Start Drinking Water

article image
Photo by Fotolia/Luchshen
Water can increase energy and endurance, prevent kidney stones, aid digestion and elimination, regulate the body's temperature, and bring about a feeling of well-being.

Drinking Water

It’s the world’s most healthful and inexpensive
beverage. It can increase energy and endurance, prevent
kidney stones, aid digestion and elimination, regulate the
body’s temperature, and bring about a feeling of
well-being. Yet very few of us consume as much of it as we
should.

A number of years ago, the Swiss put together the finest
mountain-climbing team available to them . . . in the hope
that it would be the first to scale Mount Everest. Many
months went into the group’s preparation, since every pound
of equipment and supplies carried had to be weighed against
the awful demands that would be made upon human energy in
the effort to reach the top of the world. Unfortunately,
despite all that careful planning, the Swiss team had to
abandon the attempt because of sheer exhaustion . . . not
realizing that a source of relief was covering the ground
all around them.

A year or so later, when a group of British climbers
undertook the same challenge, their team physician (Sir
John Hunt) remembered that the Swiss had consumed only two
cups of water per day during their assault on the mountain
. . . so Dr. Hunt recommended that the U.K. team carry
additional snow-melting equipment, since he believed that
the climbers would function better if they drank more
water. You see, when working in that thin, chill air,
people lose a lot of water through respiration (as well as
through perspiration), because the air entering the lungs
has to be humidified as it’s brought nearer to body
temperature. Therefore, the doctor insisted that each
British participant drink a minimum of 12 cups of water
daily. That team, headed by Sir Edmund Hillary, followed
his advice . . . and it was the first such expedition to
plant its flag the summit of the world’s highest
peak.

Little-Known Scientific Facts

In order to further examine Dr. Hunt’s theory about how
water consumption affected endurance, a Harvard
physiologist G.C. Pitts, tested a group of trained male
athletes by putting them on treadmill timed at 3 1/2 miles
per hour.

The subjects in the first group were given no water at all,
and were asked to walk until they were so fatigued that
they could go no farther. These athletes lasted about 3 1/2
hours. Their temperatures rose rapidly during the test
period, and — in the exhaustion phase — finally reached an
average of above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

The members of the second group were allowed to drink as
much as they desired, and their temperatures didn’t rise
nearly as rapidly. However, after approximately six hours
of exercise on the treadmill — as the men reached
exhaustion — their body heat zoomed up.

Finally, Dr. Pitts chose a third group and carefully
calibrated their water losses, replacing that exact amount
of water lost (about one cup every 15 minutes) while the
men were exercising. As a result, though they stayed on the
treadmill seven hours, the test subjects did not
experience a drastic rise in temperature, nor did they
reach exhaustion. In fact, when asked how they felt, they
replied that they could go on as long as the doctor wanted
them to!

“But I Don’t Feel Thirsty!”

Several conclusions can be reached from these experiments.
The first is that thirst isn’t necessarily a good indicator
of the body’s need for water. You must, in general, drink
more liquid than your thirst seems to call for. Second,
there’s a close relationship between water consumption and
fatigue. Third, water appears to have a significant effect
upon the regulation of body temperature. And fourth, a more
active person is in greater need of water because of the
dehydrating effects of perspiration and rapid
breathing.

Obviously, then, water is both necessary and beneficial . .
. yet most Americans put it near the bottom of their
favorite-beverage list. Such an attitude usually develops
in childhood, when many babies receive no encouragement to
drink water throughout the day. Since parents want to keep
toddlers dry at night, these children are often deprived of
the liquid they need, and sometimes even develop negative
feelings about drinking water. Consequently, many adults
have to relearn this health-promoting habit.

You may wonder how to tell when you’re not getting enough
water. Well, there are a number of clinical signs to watch
for. In America, for example, many adults and children are
afflicted with constipation. (It’s estimated that the laxative business takes in some
$200 million each year.) This bowel dysfunction is often
one of the first signs that your water intake is
inadequate. Because the rest of the body has a
higher priority for water, the intestinal tract can be
shortchanged, and the result is hard stools. Unfortunately,
few people heed this warning. Instead, folks
typically head for the drugstore to buy medication that
forces the rest of the physical system to return water from
its own limited supply to the intestinal tract. Of course,
such a “cure” is only temporary and, in reality, actually
compounds the problem.

Yet another easily recognized signal is dark yellow urine.
Our kidneys, you see, are equipped with millions of
filtering units to remove impurities and return the
purified fluid to the bloodstream. Since filtration is the
organ’s first priority, it will continue its job even if
this means producing a very highly concentrated urine. And,
over a long period of time, this can lead to the
development of kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and
other bladder problems.

