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July 2000 Issue
We Really Need to Drink More Water!
by Michael Fick
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These people who carry bottles of water everywhere amuse me. Can’t they sit through a movie or buy some groceries without drinking water – especially warm water? Many of us go half a day between drinks of water, and many Europeans almost never drink the stuff. Who’s right, the trendy people who carry our most ubiquitous commodity everywhere they go, or the ones who drink the stuff only when they’re actually … TaDa … thirsty?

Well, if carrying water to a mall full of water fountains gets us drinking an absolute minimum of eight 8-oz glasses a day, the hydraulically encumbered are right. Two excellent reasons to schlep it around are 1) knowing for a measured fact that we actually drink four pints of water each day, and 2) forming a habit of doing so. Probably the simplest, cheapest, and most effective way to improve our health is drinking at least those two quarts of non-caffeinated fluids every day, more if it’s warm or if we do more than sit all day.

We’re 60% -- 60 to 120 pounds or so of -- water. Our brain function is measurably diminished by being low by just one percent … a cup to a pint, half a pound to a pound. Yet we don’t feel thirst until we’re a quart low … two pounds … two to four times the level of dehydration that measurably impairs brain functions.

Maybe you don’t take an IQ test every day, but are these other established effects of drinking insufficient water acceptable to you? Joint pain. Headaches. Poor body temperature regulation, including potentially fatal heatstroke. Poor nutrition. Constipation. Calf cramps. Indigestion. Immune system problems. Colon cancer. Concentration of toxins in your body. High cholesterol. Chronic fatigue.

This isn’t a list of remotely possible side effects like we see with every medication we buy (but experienced only by some hypochondriac in Keokuck). Most of these are often caused by inadequate fluid intake via known processes; the others are strongly suspected to be caused by, and strongly statistically associated with, inadequate fluid intake.

For example, chronic mild dehydration is strongly suspected as a cause of chronic fatigue in some 10 million U.S. citizens alone. It produces mitral valve prolapse syndrome in 2% to 10% of us, in which the valve that separates the intake and output chambers of the heart fails to seat properly. It’s thought to be associated with low blood volume due to inadequate water intake. Water … WATER … often cures it.

There’s growing evidence that mild dehydration raises blood cholesterol and deposits more of it in blood vessel walls, from where it often breaks loose and clogs arteries. One of cholesterol’s primary functions is sealing blood vessel walls against leakage. It increases significantly when dehydrated adjacent cells try to suck water from blood already thickened by chronic mild dehydration. This correlation isn’t just statistical; the cellular mechanism of this process is well defined.

Statistically, drinking more than -- versus fewer than -- four glasses a day is right up there with eating five servings of fruit and vegetables in reducing the incidence of colon cancer. One university study showed a whopping 80% lower incidence of urinary tract cancer among proper water drinkers. And both correlations are supported by cause and effect theories still being examined.

Drinking more water often helps overweight people lose weight. Many people mistake thirst for hunger, and many studies have shown that overweight people shed pounds gradually when they drink more water. The body hoards water if we drink too little just as it hoards fat if we eat too little food.

Water is vital to the circulation, metabolism, and excretion of every molecule of nutrition and waste and to the regulation of every function our bodies perform. It’s no accident that 99% of the molecules in our body are water; neither our maker nor Ford builds useless parts (unless you count the appendix or the Pinto). Our bodies can run without drinking water about as long as a Ford Expedition can run without drinking gasoline. (Hint: that ain’t far!)

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