Thirsting For Wellness
By Pamela Smith
The sign by the sink said it all: Remember, water is our most valuable resource.
The city of San Francisco was using the sign to entreat hotel guests such as myself to use water wisely and sparingly. I was stricken with the irony that, as a nutritionist, I encourage people to use water wisely and abundantly. Let me explain.
Water makes up 92 percent of our blood plasma, 80 percent of our muscle mass, 60 percent of our red blood cells and 50 percent of everything else in our bodies. Thus, it is an important ingredient to good health.
Most Americans, however, have grown up drinking just about anything but water. We list our favorite beverages as soda, coffee, tea, juice-with water only being good for swallowing pills, washing away dirt and brushing our teeth. Although we often hear that we should drink water, it’ s easier to reach for something else. But when we do this, we miss out on the benefits of the purest drink around.
Water is an essential nutrient. A person can survive (although not well!) for days, even months without food, but only three to five days without water. It is critical for maintaining proper fluid balance. Along with proper protein and salt intake, water works to release excess stores of fluid, much like priming a pump. It is the natural diuretic; no other beverage works like water.
Water is the only liquid we consume that doesn’t require the body to work to metabolize or excrete it. Even juices do not provide the solid benefits of pure water because they require our bodies to process the substances they contain. With soft drinks, our bodies have to work overtime to process the chemicals and colorings.
Many other beverages, particularly caffeine-containing ones, actually remove more water from our bodies. Further, caffeinated drinks contain tannic acid, a product that interferes with iron and calcium absorption and competes for excretion with other bodily wasted products such as uric acid.
When not properly excreted, uric acid can build up in the body and crystallize around the joints. This buildup can lead to joint painin the elbows, shoulders, knees and feet, especially former injury spots. Men are particularly prone to uric acid excesses. This is one reason why a glass of soda, tea or coffee-although fluid-based-just doesn’t do the job.
In addition, water is the vehicle the body uses to activate the fiber you eat, helping it to pass through the gastrointestinal tract easily and quickly.
Water is also valuable for maintaining proper muscle tone, allowing muscles to contract naturally, which prevents dehydration. Proper hydration is a crucial part of a winning strategy for professionalathletes. When dehydrated, the muscles are more injury-prone and will not work to optimum performance. When not receiving proper water, the muscles will only work up to 35 percent of their capability.
One last merit (for the age-conscious): Water helps keep the skin healthy and resilient-it can honestly be labeled an “anti-aging” ingredient.
The question I am often asked is, How much water do I need? My answer is always the same: eight to ten glasses each day. My response usually brings out cries of anguish. But as you begin to meet this need by drinking more water, you may find drinking water habit-forming: The more you drink, the more you want!
Start increasing your intake any way you can: Add fresh lemon or lime, drink sparkling water, buy bottled water or drink it through a straw. Try filling a two-quart container with water each morning, and then make sure it’s all gone before you go to bed. I also encourage drinking an 8-ounce glass of water right after every meal and snack throughout the day. If you are eating as often as you should-every three hours or so-this will provide a large proportion of the fluid you need.
If you drink tap water, the taste may improve after refrigerating it for 24-hours (the chlorine added to disinfect community drinking water will dissipate). This can be an inexpensive way to get the refreshing taste of bottled water without the cost.
Be sure not to let the “bottled vs. tap vs. treated water” controversy get in the way of your health. Public water systems today are well-monitored for safety, and bottled water companies are just now beginning to fall under similar standards. Your choice of which water to drink comes down to taste, cost and availability-but don’t miss out on it.
As that sign in the hotel room said: Water is our most valuable resource at least for the physical body! Not to stretch the point, but I believe Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman also apply to our overall wellness today: “The water I shall give [you] will become in [you] a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13). Drink the best from the Best, and reap positive results!
(The above information was published by CHARISMA, May 1993)
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