Friday, January 4, 2019

Improve Your Health With Water

by Dr. Denis Marier, ND, MA

Are you feeling tired and listless? Do your joints hurt? Maybe hunger has you snacking more? Maybe you've been feelings this way so long, that it just feels "normal," and you've tried supplements and medications, but nothing seems to be helping much.

Perhaps the only supplement or medication you need is water. 

Human beings need three things to sustain life on Earth - oxygen, sunshine, and water. The body can live without food for weeks, or longer, but only minutes without oxygen, and only a few days without water. In fact, 60 to 70% of our body is composed of water. The brain and heart are 73% water, and the lungs are about 83%. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are about 79%, and even the bones contain about 31% water.

Water serves a number of essential functions in the body

  • It is a vital nutrient to the life of every cell
  • It regulates internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
  • Carbohydrates and proteins are metabolized and transported by water in the bloodstream
  • It assists in flushing waste mainly through urination and sweating
  • Acts as a shock absorber for the brain, spinal cord, and fetus
  • It the primary component in saliva, lymph fluid and blood
  • Lubricates joints

Be Careful of Dehydrating Food and Drink

  • Be careful of caffeinated beverages and foods that are dehydrating, especially those high in sodium such as movie theatre popcorn (1500mg without any toppings!), and soy sauce (try the low sodium variety). 
  • Alcohol is dehydrating. It can be helpful to drink an extra glass of water for each alcohol-containing beverage.
  • Interestingly, there is one vegetable that is dehydrating - white asparagus. The aspartic acid in white asparagus stimulates the kidneys which encourages dehydration. 
  • There are some common herbal teas that have diuretic properties as well and are encouraged for urinary tract infections and kidney stones, but it's important to drink an extra glass of water for every cup of tea. When the body is in diuretic mode, the water has to come from somewhere and will start leaching from your tissues, including your brain and joints. 
  • Feeling hungry? Try drinking a glass of water instead to ease those hunger pains, as sometimes thirst manifests as hunger. 

Humidity is Important

Finding the correct humidity balance in your home is also important. High humidity can encourage the growth of mold, bacteria, and dust mites. Signs of low humidity include dry, cracked skin, bloody noses, chapped lips, and dry sinuses to name a few. Also, low humidity can aggravate pre-existing conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. 

How much is enough?

The answer to this question is generally 1 1/2 to 2 litres per day to prevent dehydration. But if you're compensating for an active lifestyle, a lifestyle high in caffeine or other dehydrating foods / drink or if you are trying to improve brain function, reduce fatigue, reduce joint pain, and lose weight, then you may need closer to 2 to 3 litres a day, depending on your health status. And while there is such a thing as drinking too much water (water intoxication), it is an extreme situation and drinking an extra 2-4 glasses of water per day generally won't be a problem. 

As a Wilderness Therapy Guide, I have participated in many vision questing programs, several in Death Valley, CA. I am always a little worried during these programs, having a history of herniated discs and kidney stones. So I drink A LOT of water during those programs. And I am always surprised to realize that after a few days of drinking extra water, my back doesn't hurt, my mind is clearer, and I have a lot more energy than I usually have because of my increased intake of water. And I silently remind myself, again and again, to drink more water in my everyday life back home. Even naturopaths need to remind themselves to drink more water!

Dr. Denis Marier, ND, MA is a naturopathic doctor and ecopsychologist at Naturopathic Foundations Health Clinic. To book an appointment with Dr. Marier please call the clinic at (905) 940-2727.