(This is the eleventh in a series of health articles that are designed to help you gain a deeper appreciation for God’s amazing handiwork of the human body, and a better understanding of how it works and how it can be better maintained by simple methods. George McDaniel is my father-in-law, and has been a registered nurse for many years, which, along with much research, has taught him many useful health principles. I pray that you are being blessed by these articles. Editor)
This month I will try to show how chronic dehydration is the main cause of conditions which have been mistakenly considered diseases.
Much of the information contained in this article comes from a book entitled, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, MD. “Dr. Batman” (as he is affectionately called by his patients) began to study the healing effect of water in Iran after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power. As a political prisoner, He was put in charge of the medical care of other prisoners. Frequently no medications were available, so the only agent he could use was water. After his release, he escaped from Iran and came to the USA where he continued his study of water. This book records his experiences of treating thousands of patients with different conditions and obtaining remarkable results just by having them increase their water intake.
When the body is chronically dehydrated a rationing system is put into effect to distribute the available water to the parts of the body that are most vital. The primary regulator of water distribution is histamine. Histamine has several functions in the body. One of these is as a neurotransmitter; that is, a substance produced by the brain to enable messages to be sent along the nerves and to pass from one nerve to another and to the muscles. Histamine is one of many substances used for this purpose.
Histamine also functions as part of the immune system. If you ever had a cold or an allergy and suffered with red, itching eyes and stuffy, runny nose, you are familiar with this effect of histamine. You may have taken an antihistamine to help relieve these symptoms. Histamine also regulates the formation of acid in the stomach. These are just some of the varied functions of histamine. It is no wonder then that when the body becomes dehydrated and histamine production increases to deal with water regulation that those other aspects of the body that are also regulated by histamine can also be affected.
Here are some examples of conditions that can be caused by lack of sufficient water intake:
Asthma and allergies - There are many histamine receptors in the bronchial tubes of the lungs. Since one of the sites for water loss from the body is the lungs, bronchial constriction produced by histamine reduces evaporation of water during breathing. This is a simple action taken by the body to preserve some water when the body is dehydrated. People with asthma are also very sensitive to certain allergens. Usually it is exposure to these allergens that triggers an attack. However, if they are adequately hydrated, the response will not be so exaggerated. An acute asthmatic attack can be explained as caused by an exaggerated response resulting from an increase in histamine in the body due to dehydration. The cause of allergies is similar. Histamine has responsibilities in antibacterial, antiviral and defense against foreign materials. In dehydration, when histamine production becomes exaggerated for water regulation, an immune system activation of histamine-containing cells will release exaggerated amounts of histamine. It is this excess amount that produces the symptoms of allergies.
Asthma and allergies should be treated with a determined increase in water. These conditions should respond within three days to four weeks. With an increase in daily water intake, histamine production will decrease. To treat these with bronchodilators and antihistamines without increasing water intake is futile and dangerous.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) - This is frequently referred to as “essential hypertension,” because the cause is considered to be unknown. It is treated initially with a decrease in dietary sodium and the use of diuretics to get rid of water from the system. Stress and anxiety can cause high blood pressure. Just being in the doctor’s office can cause a temporary elevation of blood pressure. Another cause of temporary high blood pressure readings is due to the technique used for measuring the pressure. Some practitioners inflate the cuff well above the systolic pressure, then let the air out until the sound is heard. Every major artery has a nerve associated with it that monitors the flow of blood through it. When the cuff is inflated to a high level, blood pressure will be raised to try to force blood through the obstruction. Thus, a temporary elevation in pressure, caused by circumstances, can cause a person to be put on medications who doesn’t need them.
Dehydration is a major cause of essential hypertension due to the adaptive mechanisms at work in the circulatory system. The blood vessels have been designed to cope with fluctuations in blood volume and tissue requirements by opening and closing different vessels. When the total fluid volume in the body is decreased, the main vessels also have to become narrower, otherwise there would not be enough fluid to fill all the space. Gases would separate from the blood to fill the space and “vapor locks” would occur, stopping the flow of blood.
