ROLE OF WATER
If I told you that you could speed up your brain and your metabolism in one simple step would you do it? The cheapest and one of the most important health changes you make is being conscious about how much water you are consuming.
It seems simple, but how often does someone actually ask you, how much water do you drink regularly? The most likely the culprits are trainers, naturopathic doctors and perhaps the someone who is braced by your side in a moment of dizziness.
At least once a day, a patient asks me something along these lines: ‘Why is drinking water so important? I get liquid all day in my (insert coffee, pop, juice, smoothie), and I go to the washroom at least a half a dozen times a day. I mean I feel fine.’
I consider our body the vehicle that we get to drive in while on earth. The body vehicle requires several types of fuel and the most precious one is water.
The source fluids in our body (blood and lymph) are all driven by water. I think of dehydration like pushing ketchup through our circulation instead of tomato soup. It is no surprise that something thicker would take a lot more energy to make its way through our network to support our body, it would be harder to absorb and would take a long time to travel from A to B.
Scientists argue that our body is ~60% water, with certain organs requiring more hydration then others – the brain and heart for instance are ~73% water. No wonder some people get headaches and chest pain when they are dehydrated!
So, What is Water’s Role in the Body?
- Helps with digestion by forming saliva in the mouth
- Used to make neurotransmitters and hormones in the brain
- Regulates sweating, respiration and overall body temperature
- Serves as a shock absorber for the brain, spinal, cord and bones
- Delivers oxygen all over the body
- Helps joints to remain mobile by creating lubrication
- Flushes body waste (mostly urine)
- Provides an environment that allows the cells in the body to grow, reproduce and survive
- Keeps mucosal membranes (such as those in the lungs) moist
As our body gets dehydrated the cells begin to shrivel and dry out, meaning their ability to function is impacted and in some cases will shut off permanently. If our skin is starting to show signs of dehydration (such as dryness, lack of elasticity, flaky lips or dry mouth) we have possibly already started damage from lack of hydration in other (non-visible) parts of our body.
What Does Dehydration Feel Like?
Sometimes dehydration is really obvious dry skin, flaky lips, dry mouth and it makes sense to us that fluid is missing and these things are dry. However, there are lots of other symptoms that you may not associate with dehydration, some of these include:
- Dizziness or light-headed
- Weak pulse, rapid breathing
- Muscle cramps and twitches
- Small amounts or infrequent dark coloured urine
- Loss of strength or stamina
- Kidney stone formation
- Brain fog
- Low blood pressure
- Cool hands/feet (as a result of reduce blood pressure)
- Dry nasal passage (some people will experience bloody noses)
- Sunken eyes
Not Convinced Yet – Have You Thought About Water’s Role In Waste Removal?
I think of water as the garbage delivery vehicle of the body. Water is the foundation of both blood and lymph – the two fluids that carry all the important nutrients to the body, but also pick up the particles and toxins we do not need. Blood and lymph deliver these items to the liver and kidneys, who will package and send the unwanted contents out through our urine, sweat and bowels.
Our urine becomes increasingly concentrated with the more unwanted contents we have leaving the body. But just like the garbage truck sometimes it gets full. What happens when the garbage truck is too full – it leaves. Garbage can’t be removed without the collection truck, similarly toxin and unwanted particles in our body need water to travel in to remove them.
When garbage is left hanging around, it starts to create chaos from smell to attracting animals, etc. Without ample urine leaving the body, the particles that should be excreted hang around and wreak havoc. Sometimes this results in being reabsorbed in the body instead of leaving. The last thing you want is to bring the garbage back in the house.
Ever notice when you are sick it feels like you are constantly running to the washroom or blowing your nose? These functions serve to get the bad guys out of the body. Advice for overcoming sickness is to drink plenty of fluids and eat mom’s chicken soup. Replenishing and accumulating fluid is significant in getting the germs out and washing away and residual microbes.
So how much water is enough?
While everybody is different, generally when your urine is clear is a good indicator of being appropriately hydrated. Consider things like working out and/or sweating at work. For every kilogram of weight loss through sweat, one liter of fluid is lost (for each pound lost, you lost 15.4 oz. of fluid).
There are a number of online calculators and water drinking apps that can sync to your phone that can help with the task of figuring out a place to start such as:
- Plant Nanny: //fourdesire.com/works/plantnanny – keep your cute plant alive while remembering to drink water every day
- Waterlogged: //waterlog.gd/ – graph your progress, create a custom cup size and regular reminders to build a good water consumption habit
- iHydrate: //www.ihydrateapp.com/ – allows you to track multiple drink types and will even calculate the water in these that can work toward your water consumption goal
Calculate your water intake: start with your weight in pounds and divide it by 2. This is the number of fluid ounces baseline you should drink daily. With increased activity (thinking, exercise, stress) you need to add 0.1x weight in pounds additional fluids for each hour of increased activity.
Example: 150lb person. Daily water intake in ounces 150lbs/2 = 75 fluid ounces each day (2.2 litres of water). With 2 hours of exercise + 2 hours of class: 150lbs x 0.1 = 15 ounces x 4 hours = 60 ounces. Total for the day is 75+60 ounces= 145 ounces or 4.2 liters of water.
Low Tech Hydration Reminders
Need a couple of low-tech ideas? I have a patient who fills mason jars each day with the amount of water she wants to drink and puts them in the fridge. She always knows how much, or how little, she has consumed by the contents left at the end of the day.
I have another patient who wraps rubber bands around the reusable metal water bottle that he carries. Every time he completes the bottle he removes a band.
It’s Time To Just Do It
Infusing your body with this nectar of the earth can help reduce aches and pains, improve memory and thought and extend your life. Think about the plant that you forget to water, after a few bouts of dehydration it may die in your care, however your grandmother probably has some plants that have been around for generations. The life of the plant is directly affected by the amount of water it consumes.
Improving your water consumption can help to shift the balance of health in your favour. Aren’t you ready to start feeling amazing?
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US Geological Survey Water Science School: //water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html
NHS Choices: //www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Dehydration/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
Clinical Key: Dehydration in Sport and Dehydration in Adults
Active Running and Sports: //www.active.com/triathlon/articles/cracking-the-code-on-sweat-rates
Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker.