The Whys and Wise of Water

By Stefanie Pusateri

I have an embarrassing confession:  I have to force myself to drink water.  Were it up to me, the only liquid that would pass through my lips would be coffee.  I’ve always been told how important it is to get enough water in your system, but haven’t had an explanation sufficient to convince me to take a break from my java.  A couple of years ago, Anna loaned me the book “The Body’s Many Cries for Water” by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. which helped me to understand the whys behind the wisdom of staying hydrated.

The simplest way to explain the impact water has on the body is to think of our circulation system as our internal highway.  Proper hydration is necessary in order for our blood to be thin enough to move nutrients and hormones through our system.  Our bodies are made of about 60% water and we use a lot of that in all of our daily functions.  The water contained in the blood delivers energy and oxygen, removes wastes and is the conduit for proper function of the brain, nerves, organs, skin, all the way down to the cellular level. When we don’t have enough water in our bodies, our blood gets thick and muddy and it slows our entire system down. Mayo Clinic created a great visual for the impact of water on the body system which you can access here.

Water kicks off many of the biochemical functions in our body.  Our cells and tissues are constantly performing metabolic math by exchanging ions in order to regulate our systems functions.  Without proper water our bodies wouldn’t be able to maintain the proper mix of electrolytes (sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium) that are key for creating the energy our body needs.  To continue with the highway analogy, water is the highway that allows the cars, or chemical messages to reach their intended destination.

There are many and varied opinions on how much water a person should drink every day.  There are even reports that claim it doesn’t matter what type of beverage you drink as long as it’s fluid.  The best bet is to use the most accurate gauge you have at your disposal: your body.  Our body tells us when we need to start ramping up on the fluids by sending thirst signals to our brain.  When you feel thirsty, drink some water.  It can also be helpful to pay attention to your activities and responses, like getting more fluids in when you’re exercising or doing something that increases your sweat gland production.  I’ve even been known to tell my son to drink some water when his allergies or asthma is kicking up and it has helped decrease his symptoms.  When our water levels start getting low, we produce a hormone that tells our kidneys to reduce the amount of water in our urine.  One way you can get an idea of your hydration levels is to pay attention to the color of your urine; the darker yellow your urine is the less water you have in your system.  An important note: if you take a B vitamin that tends to make your urine a bright yellow color.

I’m pleased to report that I have found a system that has helped me to get more ounces of water in a day.  Every morning I start my day with a glass of water.  The rule is that I have to finish that before I can have a cup of coffee.  For the rest of the day I have a one-to-one ratio of coffee and water: if I have coffee I can’t refill my cup until I get a glass of water in first.  This skeptic has noticed that my energy levels, mood, brain function and digestion and even my dry skin improve when I get my ounces.  I’m also tickled that I’ve shared my new found appreciation of water with my kids.  Whenever they complain of an ailment or physical malady the first question out of my mouth is “How much water have you had to drink today?”.  Hopefully this article will help you to have a new appreciation for hydration, too.

The content of this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice. If you’re ill, please consult a physician.

Batmanghelidj, F., Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, 1992, Global Health Solutions, Inc., 2008

“The Blood-Brain Barrier.” Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology, Jan. 2015; 7(1): a020412

Mayo Foundation for Education and Research. Functions of Water in the Body. Accessed Feb. 9, 2019

“The Wonders of Water” WebMD. Jan. 14, 2010.

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