The Importance of Water to Health

By Henrylito D. Tacio

Davao City, 23 July 2010. 

Picture yourself on a desert isle with nothing to eat or drink. How long do you think you would survive: 10 days, 20 days, or a month? Actually, you’d probably last about 45 days without food.  But without water, you’d be lucky if you lasted 10 days. Of all the vital nutrients you need to survive, water is the only you simply can’t do without.

After all, water makes up more than 60 percent of your body weight. Proteins make up only 18% while fats encompass 15%, minerals 4%, carbohydrates 2% and vitamins less than one percent.

Your brain contains 74% water, blood contains 83% water, lean muscle has 75% water and bone has 22% water. A lack of water affects everything from your digestive tact to your immune system. It also helps regulate your body temperature.

If you are shorting yourself on water, you’re making yourself sick. In his book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, Dr. F. Batmanghelidj proposes a paradigm-shifting theory: Chronic, unintentional dehydration is the root of many of your serious maladies, including asthma, arthritis, lower back pain, and hypertension. 

Water needed for health, and life.

Water needed for health, and life.

“Your body maintains its fluid volume by a system of electrolytic mineral exchange in and out of your body’s cells,” explains Dr. Julian Whitaker, an American medical author with extensive experience in the fields of preventive medicine and natural healing. “The mineral central to this is sodium. When water volume is suboptimal, the kidneys reabsorb more sodium, which is followed by a rise in fluid levels in the body. Because adequate hydration is so important, the body is remarkably efficient at maintaining water balance.”

What happens when you drink less water frequently? “If fluid losses are too great or water intake chronically deficient,” Dr. Whitaker points out, “your body makes adjustments to maintain fluid and blood flow to the areas most crucial for life. Blood is shunted from less essential tissues in the peripheral areas so that the brain, heart, and other vital organs continue to receive enough to meet their basic needs.”

The editors of Super Life, Super Health contend our busy body loses 10 to 12 cups of water every day just from all the normal things we do. When we sweat, urinate, excrete waste, or even just breathe, we’re getting rid of some of the moisture. We also lose extra water under special circumstances, such as fever, diarrhea, kidney disease, or diabetes.

Drinking alcohol or coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages cause further dehydration, increasing your need for water replacement. Some experts maintain that for every cup of caffeine-containing beverages you drink, you should drink an extra cup of water to make up for the water loss prompted by caffeine.

However, most people tend to drink water only when they are thirsty. Big mistake! The switch that runs the thirst center in your brain doesn’t even wake up until you’ve already lost too much of your body fluids. 

“The easiest way to prevent dehydration is to give your body lots of water every day,” the editors of Super Life, Super Health suggest. “Just by eating, you get some water into your system, but food provides only two to four cups of water each day. Some experts say you should drink another six to eight glasses to make up for what you lose. Others recommend as much as 12 to 16 cups every day.”

Cardiologist and book author Dr. Willie T. Ong advises that you should drink water before sleeping and when waking up. “Your body loses water while you sleep so drink a glass before you go to sleep and another glass when you wake up,” he says. “Drinking water in the morning helps flush out the toxins that have accumulated all night.” 

Instead of drinking water by the volume, drink little by little throughout the day. “It is preferable to sip water throughout the day rather than to drink two glasses all at once,” Dr. Ong says. “This will lessen the stress on the heart (especially if you have heart disease) and give your body more time to absorb it.”

Don’t forget that you need to drink more when you exercise – the Mayo Clinic recommends two to three glasses of water before exercise and four to six ounces every 10 to 15 minutes during strenuous workouts.

How much do you know that you’re drinking enough water?  You will know this by monitoring your urine color.  Medical City kidney specialist Dr. Roberto Tanchanco says that if your urine is clear or pale yellow, you’re getting enough water.

“Although I want you to drink sufficient water, I don’t want you to go overboard,” Dr. Whitaker warns. “Drinking too much water can stress your kidneys and digestive system. Hypertension, diabetes, and stress all leave the kidneys in a weakened state, so be careful. In fact, if you have kidney disease or congestive heart disease, consult your physician before increasing your water intake.”

What are the benefits you get if drink enough water?  If you’re sick or having surgery, drinking water is an easy way to put yourself back on the road to recovery. After surgery, your body retains water to help it heal, so adding to your supply gives your body an extra boost when it needs it most. 

Water is also one of your best bets to prevent bladder or urinary tract infections. “Drinking lots of water will help flush out harmful bacteria from your bladder,” Dr. Tanchanco says. 

Water likewise lubricates and cushions your joints. Water molecules are like people – they don’t like to be crowded together. This aversion actually helps protect your joints. By spreading out, water forms a cushion that helps lubricate your joints, which makes them easier to bend and move around.

When arthritis makes you stiff and achy, your first thought should be, “I need some water.” This simple solution may help you feel better and even reduce your painful swelling.

Water reduces heartburn, says Dr. Ong. “Taking two to three gulps of water every 20 minutes or so can help flush the stomach acid away,” he says. “Bananas and water are effective alternatives to taking antacids.” 

For the beauty-conscious ladies, water keeps your skin soft and radiant. “Just as a dehydrated person will have deep-set eyes and wrinkled skin,” Dr. Ong says, “so will a fully hydrated person exhibit a radiant and beautiful skin tone.” 

Another benefit: water watches your weight. If you are wondering what’s at the center of any successful weight-loss program, guess again. Yes, it is the good old water. Remember, your body needs this nutrient more than any other, and it happens to be calorie free. “Drink a glass before eating,” the editors of Super Life, Super Health suggest. “Water fills you up, making it easier to resist that mound of food on your plate. It helps you eat more slowly. When you take your time, you end up eating less.” 

But most importantly, water makes you live longer. A 115-year-old man living on an island off Japan was asked how a person his age could be so healthy. “Simple,” the old man replied. “I’ve drunk water all my life.”  He ended up living to the ripe old age of 120 years, 237 days.

Just a caution: be sure to drink clean water only. If drinking water from a glass makes you feel bloated or full, drink through a straw instead.

Photo courtesy of Suchen SK of