Fall 2012: Are You Drinking Enough Water?
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Summary: Learn why drinking at least 2.5L of water per day is vital to your body's health at any age.

Water is everywhere, but not all of us drink as much as we should. The body is made up of 75% water and so is the earth’s surface. Water is necessary to carry nutrients to cells and take toxins away for excretion. In fact, every avenue of excretion—including urine, sweat, breath and feces— altogether removes 2.5 L of water from your system. Since you lose 2.5 L of water each day over a period of 24 hours, it makes sense that you should at least be putting this same amount back into your body.

Why is Water So Important Anyway?

girl drinking water from fountain
Water is vital for healthy cell functioning. The body is an intelligent, complex system, and if you don’t give it the amount of water it requires, it has to conserve water and distribute it to parts of the body that need it more.Eventually, if the body still isn’t getting enough water, the brain decides to cut off less necessary parts so that it saves enough water for the vital organs, such as the brain, which takes first priority.

The following example of the kidneys explains one scenario of what could happen when your body goes into water or ‘crisis’ management mode because it doesn’t have enough water.

A Kidney Crisis

Your kidneys need a lot of water as their job is to filter your blood of extra fluids and remove wastes such as urine.

The kidneys are able to conserve a lot of water, but if they become too dry, this makes it easier for germs to move up the urethra and ureter, pass into the kidney, and eventually get into the blood. Kidney failure is often a result of a build-up of uric acid or other waste products like urea in the blood.

Kidney stones form because the kidneys are not getting enough water. When the body is dehydrated, the brain tells the kidney to cut back on its urine production because it needs to save water for other bodily functions. As a result, the kidney has to pull back all the fluid it can and leave only the absolute minimum to get rid of waste products like urea and uric acid. This, as you have probably experienced, is why your urine is sometimes a very strong yellow and burns when you pee—the kidneys have had to make the urine more concentrated to save water. A general rule of thumb is that the more water you intake, the more output you will have. Dark-colored or strong-smelling urine indicates you need to drink more water.

When you have a concentrated solution—similar to when you have evaporated water in a container—crystals of salt appear. The same process occurs inside your kidneys. Crystals or stones eventually form that try to pass down your ureter but often get stuck because they have jagged edges and are too large to pass through. Your kidney will eventually swell with backed-up urine. When this happens, the kidneys can’t filter properly, causing you to go into kidney failure where the doctor may have to remove one of your kidneys.

Sometimes the kidney stone blocks the urine’s path from filtering out through the urethra, and so the urine gets put back into the blood where it can kill you if it reaches a certain level. High concentrations of uric acid in the blood can lead to a type of arthritis known as gout. All this because you failed to drink water!

Is Water Your Number One Choice for Energy?

Apart from keeping your organs healthy, water also provides you with energy at the cellular level. The cell is a complex factory that performs numerous functions, such as letting materials pass in and out, transporting raw materials to the proper production plant in the cell, storing the raw materials, sending them out to be used in the right part of the body, and releasing waste toxins.

A river of water surrounds the cell—called the membrane—which allows materials to be quickly sent to other parts of the cell where they are processed and packaged before transmitted to the parts of the body where they are needed. In this way, another of water’s functions in the body is to act as a transport vehicle.

Water is found both outside and inside the cell. Water from outside the cell frequently flows across the cell membrane and into the cell. Millions of pumps (called cation pumps) in the cell membrane pump out harmful materials like acid and pump in helpful materials like glucose and sodium. These pumps act like pumps in a hydroelectric dam. When water flows into a hydroelectric dam, the movement of water across the pumps turns the generators. In the same way, the movement of water across the cell membrane turns the cation pumps or generators in the cell. This power or ‘voltage’ is then converted and stored as packages of energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate)—a chemical source of energy the body uses to do its work.

