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Water: Wet and Wonderful

Water is one of life's best elixirs; there are few things as available, inexpensive and health-giving ---so drink up.

Even though it is readily available, tasteless and free, most Americans do not drink enough water. And water remains one of nature's most perfect medications. In fact, water is the most essential component of your diet.

While you can live for several weeks without food, you can live only a few days without water. Water loss of three percent of the body weight or approximately two quarts without replacement can result in weakness and lethargy. A 15-20 percent water loss can be fatal.

Nearly half the total body weight consists of water. To ensure good health, the average person requires two to three quarts of water per day because this is the volume that is lost in perspiration, urine, feces and breath. Nearly half of the food we eat consists of water.

Water is necessary for nearly all bodily functions such as digestion, circulation, excretion, nutrient transmission and temperature regulation.

More specifically, there are thirteen ways that water works in the human body:

  1. Water quenches thirst. There is no better liquid to quench your thirst than water. Many people are incorrectly informed that you only need to drink water in hot weather. The truth is large volumes of water are lost through your breath in cold, dry weather. Although you can substitute other beverages such as colas, coffee and electrolyte drinks, there is no other drink that contains fewer calories and more nutrients than water. In fact, affricated beverages can act as diuretics and cause the body to excrete water and important chemicals like potassium.

  2. Water aids digestion. Water dilutes the acidity in the stomach and causes the release of enzymes necessary for digestion. Water is also a natural laxative and relieves constipation.

  3. Water cools the body during exercise. As the body heats up during exercise, the internal thermostat promotes perspiration. Internal body temperature can be decreased with the consumption of cold water. Cold water is best because it is absorbed into the circulation more quickly than warm water.

  4. Water promotes waste excretion. The kidneys are the paired organs used to remove metabolic bodily water material. Water is essential for these incredible filters to do their work and flush out the body's waste products.

  5. Water carries nutrients to the cells. All of the body's cells are bathed in a saltwater solution. Blood moves nutrients to the cells and removes the waste products to the kidneys and liver. Water is necessary to maintain the blood volume to carry out these vital functions.

  6. Water reduces kidney stones. If too much calcium, oxalate or uric acid is excreted in the urine, crystals will form and start the growth of kidney stones. The best treatment to reduce kidney stones is to drink enough water to keep the particles from hitting one another and starting the crystallization process.

  7. Water lubricates the joints. The bones glide against one another with minimal friction because of a lubricant called synovial fluid. Drinking plenty of water increases the synovial fluid and reduces the wear and tear on the joints.

  8. Water promotes good skin tone. Skin elasticity is maintained when the body is well hydrated. Chronic fluid loss leads to dry, wrinkled skin.

  9. Water dilutes alcohol and relieves headaches. There is no better remedy for a hangover than several glasses of water. Water dilutes the alcohol content in the blood stream and decreases its effect on the brain and central nervous system alleviating headache and hangover associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

  10. Water decreases pre-menstrual fluid retention. Some women experience salt retention during their menstrual periods. This leads to excess water retention as well. Diuretics or water pills only offer a temporary solution. Paradoxically, you can promote salt excretion by drinking more water. As the water is passed through the kidneys, it excretes the excess salt as well as the excess water.

  11. Water is a diet aid. Drinking a glass of water before each meal leads to a sensation of fullness before you sit down to the table, thus acting as a natural appetite suppressant. Water helps the body metabolize stored fat. If there is not adequate water to rid the body of waste through the kidneys, then the liver must be called in to do the kidney's work. If the liver is doing the kidney's work, it cannot metabolize body fat and weight loss is slowed or stopped.

  12. Water is a natural relaxer. Water is an excellent way to wash away tension. Swimming induces a feeling of calmness and exhilarates the body, similar to a jogger's high.

  13. Water aids pregnant women. A pregnant woman should be especially conscious of getting eight to ten glasses of water a day. Water will clear her system of added metabolic body waste contributed by the fetus. It will also help prevent dehydration that may result from morning sickness.

How much water is enough? The time-honored advice of drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day still holds true. However, the more you exercise, the more you need to drink. A good rule of thumb is to drink approximately one quart of water for each hour of exercise.

Drinking too much water is rarely a problem. Too much water, more than six quarts a day, can dilute body minerals and electrolytes producing lethargy, confusion and if not corrected, convulsions and coma. The treatment is simple: Decrease the water intake and allow the kidneys to flush out the excess.

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Content Copyright 2013 Neil Baum, MD, Used with Permission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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