Water is life itself. Like air, it is essential for man’s survival. After all, water makes up more than two-thirds of the weight of the human body. Without water, humans would die in a few days.
As Dr. Willie T. Ong pointed out in his book, How to Live Longer: Practical Health Tips from a Heart Doctor: “No water, no life. Our bodies are made up of mostly water. Just look at these facts: The brain contains 74 percent water, blood contains 83 percent water, lean muscle has 75 percent and bone has 22 percent water.”
That’s why when you are thirsty, drink water. “Getting enough water every day is important for your health,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds. “Healthy people meet their fluid needs by drinking when thirsty and drinking with meals. Most of your fluid needs are met through the water and beverages you drink.”
There are other sources of water aside from the obvious glass of water. “You can also get this critical nutrient from food,” the web site, www.universalclass.com. “Vegetables—like lettuce, cucumber, tomato, sugar snap peas, and celery—have a very high water content, which also makes them very low in calories but still high in nutrient value. Fruits, like oranges, pineapples, strawberries and others, also have high water content. Broth-based soups, milk and juices do contain a high percentage of water.”
If you have a choice, go for whole fruit or vegetable over a juice. An orange, for instance, contains healthy fiber that makes you feel full. It also takes some effort and time to peel and eat the orange. “If you just drink a glass of orange juice, you get much less fiber,” the web site said. “It’s a lot easier to drink a few hundred calories worth of orange juice than it is to eat a few hundred calories worth of whole oranges.”
Water is very important because it has several functions within the human body. For one, “it transports nutrients and other compounds. As a major component of the blood, water helps move glucose, water-soluble vitamins, minerals, other nutrients and some medications throughout your body,” the web site stated.
If you’re hot, water is the best antidote. The web site explained: “When you become too hot, your blood vessels dilate and you start sweating. The sweat evaporating on your skin is cooling. Water also has a high heat capacity. This means that a lot of energy is needed to increase its temperature. Since the body contains more water than anything else, it takes quite a significant amount of heat to raise your body temperature.”
Eating any kind of food is harder when there is no saliva. “Fortunately, our salivary glands produce ample saliva, which is largely water,” the web site stated. “Tears lubricate and clean the eyes, and synovial fluid lubricates your joints. Cerebrospinal fluid protects your brain and spine from trauma. Similarly, amniotic fluid surrounds and shields the fetus. Fluids throughout your body protect and lubricate your organs and tissues.”
More important, water participates in metabolism. “Most chemical reactions in your body use water in at least one of three ways: a solvent, a reactant or a product of the chemical reaction,” the web site explained. “Water produced in chemical reactions is called metabolic water, and your body uses it in the same ways it uses the water you drink.”
The question is: How much water do we need to drink each day? “Drink eight to 12 glasses a day,” wrote Ong in his book. “According to the Mayo Clinic, a 120-pound individual needs eight cups of water a day, while a 190-pound person requires 12 cups daily. Dr. Robert Tanchanco says that we should monitor our urine color and keep it on the light side.”
But don’t overdrink water. In an article, which appeared in Daily Mail, Sophie Borland wrote that drinking too much water “can be bad for your health.” She said that British actor Anthony Andrews, who starred in the ITV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, was hit by the illness after drinking too much water during rehearsals for a West End role in 2003.
Borland cited a study done by Glasgow-based GP Margaret McCartney, which showed that drinking when not thirsty “can impair concentration, rather than boost it.”
Writing in the British Medical Journal, McCartney also pointed out that “drinking excessive amounts can also lead to loss of sleep, as people have to get up in the night to go to the toilet, and other studies show it can even cause kidney damage, instead of preventing it.”
In some instances, drinking too much water may lead to a rare but potentially fatal condition called hyponatraemia, a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood is abnormally low and can lead to swelling of the brain.
There are people who drink too much water because they claim water helps them lose weight as it suppresses their appetite. Prof. Stanley Goldfarb, an American metabolism expert from the University of Pennsylvania, disagreed. “The current evidence is that there really is no evidence,” he said. “If children drank more water rather than getting extra calories from soda, that’s good…but there is no evidence that drinking water before meals reduces appetite during a meal.”
