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In our civilized, super industrialized and commercialized society, it seems like we are tempted to forget our relationship to Mother Nature, disregarding things that are so evident for our life, especially Water. While we develop in our mothers’ wombs we live in an aquatic environment, similar to that of the primal ocean. Our body is about 75% water, approximately 3/4 of the earth’s surface is covered by water and all living organisms around us (on which our life depends) are mostly water.
Every single living cell in us is made up of water (intracellular fluid) – including our own body cells – and surrounded by water (extra cellular fluid). Our body’s tissues and organs, as well as every one of the body’s sustaining processes, such as thinking, nerve function, blood circulation, digestion, locomotion, and elimination require water in order to function properly. Water is necessary for the very survival of human beings, as it ensures the smooth functioning of body systems.
Your Body and Water
The very composition of our body is that blood is 83% water, muscles are 75% water, brain is 74% water and bone is 22% water. Your lungs expel between two and four cups of water each day through normal breathing – even more on a cold day. If your feet sweat, there goes another cup of water. If you make half a dozen trips to the bathroom during the day, that’s six cups of water. If you perspire, you expel about two cups of water (which doesn’t include exercise-induced perspiration). Lack of water in the body leads to a condition called dehydration, thereby posing hurdles for the blood to circulate and stressing the body to do its normal functions. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:
* Excessive thirst
* Dry mouth
* Little or no urination
* Muscle weakness
How much Water
This isn’t an easy question to answer. A healthy adult’s daily fluid intake can vary widely. Most people drink fluids to quench thirst, to supply perceived water needs and “out of habit.” At least three approaches estimate total fluid (water) needs for healthy, sedentary adults living in a temperate climate.
Replacement approach: The average urine output for adults is 1.5 liters a day. You lose close to an additional liter of water a day through breathing, sweating and bowel movements. Food usually accounts for 20 percent of your fluid intake, so if you consume 2 liters of water or other beverages (not the caffeinated diuretics) a day (a little more than 8 cups), along with your normal diet, you can replace the lost fluids.
Eight x Eight: Another approach to water intake is the “8 x 8 rule” – drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (about 1.9 liters). Though this approach isn’t supported by scientific evidence, many people use this basic rule as a guideline for how much water and other fluids to drink.
Dietary recommendations: As a general rule, a physically active person should drink about half to one ounce of water per pound of body weight per day.
Water Demands Within Us
You may need to modify total fluid intake from these recommended amounts depending on several factors, including how active you are, the climate, your health status, and if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.
Exercise: If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you’ll need to drink extra water to compensate for that fluid loss. Drink 2 cups of water two hours before a long endurance event, for example, a marathon or half-marathon. One to 2 cups of water is also adequate for shorter bouts of exercise. During the activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals, and continue drinking water or other fluids after you’re finished. During intense exercise involving significant sweating, for example, during a marathon, sodium is lost in sweat, and you may need a sports drink with sodium rather than just water.
Environment: You need to drink additional water in hot or humid weather to help lower your body temperature and to replace what you lose through sweating. You may also need extra water in cold weather if you sweat while wearing insulated clothing. Heated, indoor air can cause your skin to lose moisture, increasing your daily fluid requirements. Higher altitudes may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which uses up more of your fluid reserves.
Illnesses or health conditions: Some signs and symptoms of illnesses, such as fever, vomiting, and diarrhea cause your body to lose extra fluids. To replace lost fluids, drink more water or oral re-hydration solutions. Increased water intake is nearly always advised in people with urinary tract stones. On the other hand, you may need to limit the amount of water you drink if you have certain conditions that impair excretion of water – such as heart failure and some types of kidney, liver, adrenal, and thyroid diseases.
Pregnant or breast-feeding: Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need additional water to stay hydrated and to replenish the fluids lost, especially when nursing.
Alternative sources of water
You don’t need to sip from your water bottle all day to satisfy your fluid needs. A balanced diet can provide a large portion of what you need. In an average adult’s diet, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. The remaining 80 percent comes from beverages of all kinds. All fruits and vegetables, besides being good sources of vitamins, minerals and fiber, contain lots of water. For example, oranges are 87 percent water, and cucumbers are 95 percent water. Milk, juice and other beverages also have large amounts of water. Conversely, dried fruits, nuts, grain products and baked goods generally contain less or no water.
When we restrict energy intake through crash diets in order to lose weight quickly, the body is forced to use up stores of carbohydrates and breakdown protein in the muscles. As both carbohydrates and protein hold water in the cells, a loss of these macro-nutrients also results in a net loss of water. As a result rapid weight loss can often be made up of 75% water loss. After the energy systems stabilize, water is regained because some of the protein and carbohydrate stores initially lost are replenished. The water is drawn back into the cells, thus resulting in the body gaining back lost weight, mostly in a higher percentage than what you wanted to lose. Its possible to retain up to five pounds of water weight which can easily be hidden within the natural fluid that surrounds cells (extra-cellular fluid). Heavier people may experience more water retention especially if their intake of processed, convenient food is high. For some it can be as much as eight to ten pounds of fluid retention if weight gain is quick during festive seasons.
There are a few causes of water retention but for many an increase in sodium due to diet (mainly salt intake) is a common cause and research suggests it may contribute to high blood pressure and other health complications. Sodium is present in virtually all food products, so when a person consumes more food it’s inevitable they also consume more sodium. Weight gain is very often a combination of fat stores and water retention. You can find out more about sodium and its impact through salt from our blog post “Salt can be: a Killer“.
Drinks with alcohol and caffeinated beverages – such as coffee, tea or soda – can contribute to weight gain issues, making water a clear winner when considering weight loss.
The human body has its innate drought management system especially during high cholesterol levels in the body. Cholesterol is developed in the cell membranes to safeguard them against losing their vital water content to the osmotically more powerful blood circulating in their vicinity. Cholesterol, apart from being used to manufacture nerve cell membranes and hormones, is also used as a “shield” against water taxation of other vital cells that would normally exchange water through their cell membranes. If we are not getting enough water intake daily—and also have too much cholesterol—we are at risk for not being able to rid our body of excess cholesterol.
Diabetes, especially type 2, is largely caused through lifestyle factors similar to obesity. With diabetes, excess blood sugar, or glucose in your body draws water from your tissues, making you feel dehydrated. That is because there isn’t enough or too little insulin being made by the body itself. Or the insulin cannot do its work properly. The insulin hormone is necessary for the transport of glucose from the blood to the body tissues. If the glucose isn’t accepted by the body, it will release the glucose through urine. For this procedure there’s water being used from the body and there is a risk of dehydration. So it is very important for diabetics to keep hydrated.
This water consumption should be spread out throughout the day. It’s not healthy at all to drink too much water at one time. Try to pick three or four times a day when you can have a big glass of water, and then sip in between. Don’t let yourself get thirsty. If you feel thirsty, you’re already becoming dehydrated. Drink when you’re not thirsty yet. It’s probably a good idea to stop drinking water a good three hours before you go to bed (you know why).
There is a debate on “How cold should it be?”. Most experts lean toward cold water, because the stomach absorbs it more quickly. There is also some evidence that cold water might enhance fat burning.
On the other hand, warmer water is easier to drink in large quantities, and you might drink more of it without even realizing it. Do whatever suits you, here. Just drink it!