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Water, Water, Everywhere, nor Any Drop to Drink

I ask every patient who comes into my practice the same question; "How much water do you drink in a day as water?" And do you know virtually everyone gives me exactly the same answer; "Not as much as I should".

This reply fascinates me for several reasons which are implicit in the answer.

  1. How much do they think they need to drink?
  2. Why should they drink that much?
  3. Why don't they then?

When I push them further hardly anyone knows the answers to these points so I thought I would tell you.

How much water do we need to drink in a day?

The body is approximately 75% water and virtually all the body's processes take place in an aqueous environment. Water is used either as a solvent, a catalyst or a component of those processes and the body uses thousands upon thousands of gallons of water a day. It is nearly perfect at recycling the water so only a small amount is lost from the body each day due to respiration. It is this small amount which needs replacing each day.

How much is it?

Well it varies with body size and build and activity. As a guide for normal metabolic needs take your weight in pounds, divide by two and the answer is the number of fluid ounces of water a day you need to replace the loss. However, this will increase dramatically if you sweat a lot by working in a foundry or bakery for example, using a sauna or exercising. So someone who weighs 12 stone 12 pounds would need four and a half pints of water a day if they were just hanging around.

Why should people drink that much?

Well if you don't you become dehydrated and dehydration has been shown to have many detrimental effects to the body. According to Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj there are forty-six reasons, some of the more severe symptoms include:

  • Gastric distress
  • Joint pain
  • Stress and depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Excess weight
  • Asthma and allergies
  • Poor blood sugar handling
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Muscle stiffness and lack of flexibility
  • Fatigue

From our perspective of decreasing the drain on our resources dehydration makes all the biochemical reactions in the body require more energy as the surface tension of cellular fluids is greater. Think of the difference between swimming through water and swimming through treacle.


Why don't they drink enough?

The short answer is that they are too busy drinking other things.

Let's ask another question. Where can you get your water from? From the foods we eat and the liquids we drink.

Water can be obtained from high water-content containing foods. These are raw fruits and vegetables. If the food has been processed or cooked the water isn't readily available.

What about the liquids we drink? Well most liquids we drink contain water but they also contain other chemicals which act as a diuretic, and make us lose water. Anything with tea in, or coffee, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners, carbon dioxide or alcohol, all make us lose water. So you could get your four and a half pints of water from coffee, say, but you'd have to drink maybe twenty mugs of coffee a day as the diuretic effect of the coffee will make you lose a lot of the water (and if you drank twenty mugs of coffee a day you'd really know about it!).

The other thing to consider in terms of conserving our resources is that water is absorbed by the body; a passive process, whereas if there is anything in the water the body treats it as a food and has to digest it; an active process which requires body resources.

I think it would be fair to say that most of the so-called "drinks" in our society are really chemically-laden liquid foods and shouldn't be classified as drinks even though they do contain water. This brings us back to Coleridge and our opening quote. It's not the sea this time but other equally dehydrating liquids that's the danger.

So this week wet your whistle with Adam's ale and see if rehydrating yourself makes a difference.



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