For all life, a continuous supply of water is necessary. Water is as essential to life as food. In fact, you can go much longer without food than you can without water. This is not so surprising when you realize that water constitutes about 85% of the brain, 75% of muscles, and 70% of the total body weight.
Even though most of the water that we drink is recycled within the body itself, our bodies still require six to eight glasses of replacement water per day. Experience and experiments have shown that we cannot maintain our health and efficiency if this amount is significantly reduced. Our body uses water to cleanse itself of waste material, digest our food, maintain body temperature, and a host of other activities.
The removal of waste includes not only the waste materials that are the bi-products of metabolism, but also from the constant bombardment of germs and viruses and, in today's society, from chemicals and drugs. It is not only an aid in freeing the system of impurities, cleansing the body tissues, and invigorating the vital organs, but water is the universal medium necessary for the various chemical processes and changes that take place in the body.
Life within the cells of all tissues requires a continuous series of hundreds of chemical reactions known as metabolism. In metabolism, some substances are broken down to yield energy while others are combined to replace aging or worn out cells. In order for this process to take place, the blood must transport oxygen, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to the various parts of the body. Then, as metabolism takes place, waste products are formed. If these wastes are not quickly and efficiently removed from the body, they build up, resulting in illness, or in more extreme cases, death. Water is not only necessary for the chemical process to take place, but the blood, which is largely water, acts as the transportation system to carry the wastes that are produced to the lungs, kidneys, and skin where they can then be eliminated from the body.
Have you ever noticed that when you are hungry, the sight or smell of food starts your mouth watering? The saliva that is produced in your mouth is just one of the digestive juices that your body produces in large quantities to process and digest the food that you eat. In the digestive tract alone, two or three quarts of digestive juices are secreted each day, much of which is reabsorbed before elimination takes place.
Some of the things that our body constantly does, under most circumstances, it does without our conscious awareness. One of these functions is blinking our eyes. The surface of the eye must be constantly moistened with tears or the eyes will very quickly become dry. Without this protective lubricant of water which allows the eyelids to open and close smoothly, opening and closing the eyes would be painful and would eventually lead to blindness.
Without water, a vital part of respiration, regardless of the quality of air that we breathe, we would soon suffocate from lack of oxygen. Each one of the billion air sacs in the lungs has a thin membrane-wall containing capillaries where oxygen is transferred from the air that we breathe to the tiny blood vessels in the wall. At the same time, the waste product, carbon dioxide, is transferred from the blood, where it has been collected in the cells, into the tiny air sac, and from there to the lungs to be transferred out of our body as part of the air that we breathe out. In order to be transferred, both oxygen and carbon dioxide must first be dissolved in water. To meet this need, each air sack is lined with a thin film of water.
Regardless of the temperature outside, our body always strives to maintain an inside temperature that varies very little. To maintain the body temperature at the optimal level, we have a delicately balanced control center in the brain that acts something like the automatic temperature-control of a room. Even at rest while our motor is idling, as we might say, a man's body will produce about 80 calories of heat per hour. You need this heat to warm you in cool weather; but when the air is hot, you need water to cool you. During extreme heat or prolonged, hard exercise, you may lose several quarts of water an hour in the form of sweat. It is not the mere production of sweat, even in large amounts, that relieves the body heat but the evaporation. It takes about 600 calories of heat to evaporate a quart of water. Thus, when one perspires freely on a hot day, considerable heat is removed from the body simply by the evaporation of the water from the skin. By drinking extra water and sweating profusely, a person can cool himself enough to be able to survive very warm temperatures.
Even when you are not strenuously exercising or being stressed by heat, your body's 2.5 million sweat glands are continually moistening your skin. Without this moisture, your skin would become dry and crack.
It is easy enough to see why a person needs to drink plenty of water in hot weather, especially when exercising and perspiring freely; but even in cold weather we lose water. At lower temperatures, and especially at higher elevations, the humidity, or water content, in air can be very low, while the air that we exhale is almost saturated with water. This is why a piece of cold glass will quickly cover with condensed moisture if you blow on it. Thus a mountain climber, or persons living at higher elevations, loses large amounts of water through his breath. It is believed that a lack of sufficient water, leading to dehydration, may have contributed greatly to the extreme fatigue and weakness that made it impossible for men to continue in hiking expeditions to reach the summit of Mount Everest, though they were within a few thousand feet of their goal.