Drink First, then Eat

As we have seen, the body’s main source of energy derives from the movement of water across the cell membrane. The other energy your body gets comes from the foods you eat, which only makes up about 25%. Many people who are weak or tired choose to eat food to feel more energized. While they will gain some energy from eating, they will also gain unwanted pounds because with food comes calories—something you don’t get with only drinking water (any excess water simply passes out of the body through urine). While food is also important for energy, if you overeat in proportion to the amount of activity you are doing, your body will store up this excess food in the form of body fat. So next time you’re feeling tired and tempted to eat to gain energy, try drinking water before munching down on a sandwich. You may find you aren’t as hungry afterwards. You should actually wait 20 minutes before eating so the water in your stomach does not interfere with digestion. Much weight gain could be prevented with this correct order of consumption.

Don’t think that drinking substitutes like tea, alcohol, juice, pop, or coffee will do the trick either. While these beverages contain water, they also act as drying agents that deplete the water they are dissolved in and take out more from your body’s reserves. This is why you end up feeling thirstier after drinking a can of pop or juice—the water doesn’t stay in the body long enough.

The Older You Get, the Less Thirsty You Feel

elderly woman drinking water
The hypothalamus is the thirst center in the brain that tells you if you are thirsty. The cells in the hypothalamus read the level of sodium in your body, and when you’re dehydrated, the level of sodium is high. These cells then produce a special hormone called histamine that drives you to seek water. As you get older, however, the cells near the thirst center lose their sensitivity, and that’s why the older you get, the less thirsty you feel. This does not mean you should drink less water though. Instead, you should drink water on principle, knowing your body needs it even if you can’t feel it. Drinking water should not be a response to thirst but a constant activity.

Signs of Dehydration

Apart from having a dry mouth (which some say is the last sign), there are other indications of dehydration. These include dyspepsia (upset stomach) rheumatoid arthritis, heart pain, migraines, and low back pain to name a few. Let’s look at a couple of these in further detail. Migraines are largely found to be a result of dehydration brought about by improper body temperature. Perhaps your bed covers are too warm so you cannot sleep, or maybe you’re in too warm of an environment without adequate water intake.

Another common ailment, arthritis—which about 50 million Americans suffer from in one form or another—results from water deficiency in the joint cartilage surfaces. Cartilage needs to have enough water to lubricate the joints so they slide smoothly over each other. If not, the cartilage begins to wear away and you have bone rubbing against bone, which is incredibly painful and produces a grating sound when you move. F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., claims these pains should be treated with water—not medication. Medication may relieve some symptoms, but it can also cause more harm by killing off some of the above signs of chronic dehydration, which he believes is the root problem of all physical diseases. It is best to drink lots of water (2.5 L per day or 8 oz. glasses of water) as a preventative measure so that these signs do not reach an irreversible condition that the sudden intake of water cannot restore.

Drink Up!

Now that you know how essential water is for your body, make sure to fill it up with the right amount it needs. Get in the habit of drinking water daily and often so you can start benefiting from its many effects, including:

  • prevention of chronic diseases like arthritis and back pain
  • sense of well-being as water helps fight against sicknesses and flushes toxins
  • more productivity at work since the brain is 85% water and needs a proper amount to operate properly
  • healthier, younger looking skin because it’s adequately hydrated
  • more energy
  • staying regular as water helps with digestion and constipation
  • + much more!

    Ellen White writes:

    In health and in sickness, pure water is one of Heaven's choicest blessings. Its proper use promotes health. It is the beverage which God provided to quench the thirst of animals and man. Drunk freely, it helps to supply the necessities of the system, and assists nature to resist disease. (CD, 419.1)

    With all these benefits of drinking water, why would you delay? We are incredibly blessed to live in a part of the world that has access to clean, fresh drinking water, so let’s not neglect this amazing and natural resource God has given us! Drink up!

    i. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj. How to Deal with Back Pain & Rheumatoid Joint Pain. (Falls Church, VA, Global Health Solutions, 1991).

    ii. ---. Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. 2nd ed. (Vienna, VA, Global Health Solutions, 1995).

    iii. Don Kelly. Water Everywhere - Video lectures. Dr. Don Kelly is a medical professor from the United Kingdom, a Jamaican born. He has practiced for over 30 years.

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