Shunting of blood flow is a normal routine. When we eat, more circulation is directed into the intestinal tract and less is directed to other areas. It is diverted from places like the brain and muscles. This explains the sleepy feeling we get after eating a heavy meal. The body accomplishes this by shutting down capillary beds in the affected areas in order to direct more blood to where it is needed more urgently.
As the body becomes chronically more dehydrated, these mechanisms are used to direct blood to where it is more urgently needed. The process begins by closing some capillaries in less active areas. If the drought continues, water is taken from inside some cells and from water held outside the cells. As the total circulating volume decreases, the blood vessels become narrower. With some capillary beds closed, and the vessels themselves narrowed, there is increased resistance to blood flow, and only an increased force behind the circulating blood will ensure the passage of some fluids through the system. Simply stated, blood pressure rises to get the blood through to where it is needed.
In order to maintain adequate water outside the cells so that there will be water available to get into the cells, the body retains sodium. Keeping sodium in the body is a last resort way of retaining some water around the cells. The sodium is not the cause of the hypertension, but is a part of the water-regulating mechanism in the face of dehydration. When hypertension is treated with diuretics, this eliminates some of the sodium and takes with it some water, but this doesn’t cure the problem. It only makes the body more determined for salt and water absorption, which is never enough to correct the problem. After awhile, diuretics are not enough to keep the blood pressure down and other medications will be given. These are usually beta blockers and calcium channel blockers which decrease the force with which the heart beats. How long can one go on like this? Long enough to ultimately become very sick and die.
The best treatment for essential hypertension should be to treat it at the very beginning with an increase in water, not to take medications to get rid of the water. Water is itself a good diuretic. If prolonged dehydration has caused complications of heart failure, water intake should be increased gradually to make sure that fluid collection in the body is not excessive. It takes the body time to adapt to new conditions, but eventually the excess salt will be flushed out, blood vessels will expand and capillary beds will open up. Blood pressure can then return to normal.
Another important component for controlling hypertension is exercise. The more muscles are exercised, the more their capillaries will open and hold a greater volume of blood within the circulation reserves. The capillary bed must remain open and offer no resistance to blood flow. In this way regular exercise contributes to normal blood pressure.
A third aspect relating to control of blood pressure involves an adequate diet, especially in respect to two minerals, potassium and magnesium. A diet that contains adequate amounts of these two minerals will help in maintaining normal blood pressure.
Dyspeptic pain (gastritis, duodenitis, heartburn, colitis) - The lining of the stomach, called the mucosal layer, contains glands that secrete acid, digestive enzymes and mucous. The mucous is secreted to protect the stomach lining from the action of the acid and digestive enzymes. The mucous consists of 98% water and 2% “scaffolding” substances that trap the water. In this mucous layer a natural buffer state is established. The cells below it also secrete sodium bicarbonate that is trapped in the mucous layer. As the acid in the stomach tries to go through this layer, it is neutralized by the bicarbonate. The result of this reaction is the production of sodium chloride from the hydrochloric acid and the sodium bicarbonate. Too much salt alters the water-holding properties of the scaffolding material of the mucous, making it less sticky and less homogeneous. This allows the acid to get through to the mucosal layer, causing pain and, eventually, an ulcer.
Experiments have shown that when a person drinks a glass of water it immediately passes into the intestine and is absorbed. However, within one-half hour, almost the same amount of water is secreted into the stomach through the mucosa. The act of digestion of solid food requires copious amounts of water. The acid is poured onto the food, enzymes are activated and the food is broken down into a fluid state that can pass into the intestine for the next phase of digestion.
One result of the resecretion of water through the mucosal layer is washing excess salt out of the mucous layer. The mucous layer is thus rehydrated and made thick and sticky again. The efficiency of this shield depends upon a regular intake of water, particularly before eating a meal of solid food, which would stimulate the production of acid. The only natural protection from acid in the stomach is water, from the base upward.
