Wellness Wednesday: It’s Water. Water Does a Body Good.

Double exposure portrait of attractive african american woman combined with photograph of water sparks

In 1798 Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote and published a poem entitled “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” In this poem the speaker is a sailor on a ship. He is thirsty and surrounded by water, but it is salt water, so it’s water that he cannot drink. Even if you didn’t know the origin of the poem, you know these famous lines:

“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

This however is not the case in regards to the availability of drinkable water in today’s environment, even if you were on a ship. Fresh, delicious, drinkable water, H2O, is everywhere. Your body needs water to survive, and some of us know the consequences of a lack of water, or dehydration.

Water is needed for the efficient functioning and survival of this wonderful body God has given to us. Some of the uses of water include the keeping of our body at a normal temperature. It lubricates and cushions our joints. Water surrounds and protects our spinal chord and brain and sensitive organs. Waste from the body’s functioning is eliminated through urination, perspiration and bowel movements. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food and nutrients are metabolized and transported efficiently in the water-filled bloodstream.

Keep the Water Flowing

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) indicates that up to 80% of the human adult body is water. the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery, at 31%.

According to a National Institute of Health (NIH) study published in the journal eBioMedicine, drinking enough water is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases, a lower risk of dying early and a lower risk of being biologically older than your chronological age. Interesting, isn’t this!  It bears repeating that these studies appear to show that with proper hydration the aging process can be slowed down and chronic diseases can be delayed. You can look younger than your chronological age.

Each day humans must consume a certain amount of water to survive. Of course, this varies according to age and gender, and also by where someone lives. The National Academy of Medicine recommends an adult male needs about 3.7 liters or 125 ounces (that’s about four 16 ounce bottle waters) per day, while an adult female needs about 2.7 liters or 91 ounces per day. All of the water a person needs does not have to come from drinking liquids, as some of this water is contained in the food and fruit we eat.

Drinking 16 ounces of your daily allotted water at bedtime has in some studies shown to decrease heart attacks and stroke. This may be related to the fact that blood clots can form more frequently when the blood is dehydrated thus leading to the potential for a stroke or heart attack.

Four Ways to Determine if You’re Dehydrated

After all the above information, the question you may want me to address now is “ how do I know if I’m drinking enough water? How do I know if I’m dehydrated?”

One method to determine dehydration is ‘tenting’ of the skin of the back of your hand. Pinch the skin of the back of your hand. A delay in the return of pinched skin to a flat position is a sign of dehydration. You just tried this didn’t you. Good. Are you hydrated?

Another way to determine whether you’re getting enough water is to observe your urine. If it’s always yellow and not clear, that is another sign that you may be dehydrated.

If you are having problems with constipation–and are not on medications that can cause this–it may be that your body is trying its best to conserve fluids to protect vital organs by absorbing water from the large intestine, thus causing hard, dehydrated stool.

Another method to determine if you are dehydrated involves the drawing of your blood and checking your sodium (Na) level. The sodium level in our bodies increase when we drink less fluid. The Atherosclerotic Risk in Communities study, a study collected over 30 years from over 11 thousand black and white adults showed that adults with a serum sodium level at the higher end of the normal range which is 135 to 146 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L), had worse health outcomes than those at the lower end of the range. So increasing the fluids in your diet will decrease the body’s sodium level and help us hydrate.

When  and How to Water Yourself

Now what about drinking water when we are eating a meal, or drinking cold water? What is your advice. A disclaimer here: you should do what the research concludes, not what Dr. Berry necessarily does or does not do. Research shows that drinking water with a meal dilutes the digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines, so foods may not be properly digested. Enzymes need a certain pH or acidity to function. Water with the meat makes the food less acidic so the enzymes do not function well. In a similar way, enzymes need a certain temperature to function appropriately. Cold water causes the body to overwork to heat up the fluid so the enzymes can function. It is therefore recommended that water consumption occur 30-45 minutes before or after a meal. Now you can see why this is important.

Please also remember to contact your health care provider before changing your habits, even when in comes to water consumption.

So in conclusion, fresh water is available to us all. Being hydrated is important to our continued health, happiness and even longevity, so go ahead. Drink up, and look younger.

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