Drinking Water Prescription
Large numbers of people do not realize they are chronically dehydrated.
By Christopher Vasey, ND.
It is said that water is the ideal drink for the human being, and that drinking water is good for one's health. The reasons why this would be the case, however, are rarely stated. As a consequence, water, as a drink, is often neglected as a factor in health.
Who could imagine that fatigue, energy depletion, depression, eczema, rheumatism, high and low blood pressure, high cholesterol, gastric disorders, and premature aging could all be caused by a chronic lack of water in the body? Science has discovered that these problems – and a great many others – can be effectively prevented or treated by correct hydration.
Most people assume they are drinking enough fluids. Certainly they consume copious amounts of coffee, tea, and all sorts of soft drinks, but these beverages are far less effective in hydrating the body than plain water. Furthermore, in today's world, our bodies' need for water is much higher that it once was. Our food is too rich, too concentrated, and too salty, and the use of dehydrating substances such as alcohol and tobacco is very widespread. Stress, overheated and artificially ventilated homes, offices, and stores, air and water pollution – all contribute to our increased need for water.
As a consequence, large numbers of people do not realize they are chronically dehydrated, much less that lack of water is the cause of many of their health problems. There is only one solution: drink a lot more water. But for people to make a permanent change in their habits, they need to know why water is so important. What exactly happens when water enters in the body? What are the health conditions that can be traced to dehydration? How much should we drink, and what water should we choose? Theses are just a few of the many questions answered in this book.
The Harm Caused by Dehydration:
Our bodies are constantly dealing with liquid deficiencies.
Every day we expel 2.5 liters of water from our bodies in the form of urine, sweat, water vapor from the lungs, and the liquid contained in stools. When an equivalent intake of water is maintained, the body's hydric budget is in balance. Conversely, if the liquid intake is insufficient, this balance sheet goes into the red, and the process of dehydration begins.
The dehydration of the body can occur quite quickly. Although human beings can survive for a fairly long period without food (more than six weeks, as is shown by certain therapeutic fasts), the same does not hold true for going without liquid. Three days without any liquid, either in the form of drinks or what is bound to solid food, is sufficient to create serious physical breakdowns. Two or three days longer is fatal.
What precisely happens when the body is deprived of liquids over a long period?
First, blood volume tends to shrink, surrendering part of its own constituent water to the kidneys, the sudoriferous glands, and the other excretory organs that remove toxins from the body. But blood volume cannot be reduced too much without causing loss of consciousness, as well as problems supplying the cells with the oxygen and nutrients they need.
It is therefore necessary for the body to adjust. As it is no longer receiving water from external sources, it must draw what it needs from the nearest internal source: the extracellular fluid. Unfortunately, this withdrawal means that the cells are no longer surrounded by a sufficient quantity of liquid, and this degrades their functioning so it is intermittent and incomplete.
The situation cannot help but continue to deteriorate, because the blood continues to give an uninterrupted supply of liquid to the excretory organs, forcing the interstitial compartment to give up its water. This reduction of interstitial liquid cannot go on for long without generating new disorders. The thickened interstitial fluid is no longer capable of ensuring that the exchanges between the blood and the cells take place as they should.
To remedy this, the body is again forced to find another solution, and begins to draw liquid from the intracellular fluid, withdrawing water the cells normally use when it's available but can do without if needed be. But the rest of their water is indispensable, and if the cells were forced to give it up, it would compromise their ability to function. If the body still does not obtain water from an external source, after taking all the other adaptive measures described, it draws water from this deep level of the body. The water content of the cells then shrinks inexorably, as the body has no other additional area from which it can withdraw water.
Overall dehydration of the body engenders two serious metabolic problems that are the main causes of all the various disorders caused by dehydration: enzymatic slowdown and autointoxication (poisoning by toxins produced within the body).
The role of enzymes is to perform the many biochemical transformations necessary for the body to function. To do this they need, among other things, an environment richly supplied with water.
When the volume of blood and cellular fluids shrinks, the substances normally held in suspension in them become more tightly packed. The body fluids become more highly concentrated, which gives the enzymes an environment poorly suited for their activity, a situation that continues to deteriorate as long as dehydration remains an issue.
At first, the enzymes continue to work, but at a slower pace. Later, this rhythm slows further, and the biochemical transformations become intermittent and incomplete.
Enzymatic slowdown eventually paralyzes all the body's activity, as the production of energy, hormones, reparative substances, and so on necessary for the body to perform properly gradually decreases.
The influence of dehydration on physical abilities has been calculated to a very precise degree in sports medicine. The figures supplied by this research clearly show the speed with which dehydration has an effect on body function. A loss of liquid equivalent to 1 percent of total body weight is enough to diminish the body's working capacity by 10 percent. At a 2 percent loss, this capacity becomes 20 percent less efficient. The reduction in effectiveness continues at the same pace until around 10 percent, the stage at which the dehydrated individual loses consciousness, along with all motor and physical effectiveness.