“Dry mouth”, caused by decreased saliva gland function, can
also result from low water intake. On the other hand, a
person who drinks enough water seems not to need much
during meals, since his or her saliva glands are operating
properly.

When you realize that 60 to 70 percent of your total body
weight is made up of water, it’s not too difficult to
understand that nearly every function of the body happens
in a more or less liquid medium. In fact, without the
amazing recycling operation of the kidneys, you’d have to
drink approximately 2,500 gallons (or 40,000 cupfuls) of
water a day!

So you have a choice to make: You can get water by
recycling it, so to speak — by over refining a limited supply
through the bodily filters — or you can consume more fresh
water. If you take the first route, you risk actually
increasing the impurities in your body by not giving it an
adequate amount of diluting liquid. In fact, when a person
becomes dehydrated, he or she loses moisture from all of
the body’s cells. This in turn allows the by-products of
cell metabolism to build up . . . and can slow the
operation of, or poison, the cells.

How Much is Enough?

In view of these facts, you’ll probably want to know
exactly how much water you should drink. It’s been claimed
that, in a cool climate at sea level, most people lose
about 1 1/2 quarts of water per day (but this is a
conservative estimate, and not all of us happen to live
under such circumstances). Generally speaking, though, the
average person loses at least two cups of water daily
through the respiratory process. Another two cups are
emitted through perspiration, even when no significant
amount of physical work is carried on, and the intestines
and kidneys together lose a total of about six cups during
the day.

Next, consider where the body gets its fluids . . . or,
better still, where it should get them. Because
most food contains a large amount of water, you obtain
approximately 3 1/2 cups from what is eaten over the course
of a day. Interestingly, the body’s metabolism itself is
another source, since — as it makes and uses energy — one of
its daily byproducts is about half a cup of water. So if
you add up your losses (two cups for the lungs, two for
sweating, and six for the intestines and kidneys), you come
up with a total loss of ten cups . . . not counting any
excess lost through perspiration during exercise.
Therefore, taking into account the approximately four cups
provided by food and metabolism, the average person needs
to drink six to eight cups of water daily just to keep
functioning well. This requirement changes, of course,
according to the environment and the type and quantity of
food you eat. A person spending a hot day mowing the lawn
would obviously require more liquid than someone relaxing
in the shade, and a marathon runner may drink as much as a
cup of water for every 15 minutes of running.

The body, you see, cannot economize on water. Because
temperature control has a very high priority in the body’s
operation, the human system will dehydrate itself in the
struggle to keep cool. It’s been reported that such fluid
losses can actually reach two quarts a day in very hot
climates, and people have been known to lose as much as 15
quarts in 24 hours. In fact, perspiration continues to
provide cooling even when a person is dying of thirst in
the desert!

Now most of us will never experience such drastic fluid
loss, but the more rapidly you lose water, the more quickly
you need to replace it if you’re to continue to function
well. Otherwise, your fatigue level will increase.

Water intake is also related to the amount of food you eat.
Though, as has been noted, you do get a certain amount of
liquid from food, your body also needs water to process
this nourishment and to eliminate by-products. Research has
shown that an adult needs approximately one cubic
centimeter of water for each calorie consumed . . . so if
you consume 2,000 calories a day, you should drink 2,000 cc
(roughly 8 1/2 cups) of water.

If you don’t know how many calories you’re averaging daily,
you can estimate your need for liquid by dividing your
ideal weight by two, which will indicate the number of
ounces of water you should be drinking. To find out how
many cups you need, divide this quotient by eight. For
example, a fit person weighing 150 pounds would come up
with a calculation of 75 ounces, or 9 to 9 1/2 cups. If,
however, you weigh 160 pounds and should be 30
pounds lighter, you’d compute your water needs using that
“should be” figure.

Now that you know how much water you ought to consume, the
next question is when you should drink it. It’s
usually best to replace liquid as your body eliminates it.
In other words, there’s no point in getting up in the
morning and downing your eight cups all at once. You
kidneys would soon eliminate this excess, and it wouldn’t
be available when you needed it later in the day. However,
after a night’s sleep, your body is somewhat dehydrated, so
you should start replacing water by drinking about two cups
of it at least 15 minutes be fore you have breakfast. Once
you’ve had your morning meal, wait a couple of hour to make
sure your food has left your stomach, and then have
another two cups. Drink two or three more throughout the
after noon, and have one or two after supper. This adds up
to a total of nine cups of water during the course of your
day.