Sir Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, made another very important discovery. He learned that in the secretions of the nose and throat, our body produces a natural antiseptic called "Lysozyme." When the secretions of the throat are slightly acid in reaction, this substance is active against invading germs, helping to prevent colds. One of the best ways to keep these secretions slightly acid and thus to maintain an effective defense against colds is to daily take a cold shower in the morning. Patients who have been plagued with recurrent colds for months, by taking a warm shower and following it with a quick cold shower on a daily basis, were able to remain free from colds as long as the program was continued.
The kidneys, skin, lungs, and bowels are the avenues that the body uses to dispose of the waste products that would soon poison us if they were not eliminated. Each method involves a water loss. Water-soluble wastes, including drugs taken for illness, are generally eliminated through the kidneys. To accomplish this task, our kidneys need to be able to excrete about 5 cups of urine a day. When there is insufficient water intake to thoroughly flush the wastes out, they can stagnate in the urinary system, leading to cystitis and even bladder cancer. It takes about 2 cupfuls a day of the insensible perspiration to keep our skin pliable. Under heavy exertion, there is, of course, a much greater loss. We exhale a cupful a day through our breathe. This too would increase if we were to exercise vigorously. Another cupful goes out by way of the bowels and much more during diarrhea. If you add all these up, you will see that under normal conditions, our water losses amount to nearly 2½ quarts a day.
Should we then drink ten cups of water a day to replace this loss? No, under ordinary conditions this is not necessary. The reason for this is that, as a rule, we take in about a cupful with every 600 calories we eat. If we drink beverages of any kind, this also adds to our total water intake. We normally replace about half of our water losses with water from food and drink. In addition, there is hidden water that is released when the food is converted to energy by the body. This will amount to more than a cupful from an average diet. So, if you drink a little more than a quart a day, you body can carry out its necessary functions effectively. Remember, however, these statistics are for the body under normal conditions and do not reflect the increased water loss that takes place under strenuous exercise, or unusual conditions, such as exposure to extremes in temperature.
We have said a great deal about the value of the water that we drink, but water is very important on the outside as well. Without careful cleansing of the skin, the openings, or pores of the glands, tend to become clogged with impurities. Taking a bath daily is important, as cleansing the skin allows it to do its work of throwing off body wastes. This is especially helpful in restoring us to health when we are suffering from an illness. The bath soothes the nerves.
One of the best ways to regulate the circulation of the blood in the system is by the internal and external application of water. It can be helpful in reducing fever, relieving a congested head, and many other ailments.
Generally, it is not safe to depend on your sensation of thirst to assure you that you are drinking enough water. In animals that have been studied, it is found that when they must go for a period of time without water, at the first opportunity, they will drink enough water to completely restore their water balance by drinking as much as it has lost. Man, on the other hand, will only drink about two-thirds as much as he has lost during an active period of exposure. Unless this is replaced by forced drinking, the temperature of the body will gradually rise to 102° F and one enters the zone of impending exhaustion. A loss of 10% of our body water is damaging; a loss of 20-22% can be fatal.
Measure out six to eight cups of water and see if you regularly drink that much in a day. If you find that you are not in the habit of supplying your tissues with this all-important medium, then educate yourself to drink whether or not you feel like it. Even though water is good for us, it is not a good idea to drink it at mealtime. Digestion is a chemical process and it is a fundamental scientific fact that excess water slows down a chemical reaction. Also, drinking very cold water adversely affects digestion by suppressing the production of digestive enzymes. (This would also be true of very cold food.) The best time for water drinking is from 1 to 2 hours after meals and up to 10 to 15 minutes before eating. Much illness could be avoided and fatigue relieved without the use of stimulants if people would only take care of this simple, body need.
In the Scriptures, Christ likened His words to water. "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:18. In the natural world, it has been proven that our natural inclination and desire are not reliable indications of our real need for water; so in the spiritual sense, we often fail of recognizing our need for spiritual fulfillment. Just as our physical life is dependent upon this precious liquid for sustenance, if we are going to avoid spiritual death, and eventually everlasting, physical death, we need to drink freely of the spiritual water that is made available to us.
Copyright © 1995 by Jack Kendall
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