What is one of the healthiest and best things for your body….and is FREE?

by Dr. Weisz

What is one of the healthiest and best things for your body….and is FREE?

Yep, it comes out of your kitchen sink…WATER!!

Many in nutrition and medicine believe that drinking enough fluids, particularly water, is essential for overall good health and may positively affect a person’s life span and longevity. I personally have seen and believe that many Americans are chronically dehydrated and do not consume adequate amounts of water. When you perform nutrition analysis on patients you find very few that contain adequate fluid intake. I am sure that over the long term, this can result in suboptimal health and decrease a persons odds of living a long and healthy life.

How much of our body consists of water and/or fluids?

While an individual can probably live for approximately 5 weeks without food, water is an essential nutrient that if deprived, even a few days, can result in death. In the human, total body weight is composed of approximately 45-75% water, with an overall average of approximately 60%. Water content is generally higher in children, men, and in people with higher lean body masses. Most water is localized in cells, approximately 55% particularly in the muscles and viscera. Forty-five percent is in the extracellular matrix. Skeletal muscle contains 65-75% water by weight. The brain is 1/50th of the total body weight but receives 18-20% of blood circulation. The human body is composed of 25% solid matter, which is termed the solute while 75% of the body is water termed the solvent. The brain tissue consists of 85% water. Some authors believe that water and the solvent in our body has been under investigated and of significant clinical importance while mainstream medicine seems to view water as very trivial.

What are some of the physical and chemical properties of water? How is water related to energy?

Water has been called the universal solvent because it is able to dissolve polar molecules and inorganic salts as well as organic molecules, which may contain hydrophobic components. It has a high specific heat of 1 calorie per gram and a high heat of evaporation, 80 calories per gram. This allows small amounts of water through perspiration and respiration to remove large amounts of body heat during exercise. It also has a low viscosity and moderate surface tension. This permits blood flow and lubrication for eyelids, joints, and for peristalsis. It is the major solvent for organic and inorganic chemicals that are involved in the biochemical reactions. Water is the medium that transports nutrients via body fluids to cell walls and through membranes. Water also removes waste products from the cell.

The primary function of water is as a solvent for many biochemical reactions. . Water is necessary at the molecular and cellular levels and at the metabolic and functional levels. Molecular water is consumed during the hydrolysis of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates undergoing digestion and metabolism. It is also produced as a terminal product of oxidative phosphorylation. Ten percent of our daily water need is fulfilled by the formation of this type of water often called metabolic water. Ninety percent of our daily water requirement comes from fluids as well as various foods with foods such as fruits and vegetables containing approximately 80-90% water weight. Urine is about 95% water by weight and water helps the body rid itself of waste products.

As a solvent, water transports many nutrients and solute particles and participates in many chemical reactions termed hydrolysis. The osmotic flow of water through the cell membrane can generate a voltage type of energy called hydroelectric energy. This can be converted and stored in energy pools in the form of ATP and GTP. These are energy systems in the body with the energy of water being used to manufacture ATP and GTP. Water also forms a particular structure pattern and shape that seems to be involved in adhesive material in the cell architecture. It seems to stick solid structures in the cell membrane together. Proteins and enzymes of the body function more efficiently in solutions of lower viscosity particularly true of all receptors in the cell membranes. Higher viscosity represents a more dehydrated state and proteins and enzymes become less efficient.

What are the so called “stages of water”?

Some believe that there are three stages to water regulation of the body in different phases of life. The first stage is the stage of life of a fetus in the uterus of the mother. The second phase is from growth until full height and width is achieved which is approximately between ages 18 to 25. The third and final phase is the phase of life from fully grown to the demise of the person. Obviously during the fetal stage, water must be supplied to the child by the mother.

What happens if I do not drink enough water?

The body has essentially no water reserves. During periods of time when a person does not intake water, 66% of water is taken from the water volume normally held inside the cells, 26% is taken from volume held outside the cells, and 8% is taken from blood volume. When body water decreases 1-2%, a normal individual will begin to have the sensation of thirst, which originates from the hypothalmus. Water intoxication can occur if there is excessive water intake or excessive electrolyte loss, which can result in hyposmolarity. Dehydration is frequently observed in the elderly while water intoxication is rarely observed in humans. Dehydration can occur particularly in the elderly due to a blunted thirst sensation in this age group.

It is often stated that our thirst mechanism has deteriorated over many thousands of years with the thirst mechanism being insensitive to our body’s water status. This results in our bodies becoming chronically dehydrated beginning at an early adult age. As we age, the water content of the cells of the body decreases to the point that the ratios of volume of body of water that is inside the cells compared to outside the cell’s changes. It is possible that the volume of water that is consumed by an individual can affect the efficiency of cell activity. Therefore, due to the poor thirst mechanism and insufficient water intake of an individual, the ratio of the amount of water inside the cell versus outside the cell is altered.

In addition to the poor thirst mechanism, there is much confusion by the individual who has been bombarded with advertising stating that tea, coffee, or alcohol containing beverages will quench your thirst and account for water intake. This is not entirely true as these types of beverages are not substitutes for water. Although they do contain water and can account for some of a person’s water intake, they also contain dehydrating agents. Caffeine and theophylline are essential nervous system stimulants and dehydrating agents because they have a diuretic affect on the kidneys. One cup of coffee contains 85mg of caffeine, one cup of tea contains 50mg of caffeine, and typical cola drinks contain approximately 50mg of caffeine.

