Water is likely the most important nutrient there is. It is a primary component in all bodily fluids: blood, lymph, digestive juices, urine, tears and sweat. It’s involved in almost every bodily function: digestion, absorption, detoxification and elimination of wastes, lymphatic system, and immune system (just to name a few). Water carries electrolytes; mineral salts that help convey electrical current in the body and are therefore also vital to the nervous system. Our muscular and skeletal systems also rely on the adequate supply of these electrolyte minerals. We all think of dry skin or lethargy as the ill effects of dehydration. But it goes far beyond that. If you’re dehydrated, essentially all fluids in your body are “less-than”, and the functioning of all bodily systems that depend on water, are therefore jeopardized. When our physiological systems are not working well, we are not well, and disease ensues.
Benefits of drinking more water:
- Be less cranky. Research says dehydration can affect your mood and make you grumpy and confused. This is due to the reduced circulation of electrolytes that support nervous system function and brain neurotransmission. Think clearer and be happier by drinking more water.
- Increase energy & relieve fatigue. Since your brain is mostly water, keeping it hydrated helps you think, focus and concentrate better and be more alert. As an added bonus, your energy levels are also boosted!
- Perform better. Proper hydration contributes to increased athletic performance. Water composes 75% of our muscle tissue.
- Lose weight & burn fat. Sometimes we think we are hungry, when actually we are thirsty. Our body just starts turning on all the alarms when we ignore it. For those of you trying to drop some pounds, staying hydrated can serve as an appetite suppressant and help with weight loss. As for the physiology of it, here’s how it works. Your kidneys depend on water to do their job of filtering out waste products from the body. If you’re slightly dehydrated, the liver steps in to help the kidneys in this process; thereby reducing its role in mobilizing stored fat for energy. The result: fat loss is compromised.
- Have less joint pain. Drinking water can reduce pain in your joints by keeping the cartilage soft and hydrated. This is actually how glucosamine helps reduce joint pain, by aiding in cartilage’s absorption of water. When dehydrated, the body rations water away from the joints. Less lubrication equals greater friction and that can cause joint, knee and back pain potentially leading to injuries and arthritis. Even our eyeballs need plenty of lubrication to work well and remain healthy.
- Flush out waste and bacteria. Our digestive system needs water to function properly. Body fluids transport toxic waste out of cells, and the less efficiently this is working, the greater the risk of a whole gamut of health concerns. Waste is flushed out in the form of urine and sweat. If we don't drink water, we don't flush out waste and it collects in our body causing a myriad of problems.
- Maintain regularity. Water aids in digestion as it is essential to digest your food and prevent constipation. The intestinal system depends on adequate water to help eliminate feces. If this is impaired, toxin by-products and bacteria then filter to the liver and overburden it.
- Improve skin complexion. Our skin is the largest organ in our body. Regular and plentiful water consumption can improve the color and texture of your skin by supporting its building of new cells properly. The skin is also the secondary elimination organ (after the liver and kidneys) so when the liver becomes unable to expel toxicity in the body, it will make its way to the skin. Drinking water also helps the skin do its job of regulating the body's temperature through sweating.
- Prevent headaches. Sometimes headaches can be caused by dehydration, so drinking water can prevent or alleviate that nasty head pain. Next time your head hurts, try drinking water. Migraines (and back pains too) are commonly caused by dehydration.
- Feed your body. Water is the carrier for the nutrients in the body. Water serves as the body’s transportation system and when we are dehydrated things just can’t get around as well.
- Prevent cancer. Yes, that’s right. Research says staying hydrated can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 45%, bladder cancer by 50%, and possibly reduce breast cancer risk as well.
- Water helps energize and build muscles. Drinking plenty of water enables your muscles to work harder and longer before they feel tired. Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. When you’re even mildly dehydrated, the body will pull fluid from muscle cells into the bloodstream where it’s more vitally needed, thus leaving muscles more vulnerable to fatigue, stiffness and injury.
- Boost immune system. You’re less likely to get sick if you drink plenty of water because you’ll have a healthier lymphatic system keeping an army of immune fighters circulating through your body.
PRACTICAL TIPS to help you drink more water:
- carry a stainless steel or glass water bottle everywhere with you as a reminder to keep drinking. Never leave home without your water bottle
- set a timer on your smart phone for every hour to remind you to drink
- force yourself to drink as often as possible, and before long your body will be loving it so much that it will begin to tell you to drink constantly. You will soon naturally become thirsty and reach for your water bottle every half hour or so
- eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables – they are dense in water. You can get water from food too
- drink water until you urinate frequently and it is light in color
- avoid any “water” that contains artificial colorings, sweeteners, or acesulfame potassium; all of which can kill good bacteria in your gut, stimulate appetite, or contribute to neuromuscular damage
- add a dash of lemon juice, fresh mint leaves, herbal teas, cucumber slices or other fresh herbs to naturally flavor your water if taste is an issue for you. These herbs also offer further health benefits; such as being anti-inflammatory. Be sure to rotate these water-enhancers regularly to reduce the possibility of developing food sensitivities from repetitive overexposure to same food item (speak to your nutritionist for more information on food sensitivities)
- whenever possible, drink filtered water free of possible contaminants in municipal or well water: microorganisms (bacteria, virus), disinfectants (chlorine), inorganic chemicals, heavy metals, organic chemicals: pesticides or plastics
- daily intake should be about 3 litres. Factors that affect everyone’s individual requirements for water are body size (male/female), activity level, temperature, elevation, illness, or other special considerations such as pregnancy or recovery from surgery. Your holistic nutritionist can help determine your needs
Want more information or a consultant to discuss your unique nutritional needs, contact our holistic nutrition expert and Pro Natural Figure Athlete Yvette Styner.
YVETTE STYNER, CHN
Certified Holistic Nutrition