The Importance of Water

Water is second only to air in importance for life. We can survive many days or even weeks without food, but was can only survive a few days without water. Unfortunately, the body's need for water and its importance for health are often overlooked.

Sixty to 75 percent of total body weight is water. Most people know that blood, lymph, urine, sweat and tears are mostly water. However, many do not realize that the lungs are 90 percent and even bones are 25 percent water.

Sixty-seven percent of the water in the body is inside the cell. The other 33 percent lies outside the cells in the extracellular fluid. The extracellular fluid includes the fluid surrounding the cells and the fluid in other compartments, such as the blood, lymph, spinal fluid and joint spaces.

Water has many functions in the body. It delivers nutrients to tissues and carries away unwanted wastes. It is the medium in which all chemical reactions take place within cells, and therefore greatly influences cell function. Water also serves a cushion and lubricant for our spine and other joints.

Most individuals lose between 10 and 16 cups of water per day. This loss is in sweat, urine, feces, in the air we exhale, and via direction evaporation from our skin. During exercise in a warm climate, as much as 8 cups of water can be lost in one hour.

The loss of body water through urination is greatly increased by the ingestion of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. These drinks have a diuretic effect, meaning they stimulate the kidneys to excrete more urine. Not only do we lose water, we also lose water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and other B complex vitamins. There also is increased excretion of calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride and zinc.

A diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables will supply about 4 cups of water per day. Even with a diet high in fruits and vegetables, it is still necessary to drink an additional 6 to 8 cups of water per day to supply enough water to meet the body's daily needs. For every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage you drink, you need to add an additional glass of pure water.

Insufficient water intake results in... reduced cell function. According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, MD, author of Your Body's Many Cries For Water, dry mouth is the last sign of inadequate cellular water. When the thirst signals produced by the body are ignored or are responded to with intake of beverages other than water (i.e., soda, coffee, tea or concentrated fruit juice), eventually the body stops providing the sensation of thirst The sensation of thirst also diminishes as we age. Therefore, it is very important for the elderly to acquire a "habit" of drinking adequate water to avoid cellular dehydration and subsequent health problems.

Resources: Excerpt from article by Ben Benjamin PhD in Massage Therapy Journal Winter 2003 issue

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