An Unsung Biological Hero
If I were to offer you an all-natural supplement that helps to prevent undesirable clotting, improves your antibody function and mental processing, increases endurance, reduces skin wrinkling, and perks up every cell in your body, how much would you be willing to pay for it? “Well,” you might say, “before I spend money—what is it?” The answer may surprise you—it’s water!
Water is the most abundant molecule on earth and in the body. Without this excellent solvent and suspending medium, the blood could not transport nutrients to the cells, remove byproducts of cellular waste, or even transport your hormones. That would mess up your day, wouldn’t it?
On a cellular level, good hydration helps oxygen penetrate the cell membrane. Without oxygen, your energy production would be ineffective for all the complicated life processes occurring in your body. Water helps all the enzymes in your body to work effectively, including enzymes that assist in boosting energy production. Scientific studies show that sufficient water intake also increases athletic endurance. Because water can combine with viscous molecules, it helps to lubricate your joints and your digestive tract, absorbs heat, and helps to regulate body temperature.1 Dehydration causes the cells to shrink as they give up some of their water to the fluid that surrounds them. This shrinkage of cells is one mechanism that signals the brain that we need to drink water. Did you know that following water deprivation older persons are less thirsty and drink less fluid compared to younger persons? Because of their low fluid reserves, elderly individuals should learn to drink water regularly even when not thirsty.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Adequate water drinking helps to thin your blood and thus protects you from developing undesirable clots in your veins, coronary arteries, and blood vessels in the brain. Researchers at Loma Linda University studied 20,297 individuals and found that after adjusting for traditional risk factors, men who drank five or more glasses of water a day reduced their risk of fatal heart attacks by 54% when compared to those who drank two or fewer glasses of water per day. Women who drank at least five glasses of water daily decreased their risk of fatal heart attacks by 41%. These results remained unchanged after adjusting for age, smoking, hypertension, body mass index, education, and (in women) hormone replacement therapy.2 Why is this? Dehydration increases the thickness and stickiness of blood and the pro-clotting protein fibrinogen. Both of these are major independent risk factors promoting ischemic heart disease, a condition in which there is insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle. Interestingly, the same study showed that consumption of beverages other than water increased the risk for fatal coronary artery disease.
Keeps your Mental Edge
Scientific studies show that even in young adults, mild dehydration, from short periods of fluid restriction, decreases alertness and ability to concentrate and impairs performance.3 Research suggests that 2% dehydration reduces the performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor skills, and immediate memory recall.4 Eye-to hand coordination also declines. Mild to moderate levels of dehydration can also impair performance on tasks such as, perceptual discrimination, arithmetic ability, and hand-to-eye coordination.5 Armstrong and associates found that even 1.36 % dehydration deteriorated mood, increased the perception of task difficulty, and in female athletes, lowered their concentration during moderate exercise. They concluded that even optimal hydration is important during and after moderate exercise.6 Benton notes that four intervention studies have found improved performance in children ages 7 to 9 who, eating and drinking as normal, were tested on occasions when they had and had not consumed a drink. After a drink both memory and attention improved.7
Protects from Chronic Disease
Dehydration has been shown to be a reliable predictor of increasing frailty, deteriorating mental performance, and poor quality of life.8 German researchers have found that it contributes to and exacerbates many chronic diseases. For example, dehydration increases the risk of developing urinary tract infections, kidney stones, constipation, asthma during exercise, hypertension, deep vein thrombosis, stroke, chronic lung disorders, and diabetic ketoacidosis. Dehydration is also associated with an increased risk for falling, dental disease, and impaired cognitive functioning and is an independent predictor of mortality in the elderly.9
Scientists at Stanford University note that dehydration with its ensuing insufficient water in the blood can trigger activation of the sympathetic nerves.10 Abnormal sympathetic hyperactivity plays an essential role in hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, sleep deprivation, fibromyalgia, inflammation, and cancer.
Aids the Immune System
Good hydration also increases IgA, a class of antibodies that guards the respiratory mucosa and the intestines and improves lymph flow. Under conditions such as fatigue, stress, infection, lack of physical activity, and dehydration, lymph vessels can become clogged with protein deposits, significantly reducing lymph flow through lymph nodes which help filter lymph by removing bacteria and toxins.
Water can also boost the immune system with hydrotherapy which is the use of water in any of its three forms—liquid, steam, or ice. A hot and cold shower improves the mobility of white blood cells. Shower one and a half minutes with water as hot as tolerable and then spray with cold for 20 seconds. Repeat the process 2 or 3 times.
Dehydration occurs when water loss exceeds water intake. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, high blood sugar, exposure to prolonged exposure of heat, breathing dry air, and extreme exercise all promote dehydration. Airplane air dehydrates the body more quickly than outside air. Individuals with impaired mobility, who live alone, or who have busy schedules may easily become dehydrated. The very young and elderly can quickly die from dehydration. Caffeine and alcohol also promote water loss by increasing urinary output.
To keep hydrated, follow these guidelines:
- Drink before getting thirsty.
- Drink a glass or two of water every morning upon rising.
- Drink twice as much as it takes to quench your thirst.
- Buy a water bottle to carry with you.
- Flavor water with a lemon slice.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- As an adult, drink eight glasses of water or non-caffeinated teas to keep hydrated (unless a physician has placed you on fluid restriction).
- Drink more water in proportion to increased physical activity. Sweating increases water requirements.
© 2018 – 2019, Wildwood Sanitarium. All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is educational and general in nature. Neither Wildwood Lifestyle Center, its entities, nor author intend this article as a substitute for medical diagnosis, counsel, or treatment by a qualified health professional.
- Grandjean, A. and Campell, S., Hydration: Fluids for Life. ILSI, North America
- Chand, J., Water, other fluids and fatal coronary heart disease: the Adventist Health Study. Am J Epidemiol, 155(9):827-33, 2002
- Wilson, M., et al., Cognitive function and mental performance in mild dehydration, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003, 57, Suppl 2, S24-29
- Adam, A., Cognitive Performance and Dehydration, www.researchgate.net/…/230600141_Cognitive_performance…
- Popkins, B.M., et al., Water, Hydration and Health, Nutr Rev. Aug 2010; 68(8): 439–458
- Armstrong, Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women, J. Nutri, 2012, Feb; 142(2):382-8
- Benton, D., Dehydration Influences Mood and Cognition: A Plausible Hypothesis? Nutrients. May 2011; 3(5): 555–573
- Ibid. , Wilson
- Manz, F. and Wentz, The importance of good hydration for the prevention of chronic disease. Research Institute of Child Nutrition
- Yung, A.J., et al, Clinical benefits of hydration and volume expansion in a wide range of illnesses may be attributable to reduction of sympatho-vago ratio, Med Hypotheses