A good program to follow to obtain the necessary amount of water for digestion and for the body needs is to take one to two 8 oz. glasses (250-500 ml) of water one-half to one hour before meals and again at least two hours after meals to allow time for digestion. Additional water can be taken to provide what is needed by the body (8-10 glasses or 2000-2500 ml). Water should not be taken with meals because it dilutes the digestive juices and slows down the process of digestion. If adequate water is consumed between meals, the need for drinking liquids with the meal will not be felt.
The secretion of acid in the stomach is regulated by histamine. The receptors in these cells are called histamine type 2 receptors, usually abbreviated as H2 receptors. The standard treatment for dyspeptic pain is the administration of antacids and medications such as Tagamet or Axid that block the action of histamine on these receptors. They are known as H2 receptor antagonists. These can cause many unwanted side effects. In the first place, acid in the stomach is needed for digestion of protein. It should not be neutralized or blocked. Also, most antacids contain aluminum, which has been implicated as a factor in Alzheimer’s disease, which causes a degeneration of the brain. It usually occurs in the elderly, but is not limited to them. H2 receptor antagonists block not only acid in the stomach, but affect other histamine receptors throughout the body. These medications can help relieve the pain, but do nothing to relieve the condition. If the condition progresses to the development of ulcers, surgical removal of part of the stomach may result, leaving the person permanently handicapped for the rest of his life. The pain of gastritis, duodenitis, heartburn and colitis should be recognized for what it is, a symptom of dehydration, and treated with an increase in water intake. This will prevent the development of complications. If ulcers develop, increased water plus an adequate diet will result in healing. Some other causes of pain in the stomach and abdomen include the following:
1) Alcohol – Alcohol is a poison and can kill cells which it contacts. It also causes dehydration. Alcohol can cause the development of gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). These conditions can be very painful.
2) Heavy use of irritating spices.
3) Wrong combinations of food at a meal – Some people are able to eat anything with no problems, while others have to be very careful in what they eat.
4) Cancer of the stomach can cause pain.
Any stomach pain not relieved by water, that continues for more than just a few hours, should be checked out by a medical specialist.
I have covered these four conditions, asthma, allergies, hypertension and dyspepsia in some detail so you can see how the actual cause is, in many cases, a lack of adequate water in the body. There is not space enough to cover all ailments in such detail, but I will mention a couple others briefly.
Chronic pains in the body - Chronic pains in the body that can’t be easily explained as due to injury or infection should first be interpreted as signals of water shortage. They should be treated with water first before taking other medications. The reason is this: histamine and certain other associated water distribution regulators, such as prostaglandins and kinins, can cause pain when they come in contact with pain-sensing nerves. These pains include the ones already discussed as well as rheumatoid arthritis; back pain; headaches, including migraine headaches and headaches due to indulgence in alcohol; leg pain on walking, called intermittent claudication pain; and anginal pain. It is all too easy to regard these signs of dehydration as complications of a disease process and begin to treat them with complicated procedures and medications. The first thing that should be tried in all these situations is an increase in daily water intake.
Elevated blood cholesterol - It may seem strange to associate this symptom with dehydration, but this is how it works: Cholesterol is used by the cells as a defense against the osmotic pressure of the blood that draws water out through the cell membrane. The cell needs a certain amount of water to maintain its normal functions. Cholesterol deposited in the cell membrane makes it less permeable to the passage of water. There are receptors in cell walls which are activated by a hormone called vasopressin which can filter water into the cell. Vasopressin also narrows blood vessels, raising blood pressure, and producing increased pressure to push water into the cells. So we see that elevated cholesterol levels are a result of the body trying to maintain normal cellular functions in the presence of dehydration.
From this brief study we can see that many symptoms that are regarded as diseases are actually symptoms of dehydration, which should be treated by an increase in daily water intake. If the symptoms are treated with medications, the real cause goes untreated and permanent, irreversible damage can occur. We all want good health. Why don’t we try the simple remedies God has freely provided for us. One of these is pure water, wisely used.