(This is the tenth 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)
Water composes about 75% of the human body. The brain is 85% water. Even the bones, when alive, contain about 50% water. This means that in a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg.), about 112 pounds (51 kg.) of their weight is water, with the remaining 38 pounds (17 kg.) being composed of solids.
The blood stream in an average-sized person contains about five quarts (5 lt.) of blood. The heart circulates these five quarts throughout the body every minute. This amounts to 7,200 quarts of blood each day, with 2,000 quarts going to the kidneys. Most of it goes to nourish the kidney and adrenal structures. About 200 quarts of water from the blood go into the filtering units called glomeruli. Of this amount, only one-and-one-half quarts is excreted as urine. The rest is reabsorbed into the blood. This is one way in which the body cleanses itself from waste products and toxins. The kidney is programmed to reabsorb only essential substances and to let the unwanted substances go out. It also has to excrete certain essential minerals such as potassium and sodium along with the water.
Other daily losses of water (approximate) are: 16 ounces (480 ml.) through the skin as sweat; 8 ounces (240 ml.) through the lungs and 8 ounces through the stool. Fluctuations in this amount occur with illness, activity and temperature/humidity of the environment. If one has a fever or the temperature and humidity are high, the body loses more water. The water that is lost from the body needs to be replaced on a daily basis. To total the amounts given in the examples above, 48 ounces + 16 ounces + 8 ounces + 8 ounces = 80 ounces (2,400 ml.) lost per day.
The food we eat contains about 32 ounces of water. Another eight ounces is produced in the metabolic process of digestion and utilization of the food. This is about half of what has been lost. In order to maintain water balance, we need to drink 40 ounces, or five eight-ounce glasses a day. However, it is better to drink more than that; even twice that amount. The kidneys will eliminate any excess unless we have heart or kidney failure, in which case we should be under the care of a competent physician.
Every function of the body depends upon an adequate supply of water. Water is found inside the cells and also in the space surrounding the cells. The proper proportion of water in these two areas is critical to health. This distribution of water is properly maintained by healthy cell membranes which allow exchange of fluid and certain minerals through osmotic pressure. Every tissue, organ and system of the body operates in a liquid medium. We couldn’t swallow, blink our eyes, speak, or even think or move, without adequate water. As long as we drink adequate water, every part of our body is enabled to function optimally. If our water intake is less than adequate, the body has a system that regulates the dispersal of the available water to the more vital areas.
Water not only acts as a solvent and means of transport of nutrients, hormones and other chemical substances produced by the body, water itself regulates all the functions of the body. Every function of the body is pegged to the efficient flow of water.
A disturbance in water metabolism produces a variety of signals indicating a system disturbance in the particular functions associated with the water supply and its rationed regulation. A sensation of thirst, or a dry mouth, is not a good indicator of the need of water by the body. A dry mouth is one of the last outward signs of dehydration. In order to facilitate the chewing and swallowing of food, saliva is produced even if the rest of the body is comparatively dehydrated. The older one gets, the less likely he is to recognize even the more extreme signs of thirst. Some elderly people can have a very dry mouth and yet deny they are thirsty, and may even refuse to drink water.
Thirst can manifest itself in many different feelings, such as feeling tired, irritable and depressed as well as in cravings for manufactured drinks such as coffee, tea, sodas and alcohol. When the dehydration continues for some time it can manifest itself in conditions which have been thought to be chronic diseases of unknown origin, such as asthma, allergies, gastritis, heartburn, arthritis, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue and elevated blood cholesterol, to name a few. The physiological state of each individual’s body determines the initial symptoms and complications of dehydration. In next month’s article I will explain how a lack of water can cause some of these conditions. If you suffer any of these symptoms, it is easy to learn if the cause is dehydration; just increase your water intake for a few weeks. Drink eight to ten glasses a day, which is two to two-and-one-half quarts. You probably will have to force yourself to drink this amount of water at first. Just keep reminding yourself of the benefits.
One indicator of adequate water intake is the color of your urine. It should be colorless or very pale yellow. (Some medications color the urine. If you take a multivitamin supplement containing riboflavin, your urine will have a bright yellow color.) Don’t drink the manufactured beverages, such as coffee, tea, or soft drinks. The caffeine and other chemicals in these drinks act as a diuretic. They force the kidneys to release more water, so they are no help for hydrating the body; they actually contribute to the dehydration problem. The best thing to drink is pure water. Fresh vegetable and fruit juices are also good.
Water has many uses outside the body as well as inside. Frequent bathing is important to health. The body eliminates toxins through the sweat glands. Heavy metals such as mercury can be eliminated in this way. We become aware of sweating when the temperature is hot or we are physically very active, but sweating occurs continuously. These toxins can be reabsorbed by the body if they are allowed to remain on the skin. This is also why we should change our undergarments daily and our other clothing frequently and wash them with water. Much water should be used in maintaining a clean home. When our surroundings are clean and fresh, many germs are eliminated and a calming effect on the nerves is felt.
The application of cold and hot water to the skin is beneficial for many conditions. Cold applications can be used to stop bleeding, relieve pain after an injury, numb an area, relieve congestion, prevent swelling after a sprain or bruise, reduce inflammation, relieve joint pain and reduce congestion in the head. Heat can be used to relieve pain, stimulate perspiration, improve circulation in a local area, relieve muscle spasms, help rheumatic pains and reduce congestion in the chest or sinuses.
We are probably all familiar with taking a hot bath to relieve stress and promote relaxation, or a cold shower to stimulate and invigorate. These are just a few of the many external uses of water. I will plan to devote a future article to water treatments.
Another use for water occurs in cold climates where houses have to be heated for comfort. Regardless of what kind of heat is used, it dries the air. Dry air dries out the nose and throat and makes it more likely one will succumb to a virus infection. Heated air is also deficient in negative ions. It has become devitalized. This can contribute to depression and illness. Moisture needs to be added to such air. One can put a pot of water on the heating stove or use a humidifier. The vitality of the air can also be increased by allowing outdoor air into the house. A window can be left open an inch or so to let in outdoor air, which contains negative ions. If connecting doors are left open, this can improve the quality of the air in several rooms. The heat bill may be a little higher, but the effect on health and temperament will be worth it.
Next month we will discuss the relation of water consumption to symptoms of dis-ease.