What are the signs of dehydration?

A normal individual will experience symptoms of dehydration when there is a loss of 5-10% of body weight as water. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, decreased appetite, thirst, weakness, mental confusion, sunken eyeballs, pale cheeks, decreased urinary output, dry mouth, headache, dark urine, and elevated heart rate. If dehydration continues and is intensified (usually by exercise) this can lead to decreased exercise performance, cold skin, tingling, numbness, collapse and possibly even death. The very last sign of dehydration is a dry mouth. Even when the mouth may be fairly moist, dehydration may be present. Large quantities of protein cause water loss through urea production and excretion. Diarrhea and vomiting also cause dehydration.

Does drinking water and perhaps other fluids reduce my chances of getting heart disease?

The significance and importance of water to the health care system and to individual health can be illustrated by a recent study from Chan et al. In a prospective cohort study called the Adventist Health Study, the relationship between fatal coronary heart disease and water intake was evaluated. Over 8,000 males and 12,000 females aged 38-100 years were examined. These subjects had no heart disease, stroke, or diabetes when the study began in 1976. High daily intakes of water (five or more glasses per day) compared with low (two or fewer glasses per day) were associated with a relative risk in men of 0.46 and, in women, of 0.59. What this means is that men who had water consumption at the higher intake levels had a 54% lower risk of dying from a heart attack than those who drink lower water intakes. For females, those who had higher water intake had a 41% less risk of death from heart attack. Women who drank high levels of fluids other than water were found to be twice as likely to die as those who drank less non-water fluids, while men had a 46% increased risk of dying from a heart attack. A high versus low intake of fluids other than water was associated with a relative risk of 2.47 in women and of 1.46 in men.

Why does water have this affect on heart disease?

Whole blood viscosity, plasma viscosity, hematocrit, and fibrinogen are considered independent risk factors for coronary heart disease and can be elevated by dehydration. Although the exact mechanism is not known, researchers suspect that water helps to lower heart attack risk by thinning the blood, whereas drinking other fluids thicken the blood, thus increasing the risk of developing a heart attack via a blood clot mechanism.

Does drinking water and perhaps other fluids reduce my chances of getting cancer?

For certain types of cancer the answer appears to be YES. Animal studies have shown that the more an animal urinates the less potential carcinogens are present in the tissue of the urinary system. In humans, it is thought that if more water or fluids are consumed the less time of contact between carcinogens and the urinary tissues occurs.

Drinking large amounts of fluids has been associated with a decreased risk of bladder cancer in men. Over 47,900 subjects were followed for a 10-year period. The results demonstrated that the total daily fluid intake was inversely associated with the risk of bladder cancer. Water and other fluid consumption reduced the risk when comparing 6 cups per day versus 1 cup (<240 ml) per day. I have heard that some experts feel that eight, eight ounces of water per day is not necessary. Is this true? A recently published and widely quoted modified food guide pyramid encourages persons over the age of 70 years to ingest eight glasses (2 liters) of fluids per day. Some believe that this much fluid intake may not be necessary and perhaps even do harm. For example, one study interviewed and examined 883 volunteers with a mean age of 74.1 years. Most participants (71%) estimated that their usual fluid intake was equal to or exceeded six glasses per day. Evidence of hypernatremia (serum sodium concentration > 146 mEq/l) was not observed in the 227 individuals ingesting less than this. Hyponatremia also was rare in this population. Fluid intake showed no significant associations with lying and standing blood pressures, a history of falling, or the frequency of chronic constipation or fatigue/tiredness. Therefore, some believe that consuming a fluid intake of above a level that is comfortable for the individual seems to serve little useful purpose.

Despite the current recommendations to “drink at least eight 8-oz glasses of water a day” (with beverages containing caffeine and alcohol not counting), rigorous proof for this counsel appears to be lacking. No scientific studies have been found to support this, which suggests that large amounts are not necessary. In addition, it appears that caffeinated drinks (and, to a lesser extent, mild alcoholic beverages like beer in moderation) may indeed be counted toward the daily fluid total. It should be remembered that this conclusion applies to healthy adults in a temperate climate living a sedentary lifestyle. However, greater intakes of fluids and water are necessary for the treatment or prevention of some diseases and with vigorous work and exercise, especially in hot climates.

How much water do I need to drink a day?

The amount of water required per day is based upon the amount that is lost per day from excretion and elimination, perspiration and respiration. Water recommendations include 2-3 quarts for a person who expends 2000 calories daily. Recommended water intake is 1/2 cup per 100 kilocalories expended. An overall general recommendation is to drink 8 glasses of 8 ounces per day. Typically, an adult will consume 400L of water per year with an equal amount being obtained from food. Also, a person can observe the color and consistency of their urine. The urine should be clear and there should be plenty of it. It should not appear thick. If it does, a person is not consuming adequate water intake. In addition, many believe that if a person is drinking adequate amounts of water for their body size, they should be urinating every 2-4 hours. If not, then again they are not consuming enough water.

Source Instructor: Gary R. Italia, DC, PhD

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