Water, Water Everywhere But Be Careful What You Drink!

Mom was right: drinking 8-12 glasses of water a day is a great idea. What she might not have told you, however, is that while the amount of water intake is important, the quality of the water also plays a factor in the health we experience.


Clean Water

Even in mom or grandma’s day drinking water was never absolutely pure. The lake our ancestors used as water source inevitably contained leaves, animal waste and other natural material. Today, however, a glass of water containing only decaying vegetation looks pretty good. Governmental agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency regulate and set maximum levels for six contaminant categories—microbiological (primarily bacterial, viral and protozoan), inorganic (largely trace minerals), organic (fumigants, manufacturing by-products), pesticides, herbicides and radionuclides (elements, both natural and man made, that emit radiation)—that in turn encompass approximately 90 specific contaminants.

Though most public water treatment facilities in North America follow guidelines based on EPA levels, research indicates many contaminants, including cancer-producing by-products of the treatment process itself, are present in treated water. The EPA designates maximum levels and describes health effects for each contaminant. Potential problems include lung, stomach and nervous system disorders, malignant tumors, irritation to respiratory and circulation systems and most frequently—cancer.

Governmental standards consider small doses of many contaminants to be safe, but there is much disagreement. Some environmental experts consider allowable limits for suspected toxic or cancer-causing pollutants too high. There is also concern about the little explored realm of contaminants’ synergistic effect or possibly “greater when combined” action on our bodies. For many, tap water is no longer the drink of the day.

Where’s the Water?

Quite simply, water is the body’s most important nutrient. Dr. Batmanghelidj, in his book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, states that water is the medium in which life in our body is expressed. At conception a baby is surrounded by water and for its 9 months of pre-birth growth, it is carried in a water-filled amniotic sac.

And after birth, though we see very little of it, our body fluids really are everywhere. Between 57-70% of our body weight is made up of water. The different ratios come about because of age—a larger percentage of infants’ and children’s weight is water—and gender. About 65% of men’s body weight is water, while women, who generally have a higher proportion of fatty tissue which doesn’t as readily hold water, would have a lower percentage of water. That water starts by filling and bathing each of our body’s 100 trillion cells. Then it makes up the fluid that travels the 100,000 K of veins and arteries in our body. Ninety-eight percent of intestinal, gastric, saliva and pancreatic juices are water as are 92% of our blood and our tears. Water goes virtually everywhere and surrounds virtually every bit of tissue in our system.

Why Water is So Important

Transportation: Water holds nutritive factors in solution and acts as a transportation medium for those factors. Another transport function, and one of water’s most important jobs, is holding body wastes and toxins in solution and carrying them to where they can be removed from the body. Those two functions are part of the reason why drinking enough water is essential to reaching and maintaining an appropriate weight.

Lubrication: Water also acts as a lubricant for our joints and soft tissues. Water provides the liquid necessary for the proper digestion of food, helps maintain normal body temperature by allowing heat to escape as water evaporates from our skin and provides the medium for red blood cells to transport oxygen to the tissues.

Immune System Functioning: Pure water is also one of the best natural protections against a variety of infectious diseases including influenza, pneumonia, whooping cough and measles. The performance of your tissues and their resistance to injury is absolutely dependent on the quality and quantity of water you drink. When the cells are supplied with sufficient pure water, they can fight off viral attack. If body cells are water-starved, they become parched, dry and shriveled, making them easy prey for viruses.

Energy Production: Most importantly–although with water, importance is rather a relative term—water provides an environment in which enzymes can digest food and convert it to energy. Without that energy, we couldn’t survive. You can go several months with no food but 5-10 days without water will prove fatal. Water is also needed in a very specific balance. As we take in our daily water (1 quart/1 liter per 50 pounds/23 kilograms of body weight) some of it must eventually be discharged. An overabundance of water is as bad for our health as inadequate supply. In days of yore, forcing water on a prisoner was a form of torture and its progressive effects on the body included nausea, weakness, mental confusion, tremors, convulsions, coma and eventually death.

Our bodies give ample indication of water deprivation including dry, parched and withered skin, chronic constipation and burning, irritating urination. Should signs of dehydration appear, increased water intake is definitely in order. . . so raise a glass and enjoy!

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