For a person weighing 160 pounds, 1 percent of body weight is equal to 16 pounds, or 0.7 liter of water, a quantity that is easily lost through the sweat caused by one hour of physical exercise at an ambient temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). At 82 degrees Fahrenheit, the hydric loss borders on 3 liters an hour, equaling more than 4 percent of total body weight and a 40 percent loss in physical ability.
Every day, cells produce wastes and metabolic residues. The essential support medium for evacuating wastes is water: sweat is composed of 99 percent water, urine 95 percent, and exhaled air and stools 80 percent.
When the body does not have the liquids it needs to perform its functions properly, elimination continues, but with a reduced quantity of water. Urination is less frequent and the urine is thicker; sweat is more concentrated; and stools are dry and hard. Under these conditions, toxins are eliminated at a reduced rate. Waste products accumulate in the excretory organs, are deposited on the walls of the vessels, and congest the organs. The content of toxins in the blood and cellular fluids increases. All these factors contribute to the autointoxication of the body, which is considered in holistic medicine as the starting point for every illness.
The situation can deteriorate even further. When the body has been deprived of liquids for a long time, eventually there is not enough liquid to eliminate the toxins the body continues to produce. The toxins then become concentrated inside the body. At this point, the body begins to suffocate in its own wastes; cellular activity comes to a halt, and death follows.
These two situations, enzymatic slowdown and autointoxication, engender all the disorders characteristic of dehydration.
Acute and Chronic Dehydration
Most people don't think they need to worry about dehydration. To them, dehydration is something that happens to travelers in the desert when they run out of water.
But there is a chronic form of dehydration that does not have the sudden and intense nature of the acute form. Chronic dehydration is widespread in the present day and affects everyone who is not drinking enough liquid.
The troubles that result from chronic dehydration are not as pronounced as those created by the acute form. The liquid loss is always less than the 10 percent of body weight cited earlier as the cause of serious physical problems that can threaten a person's survival.
Chronic dehydration is not severe enough to result in death or serious illness, but it is enough to cause numerous functional and lesional disorders that are more or less irritating or painful. These disorders are many and varied, because the lack of water brings about a general weakening of the body's internal cellular environment. Of course, the weakest organs give way first, and these are where the disorders appear.
Here are several examples of the health problems that can result from chronic dehydration of the tissues. These problems can have a variety of different causes, but dehydration is a possible cause of each one.
Health Problems That Can Be Caused by Chronic Dehydration:
Fatigue, Energy Loss
Dehydration of the tissues causes enzymatic activity to slow down, including enzymes that are active in the production of energy. This production can fall so low in the case of acute dehydration that the individual suffering from it may not even be capable of standing up. He or she remains prostrate and motionless, in a somnolent or even unconscious state.
Although it does not go to this extreme, chronic dehydration nonetheless engenders a sense of chronic fatigue and lassitude. The effect on a person's psychic state is a noticeable lack of enthusiasm while working and a loss of joy in living.
If a person in this situation starts drinking sufficient quantities of water again (the question of quantity is discussed in chapter 6 of my book), his or her energy returns. A generous intake of water retriggers enzymatic activity, hence the return of energy. Regaining strength and energy is one of the effects mentioned by the majority of people who increase their water consumption to bring it back to normal levels.
When an alimentary bolus (a mass of chewed food) enters the colon, it contains too much liquid to allow stools to form properly. The excess water is absorbed by the wall of the colon to reduce this content. The removal process continues until the stools acquire their normal consistency, which allows easy evacuation.
With chronic dehydration, however, the removal of liquid can be excessive. As the body is not receiving enough water from the outside, it seeks to obtain it from all possible sources. One of the means it has available is to withdraw it from one part of the body to put it at the disposal of another. In this case, the body withdraws more water from the stools than it would normally. They then become dry and hard and difficult to eliminate.
Constipation caused by chronic dehydration can be corrected only by increasing daily water consumption. The body then ceases to make extra withdrawals of water from the stools, and they regain the necessary moistness to be eliminated normally.
Various digestive disorders can be caused by a lack of water: poor digestion, gas, bloating, pain, nausea, indigestion, and loss of appetite. In fact, the body produces 7 liters of digestive juices daily. In the event of chronic dehydration, the secretions are less abundant, and the digestive process cannot perform properly.
In this case, water should not be consumed during meals but separately, throughout the day, especially thirty minutes before mealtime . An amount of 10 ounces or 3 deciliters at a time would be appropriate . This ensures that the quantity of water available for the production of digestive juices is sufficient.
Gastritis, Stomach Ulcers
To protect its mucous membranes from being destroyed by the acidic digestive fluid it produces, the stomach secretes a layer of mucus. This mucus is composed of 98 percent water and 2 percent sodium bicarbonate. The large quantity of water forms a thick barrier between the mucous membranes and the acids of the gastric juices. Because of its alkaline properties, the bicarbonate that permeates the mucus also neutralizes the acids that attempt to cross this protective barrier.
In a state of chronic dehydration, the stomach does not have enough liquid available to properly manufacture the mucus. Among people who are predisposed to these kinds of disorders, some zones of the stomach do not have a good lining of mucus and thus are poorly protected. These zones can be attacked by the acids, which first cause an inflammation of the mucous membrane (gastritis), then lesions (ulcers).