Two things are likely to happen if you follow this regime.
First, your thirst will be quenched, of course. Second,
you’ll not only replace the fluids your body needs, but
you’ll do so with a liquid that may be more healthful than
that which you normally imbibe.

Bad Habits

Let’s take a look at some of America’s most popular
beverages. The first that comes to mind is coffee, which
eight out o ten adults consume at an average of 3 1/2 cups
a day. Now that may not sound like a lot, but it accounts
for about 76 percent of the nearly 34 million pounds of
caffeine Americans consume annually . . . and that drug has
an interesting effect on the body. Obviously, it acts as a
stimulant. It causes the adrenal glands above the kidneys
to pour out two very powerful chemicals: epinephrine and
norepinephrine. Those, in turn, cause a rise in blood
pressure, constricting blood vessels and giving one a
feeling of increased mental acuity and physical ability.
However, this stimulation is short-lived, so people who
drink the brew habitually need a coffee break in the
mid-morning and in mid-afternoon to keep them
going through out the day.

To avoid this, some people turn to decaffeinated coffee.
While it’s true that this beverage has had most of the
caffeine removed, that process doesn’t have any effect on
the caffeols that account for coffee’s flavor and aroma.
And, unfortunately, these fragrant oils irritate the
stomach lining, causing it to produce excess amounts of
hydrochloric acid . . . which can play a prominent role in
the development of stomach ulcers.

Yet another popular beverage is the carbonated soft drink,
which usually is composed of water, sugar, and artificial
colorings and flavorings. It has little or no nutritional
value and may even have stimulants (including caffeine) in
it. Yet Americans consume millions of gallons of
these liquids every week.

A third fluid many of us drink (to our detriment) is
alcohol. Most research indicates that if liquor is drunk in
moderation, it isn’t harmful. However, consider a recent
study done at the University of Florida’s College of
Medicine: Researchers gave one group of men, ranging in age
from their 20’s to their mid-60’s, plain orange juice before
bedtime, while another group drank a shot of vodka. When
the research staff followed the reactions of these men
throughout their sleeping hours, it was found that those
who drank alcohol had a significant increase in disturbed
breathing during the night (some even stopped breathing for
as long as ten seconds!). The study also
determined that these normal, healthy, asymptomatic men
experienced a decrease in the oxygen-carrying ability of
their blood.

Even fruit juices aren’t always the best way to go, though,
because when the fibers and pulp that play a very vital
role in the manner in which fruit is digested are removed,
the concentration of natural fruit sugars increases, and
they’re absorbed much more rapidly by the body. This can be
a problem for anyone with a prediabetic or diabetic
condition, so it’s generally best to eat the whole fruit
rather than drink its juice.

The Ultimate Thirst Quencher

If you increase your water intake, you’ll probably decrease
your consumption of the other beverages that so often crowd
out this life-giving liquid. While you’re trying to attain
the goal of proper water consumption, you may find it
helpful to make up a flow chart and tabulate the number of
cups you drink upon arising, throughout the morning, during
the afternoon, and in the evening. (Mealtimes are not the
time when you should take in excessive amounts of water,
however.) The following very general rules may help you
achieve a healthful regime. First, don’t drink any water
within 15 minutes before eating. Second, give your stomach
up to an hour and a half after meals to digest most of your
food undiluted by water. (Milk is really the only beverage
that serves as an exception to this rule, since it becomes
a semisolid in the stomach.)

“But water just doesn’t appeal to me at all,” you may
complain. Well, remember that appetites can be changed.
Although it’s been said that it takes 39 days of continual
practice to develop a new habit, the process may get easier
as that period goes on . . . and eventually you’ll reach a
point where you crave water. In fact, people who
have become accustomed to having their bodies well hydrated
often find that they become thirsty much more often than
before . . . because, just as their bodies once adjusted to
being given little water, they also soon adapt to an
increased supply. As you do your day’s work, put a cup of
water in front of you. When it’s emptied, fill it up again.
You’ll be astonished at how much you toss off without any
difficulty.

Make it a habit to stop and refresh yourself every time you
pass a drinking fountain, too. Or try putting a pitcher
containing your estimated daily requirement of water in the
refrigerator, and periodically have a glass until it’s used
up.

Initially, you may find yourself visiting the rest room
more frequently than you have in the past. There’s nothing
wrong with this. Don’t worry that you’ll wear out your
kidneys: With an adequate supply of water, they’ll actually
have a much easier time functioning normally. Finally, try
to be patient with yourself. It does take time for the body
to adapt. It also takes time to learn a new habit. This
one,however, is good for you!

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368