Water = Life & Health
Water is fundamental to all life on Earth and clean water is essential to our health. We can survive without food for about 5 weeks, but our lives would end in 3-5 days without water. The human body is 2/3rds water, making up about 70% of our body weight. The brain and muscle are about 75% water and blood is 85% water content! It is the primary component of all the bodily fluids—blood, lymph, digestive juices, urine, tears, and sweat. Water is involved in almost every bodily function: It helps transport nutrients and waste products in and out of cells, is necessary for all digestive absorption, circulatory and excretory functions. It is also needed for the maintenance of proper body temperate. By drinking an adequate amount of water each day, you can prevent symptoms of headache, muscle weakness, constipation, fatigue, perceived hunger etc. (signs of dehydration).
Seeing as we constantly lose water through out sweat and urine, it’s necessary to consistently replace this loss by drinking lots of water. I encourage people to get into the habit of drinking water throughout the day, rather than waiting until they are thirsty and thus mildly-dehydrated. That said, the big question I always get asked is:
How much water should I drink each day?
It’s a simple question with no simple answer. Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to water consumption. The advice to drink ‘8-glasses of water a day’ is not supported by hard evidence, and is potentially popular because of it’s specificity and easiness to remember. The Institute of Medicine has determined that an adequate intake for men is actually about 3 liters (13 cups) of liquid a day, and 2.2 liters (9 cups) for women. With that number in mind, it’s important to modify your water intake depending on how active you are, what climate you live in, your health status, and whether or not you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. The average North American drinks only 4 cups of water a day, which means most people are experiencing some level of dehydration. Your individual water needs depends on a number of factors including: your state of health, how active your are and how much you sweat, the climate in which you live, whether or not you’re pregnant or breastfeeding etc. More on this:
– In hot or humid weather, you need to drink additional water to help lower your body temperature and to replace what you lose through sweating. Indoor heating can also cause your skin to lose moisture, increasing your daily fluid requirement.
– When exercising and sweating, in order compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 2 cups of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense workouts require more water intake. How much depends on the individual and how much they sweat during exercise and the duration of exercise. It’s important to drink water both before and after exercising.
– Pregnancy or breast-feeding: Women who are expecting or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. Large amounts of fluid are used especially when nursing.
– When you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses additional fluids. In some cases, your doctor may recommend oral rehydration solutions. One must also drink more water if they develop frequent bladder infections or urinary tract stones (proper hydration can prevent these conditions!).
– It’s also necessary to drink even more water when you are in a geographic area with high altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) as this increases urination and more rapid breathing that uses up fluid reserves.
What about the water we obtain through the food we consume?
One of the many benefits to eating a whole-foods plant-based diet centred on non-starchy vegetables and fruit that are naturally water-dense, is that you obtain a good deal of water through your diet. That said, fresh fruits and vegetables does add to our water intake but are still considered additional to the direct water we must drink throughout the day. On the other-side of the spectrum, a diet heavy in starch, fat, and protein offers less water and therefore requires an even greater intake of straight water. Coffee, alcohol, and sodas or other sugary beverages do not count toward our daily water intake. These beverages do not affectively hydrate the body the water does, and can have the opposite effect, causing dehydration. Personally, I think drinking non-caffienated herbal teas are ‘equal’ to pure water, or lemon water (simply fresh lemon juice with water). These more flavoured drinks are great for people who do not enjoy drinking water on its own. The goal is to encourage people to drink more water, and if herbal tea and lemon water allows somebody to do so, than I see no need to be a purist.
A few of many reasons why water is ESSENTIAL to our health:
– Water carries nutrients and oxygen to cells
– Water moistens the mouth, eyes, and nose
– Water regulates our body temperature
– Water lubricates joints and protects organs and tissues
– Water helps flush out waste/toxins from the vital organs and lymph (lessens the burden on the kidneys & liver)
– Water helps dissolve minerals and make them more absorbable in the body
– Water allows for proper digestive functioning and helps prevent constipation
– Water carries the electrolytes, mineral salts that help convey electrical currents in the body; the major minerals that make up these salts are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride.
Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can cause low energy and fatigue. A good way to ensure you’re drinking enough throughout the day is by the colour of your urine. The more hydrated you are, the more diluted the urine, which means the colour is lighter. Urination is a process of waste-removal, so it’s best to flush out as often as possible. That said, if you are urinating every 2-3 hours you are likely drinking enough water.
NOTE: Although uncommon, it is possible to drink too much water. When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia. In general, drinking too much water is rare in healthy adults who eat an average diet.