In such cases, rather than resorting to artificial palliatives, it is preferable to assist the body to produce its own palliative, or protective mucus, by drinking more. A fairly generous consumption of water helps the stomach again produce sufficient amounts of mucus so it can protect its walls from attack.
Excess Weight and Obesity
Those who are overweight are eating more than their bodies are capable of using and eliminating. But why do we have a tendency to eat more than our physiology needs? There are numerous possible reasons, but one of them—thirst—is rarely mentioned.
There are two ways to satisfy thirst: we can drink a lot of fluids, or we can eat foods rich in water. If we opt for the second solution, the body receives the liquids it needs, but it also takes in nutritive substances it doesn't need, which contribute to its weight. More often than we might think, when we are thirsty we make the mistake of eating rather than drinking.
Although the two sensations are distinct, thirst is often confused with hunger. One reason is that eating can soothe thirst. A second reason is that the fatigue that accompanies dehydration is wrongly interpreted as a lack of energetic fuel, that is, sugar. In both cases we are dealing with a false sensation of hunger.
When we confuse thirst and hunger, a vicious circle is rapidly generated, because the more we eat, the greater is our need for water with which to manufacture digestive juices. So the more we eat, the thirstier we become. And because we are already confusing the sensation of thirst with that of hunger, we again eat instead of drink, which only increases our need for water, which is again mistakenly interpreted as hunger.
To break this vicious circle and reduce the quantity of food ingested, water consumption must be considerably increased. If we drink much more than we normally would (more than 2 liters a day), these false sensations of hunger cease. The quantity of food consumed shrinks and adjust to the body's needs.
In addition to the beneficial effect of the reduction of food intake, the overall metabolism is stimulated. This occurs because the rehydration of the tissues retriggers enzymatic activity, and thus the combustion of excess fat as well.
Cholesterol is one of the body's most useful substances. It is harmful only when present in excessive amounts, and then its greatest threat is to the circulatory system.
Out of the total quantity of cholesterol found in our bodies, one third comes from food, and the body produces two thirds. This production takes place in the liver and intestines. Hypercholesterolemia, the medical term for excessive cholesterol in the blood, can therefore have either an external cause (the foods we eat) or an internal cause (endogenous overproduction).
Among the numerous functions it performs, cholesterol takes part in the construction of the membranes (or walls) of the cells. Its role consists primarily of making them impermeable. The cells' need for cholesterol is constant, so the body produces it constantly. But this production can become excessive under certain circumstances and lead to hypercholesterolemia. This is notably the case with dehydration.
How does this occur?
When dehydration causes too much liquid to be removed from inside the cells, the body tries to stop this loss by producing more cholesterol. A higher level of cholesterol effectively enables the cellular membrane to become less permeable, which in turn prevents too great a loss of their fluid. But while this overproduction remedies the ill effects of dehydration, it also has the negative consequence of increasing the cholesterol in the bloodstream.
In such cases, regular consumption of abundant water limits the production of cholesterol. This can be accomplished with no change in diet, because food is not the cause of the overproduction.
Cystitis, Urinary Infections
The harmful influence of liquid deficiency is well known in connection with urinary infections. If the toxins contained in urine are insufficiently diluted, they attack the urinary mucous membranes and create microlesions. These lesions then form entranceways for germs, which settle in the membranes, multiply, and engender painful infections.
Drinking large amounts of water to dilute the urine and ensure that the germs are carried away is thus perfectly justified. But the water also intervenes in another way. The microbes responsible for urinary infections often originate in the intestines. They are microorganisms of the intestinal flora that were originally beneficial, but then mutate and become virulent when intestinal transit is too slow. Subsequently migrating elsewhere in the body, among other destinations toward the nearby urinary tract, these microbes engender infections.
An increased consumption of liquid is thus not only beneficial in the urinary tract, but also at the starting gate for infections: the intestinal milieu (for example, preventing constipation).
The normal aging process involves a gradual loss of volume of the extracellular and intracellular fluids. As we saw earlier, the body of a newborn child is composed of 80 percent liquid, but this percentage declines to no more than 70 percent in an adult and continues to decline with age. This water loss contributes to the slowing down of exchanges and the loss of volume in the flesh that is characteristic of natural aging.
However, loss of water in the tissues can be intensified and accelerated when the liquid ingested on a daily basis is not enough to meet the body's needs. Older people who do not drink enough aggravate the normal dehydration process that accompanies natural aging. They age much more quickly than necessary, simply because of poor hygiene.
Drinking enough liquid is essential throughout life. Unfortunately, the elderly often do not drink enough, perhaps because they do not always clearly perceive the sensation of thirst.
To avoid dehydration, the body pushes us to drink by triggering a disagreeable sensation: thirst. Theoretically, it should therefore not be possible to become dehydrated. And yet the fact remains that many people do not drink enough.
Sense of thirst lost with age, research review by Dr. Wells.
Symptoms of Dehydration, by AMDA.