In a way, water is not fattening, as some people claim. Dr. Alberto Quirantes Hernandez, a Cuban professor of medicine and chief of endocrinology services at the Dr. Salvador Allende Teaching Hospital in Havana, wrote: “It is good news for those trying to lose weight that drinking more water helps, because it increases calorie-burning by the body as it is absorbed, distributed, metabolized and eliminated. We can also say it is the only nutrient that does not add a single calorie.”
Drinking water properly
Ong, in his book, gave some tips on how to drink water the proper way:
- Drink water when you wake up. Your body loses water while you sleep, so drink a glass before you go to sleep and another glass when you wake up. You are naturally thirsty or dehydrated in the morning. Drinking water in the morning helps flush out the toxins that have accumulated all night.
- Drink little by little throughout the day. It is preferable to sip water throughout the day rather than to drink two glasses all at once. This will lessen the stress on the heart (especially if you have heart disease) and give your body more time to absorb it.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re probably two glasses below your normal water needs. Elderly people are also less sensitive to the body’s need for water.
- Drink water, not soft drinks, alcohol or coffee. Some experts believe that tea, sodas and coffee can be potentially dehydrating. Moreover, the high phosphorus and sugar content in cola drinks can lead to conditions like osteoporosis and diabetes. One study shows that adults who drank six cups of coffee daily experienced mild dehydration. Drinking alcohol is much worse, because it actually dehydrates you by making you urinate a lot.
- Drink more as you exercise. When you exercise, you need to drink more water to compensate for fluid loss. Go for an extra 50 milliliters of water for a 30-minute to one-hour exercise. Eating a banana also helps keep your potassium up.
- Drink more when you’re sick. Even though you don’t feel like it, you really need to drink more water to help you recover from various infections. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll feel much worse.
Earth is a water world as water covers 71 percent of the world’s total surface. This represents a volume of 1,400 million cubic kilometers, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. About 97.5 percent is too salty to be consumed or used for industrial or agricultural purposes. Fresh water represents 2.5 percent of the water total.
Water is fundamental for life and health. “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity,” the UN Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights said. “It is a prerequisite to the realization of all other human rights.”
“Water is the most precious asset on Earth,” pointed out Dr. Sandra Postel, director of the Massachusetts-based Global Water Policy Project. “It is the basis of life.” She believes water problems will be right there with climate change as a threat to the human future.
“Although the two are related, water has no substitutes,” Postel said. “We can transition away from coal and oil to solar, wind and other renewable-energy sources. But there is no transitioning away from water to something else.”
Ideally, a person should have at least 50 liters of water to meet his basic needs—for drinking, food preparation, cooking and cleaning up, washing and personal hygiene, laundry and house cleaning.
The notion that water can carry disease first occurred to the ancient Greeks. The physician Hippocrates, the ancient innovator of medical ethics, advised that polluted water be boiled or filtered before being consumed.
“As many as 76 million people—mainly children—will die from preventable, water-related diseases by 2020 even if current United Nations goals are reached,” deplored Dr. Peter H. Gleick, director of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.
The United Nations Children’s Fund estimated some 9 million people, mostly children, die annually from water-borne diseases. “The toll is equal to 75 large airline crashes daily,” an UN official said.
Installing a flush toilet in the home increases a newborn child’s chances of celebrating a first birthday by 59 percent, studies show. In the Philippines out of every 1,000 children, 27 never make it to their first birthday.
“An estimated 50 percent of typhoid cases [in the Philippines] are due to water pollution, sanitation conditions and hygiene practices,” a World Bank report stated. “Outbreaks are commonly associated with contaminated water supply systems.”
Something must be done. “All of these diseases are associated with our failure to provide clean water,” Gleick commented. “I think it’s terribly bleak, especially because we know what needs to be done to prevent these deaths. We’re doing some of it, but the efforts that are being made are not aggressive enough.”
Today’s “crisis in water and sanitation is—above all—a crisis of the poor,” observed the United Nations Development Program study, “Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Water Crisis.”
In Tawi-Tawi province 82 out of every 100 residents lack safe water. In Bataan the number of residents exposed to unsafe water is a low three, while it is at 39 in Capiz.
“Unlike the energy crisis,” commented Klaus Toepfer, former executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, “the water crisis is life threatening. The level of suffering and misery represented by these statistics is almost beyond comprehension.”