7 Medicinal Benefits of Water
By Natasha Balbasc, M.D.
Compared to the more colorful, flavored and bubblier alternatives, plain ol’ water can seem unappealing.
But in the world of health and wellness, water is king. No other beverage can compete with the versatility and health benefits of pure water. The body can go for weeks, even months, without food; but deprive it of water for more than a few days, and you’re in for some serious trouble. There are five vital organs that the body hydrate first: the brain, heart, kidney, liver, and lungs. When we experience even mild dehydration, the rest of our organs get the short end of the stick, so to speak. The skin, in particular, is one of the first places that show signs of dehydration, along with our joints and digestive tract. When we stop to consider that we are mostly made of water (about 70 percent), it makes sense that not getting enough of it can lead to problems in any system of the body.
BELOW ARE SEVEN MEDICINAL WONDERS THAT WATER PROVIDES, SOME OF WHICH MAY SURPRISE YOU HEALING BENEFIT
Did you know that most headaches occur as a result of dehydration? Even being mildly dehydrated can trigger a headache, as water loss affects the flow of blood to the head and neck region. Rather than reaching or the nearest analgesic, try drinking a few glasses of water, and then give it about 15 minutes. If you’re in the habit of popping painkillers like they’re after-dinner mints, you might want to consider weaning off from this habit. Most over-the-counter painkillers – particularly, the NSAIDS (which stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) -aren’t supposed to be taken for prolonged-periods of time, since they can be pretty rough on your digestive tract and kidneys.
In fact, studies show that not only does chronic NSAID use increase the risk for a heart attack, but that higher quantities of NSAID use correlates with higher incidence of dementia. So, unless your head feels like it’s about to explode (and trust us, we understand the agony), you may want to try a little H2O therapy first
2. LUBRICATION AND PROTECTION OF JOINTS
Arthritis and other joint-related pains can be exacerbated by in adequate water intake. To ensure proper movement, joints need plenty of cartilage, tissue that provides the smooth surface over which the bones can glide over each other. As it turns out, healthy cartilage is about eighty percent of water. Since joints are one of the first areas of the body to be deprived of water during times of water loss, just a little bit of dehydration causes the quality of cartilage to decrease, causing more friction and tearing of joint structures.
Moreover, joint movement and water create a pumping effect: sucking the water and nutrients in, and excreting cellular waste out. Keep in mind that the vertebrae along your spine are also separated by little disc-shaped joints, so if you’re one of millions experiencing back pain, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your joints as plump and juicy a possible.
3. RESTORATION OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL POWER
Water helps maintain balance of your bodily fluids. The amount of water in a cell also dictates that cell’s electrolyte balance. When fluids and electrolytes are unbalanced, the cell can either shrivel or burst. When muscle cell shrivel, due to in adequate water intake, they can get fatigued, leading to reduced physical performance. This is why it’s important to load up on water before engaging in- and during- any sport or physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend drinking about 17 ounces of water as early as two hours before a workout. Similarly, water supports proper brain function. Research has shown a link between dehydration levels and cognitive levels, specifically short-term and long-term memory. Dr. Batmanghelidj, a medical doctor and author of the book, Water for Health, for Healing, for Life states that water is needed for efficient production of brain chemicals, including serotonin and melatonin (for hormones). He also says that water improves our attention span, and can prevent attention deficit disorder (ADD).
4. BUILT-IN DETOXIFICATION
Your kidneys, like the liver, are designed to effectively and efficiently detoxify the body.
However, both organs rely on adequate water supplies to flush out these toxins. Your kidneys, for example, respond to hormone signals from the brain, which tells it to get rid of, or hold on to, water. When you’re toxic and the water supply is low, your kidneys will retain water. Meanwhile, the detox processes, as in the case of joints and the skin, are less likely to get priority in getting water, which can lead to toxins remaining in the body until there is enough water to flush them out. Water loss also increases the risk of kidney stones, particularly in warm climates. A few studies have suggested that drinking a healthy amount of water may reduce the risks of bladder and colon cancer because the water dilutes the concentration of cancer-causing agents in the urine, shortening the time in which the toxins are in contact with bladder lining.
TIP: A good way to tell if you’re getting enough water is to check your urine, If it’s yellow and has an odor, you need more water. Ideally, it should be clear like water, and without any odors.
5. RELIEF AND PREVENTION OF DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS
Your digestive tract requires proper balance of fluids and digestive enzymes in order to assimilate nutrients into the body. The latter part of the digestive tract, the colon, plays an important role in maintaining that water balance. When you’re lacking in water, the colon sucks water from the stool, and this results in constipation. In addition, if there is adequate water in the system in combination with a healthy intake of dietary fiber, the water is said to “plump up” the fibers and act as a broom to tidy up the large intestine. It’s important to note, however, that drinking water during a meal is not recommended. Apart from taking a few sips, drinking water while you eat is said to disrupt the pH of the stomach, which needs to be very low in order to properly digest the food. Instead, drink water about 30 minutes before the meal, and then wait another 30 min after you eat to then chug large amounts of water.
6. REDUCTION OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE RARELY, CHRONIC HYPERTENSION IS ACTUALLY JUST CHRONIC DEHYDRATION.
When your water intake is below what’s needed, the overall volume of the blood is reduced. In response, the heart must beat harder in order to ensure proper delivery of oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to all tissues in the body. The harder the heart has to work, the higher the blood pressure becomes. If the blood isn’t being replenished by more water, the blood pressure will remain elevated. If you think this case applies to you, be sure to consult your doctor before changing dosages or getting off any medication.
7. AID IN WEIGHT LOSS
Though far from being a magical elixir, water can help you lose a considerable amount of weight, if you know how to use it to your advantage. Researcher Barbara Rolls, phD, author of The volumetrics Weight Control plan, states, “What works with weight loss is if you choose water or a non-caloric beverage over a caloric beverage, and/or eat a diet higher in water-rich foods that are healthier, more filling, and help you trim calorie intake.” In other words, it’s just a matter of fooling your belly and brain into thinking it’s eaten more food than it actually has, yet it retains the nutritional value of an otherwise bigger meal. If you want to incorporate more water to your diet without giving up your favorite beverage, make it a point to drink one full glass of water before every glass of your choice drink, so that essentially, you’re drinking as much water as you are of the other stuff. ZH