Water, The Body’s “ Magic Elixir”

by Jeanne Rhodes

So you don’t drink much water and you wonder if that’s a problem? Well, just for starters, inadequate water intake can cause excess body fat, poor muscle tone, digestive problems, toxins, joint and muscle soreness, fluid retention and that’s only the beginning!
Water is the most abundant substance in your body. The human embryo is 80 percent water; the newborn, 74 percent water, and the adult, 60 to 70 percent water. Next to air, water is the most necessary substance needed by the body, yet many of us live in a dehydrated state.
Water is essential for all body functions from toxin removal to nourishment. Without water, poisons from waste products and toxins will result in death. From proper kidney function, digestion and metabolism, regulation of body temperature, lubrication of joints, breathing, fat metabolism and more, water is critical.
Water is possibly the single most important catalyst in losing weight and keeping it off. Studies have shown that a decrease in water intake will cause fat deposits to increase, while an increase in water intake actually can reduce fat deposits. Here’s how it works:
The kidneys remove wastes (uric acid, urea and lactic acid). If these wastes are not dissolved in water, they are removed ineffectively and may damage the kidneys. To avoid this, when water intake is inadequate, some of the kidney’s filtering load is picked up by the liver. The liver assists in various ways in metabolizing stored body fat, but if it has to carry part of the kidney’s workload, then it cannot work at full capacity to metabolize fat, so less fat is metabolized which means more remains in the body and weight loss stops.
As strange as it sounds, drinking enough water often can be the best treatment for fluid retention. When the body gets less water than it needs, it perceives this as a threat to survival and holds on to the water it does have to ensure essential physiological functions. When you give your body plenty of water for these essential functions, it will release the stored water and fluid retention dissipates.
If water retention is a frequent problem, too much salt in the diet may be the problem. A high salt intake elevates normal sodium levels, causing your body to retain water in order to “dilute” sodium levels back to normal. Increasing water intake will help return sodium levels back to normal more quickly so that so that excess fluid will not be needed.
Water is essential in preventing constipation. When the body gets too little water, it takes what it needs from any available internal source. The colon is one primary source, and constipation results. Even a high fiber intake will not be effective unless adequate water intake occurs, which will usually return bowel function to normal.
If your water intake is low, it is best to increase gradually to allow the bladder adequate time to adjust. “Use it or lose it” applies to any body part, including the bladder which will atrophy (shrink) when water intake is low. In addition, urine becomes very concentrated, which not only contributes to bladder infections but also may be a predisposing factor in bladder cancer.
It is best to increase water intake by one daily 8-ounce glass each week until reaching an optimal intake. This will prevent excessive trips to the bathroom. Gradually, the bladder will return to normal capacity, urine will be diluted, kidney function will improve, and bladder cancer will most likely not be in your future.
With optimal water intake, body fluids are perfectly balanced so that endocrine gland function improves, fluid retention is alleviated, more fat is used as fuel, natural thirst returns and appetite tends to diminish.
How much is optimal? On the average - eight to ten 8-ounce glasses daily. However, the overweight person needs one additional glass per 25 pounds of excess weight. The amount of water consumed also should be increased when the weather is hot or when you exercise.
Rhodes, B.A., M.A., is a Nutritionist, Wellness Lifestyle Strategist, Author, and Director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown.