, and unfortunately, beer or wine do not qualify for your daily intake of clear fluids.
Non-caffeinated herbal teas, flavored water and other sugar and additive-free clear beverages, however, are adequate substitutes for good old aqua pura.
As your fluid intake increases, the stretch receptors in the bladder will adapt and your trips to the “watercloset” will decrease in frequency. Try to concentrate the majority of water intake earlier in the day to avoid disruption of sleep. The body prefers gradual changes so increase intake of water by one glass a day for a week at a time until you reach your goal. Adequate water consumption is one of the most important factors in achieving peak health and wellness.
“Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them,” said Lao-Tzu of the importance of water back in 600 B.C.
Today is no different. From our major organ systems down to the cellular, molecular and even atomic levels, water plays a pivotal role in our existence. Our brain is surrounded, protected and bathed in cerebro-spinal fluid which is composed primarily of water. The mouth, throat, nose, and lungs rely on water to provide a barrier to infection, inflammation and allergy as well as a bridge for oxygen exchange and nutrient transfer. The cardiovascular system pumps blood delivering oxygen, nutrients and water to every cell in our body. Low fluid intake results in low blood volume. Proper gastrointestinal function is very dependent on hydration. We all know about the benefits of fiber, but fiber without water becomes intestinal cement. Our skin cells require water for normal function and dehydration can cause sunken eyes and a wrinkled, dry appearance. Energy production, strength and endurance are directly related to water intake and studies demonstrate that even small decreases in hydration can result in significant changes in overall performance.
Needless to say, we all need our daily dose of H20. This raises the question, however, as to the source of our need. Should we drink from the tap, through a purifier, or from a bottled (plastic) source? That question raises the adage, “When you drink the water remember the spring.”
We will consider this and other timeless wisdom in part 2 right here in The Sheet next week.
For more info on H2O, go to www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283.