Think You’re Hungry? You Might be Thirsty
Water – The Body’s Most Overlooked Essential Nutrient
By Bette Vargas
There are six nutrients essential for human life. They are carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and water. The nutrient that is most important is water. Of all the nutrients, water is the most essential element required for the maintenance of life and good health. Although the body can survive about a month without food it can only live 5-7 days without water, and that’s under optimal conditions. Rapid losses of body water through dehydration may prove fatal in a relatively short period of time – within hours when young children with diarrhea lose large amounts of water and electrolytes.
Water in the Body
The adult human body is composed of over 60% water–the brain is composed of 70% water, as is the skin, blood is 82% water, and the lungs are nearly 90% water. Water is a major constituent of sweat that consists mainly of water and some minerals, primarily sodium and chloride. Water is also the main constituent of blood. It transports oxygen, nutrients, hormones and other compounds to the cells throughout the body. Water carries waste products away from the cells to organs such as the lungs and kidneys for excretion from the body. Water lubricates the joints preventing damage from arthritis, and to rehydrate the muscle tissue. Water is as important to your joints as oil is to a car and you would never think of driving your car without oil. Water is essential for proper function of our senses. Hearing waves are transmitted by fluid in the inner ear. Fluid in the eye is involved in the reflection of light for proper vision. For the taste and smelling senses to function, the foods and odors need to be dissolved in water.
Even though water provides no food energy, the other essential nutrients need water in order to be effectively utilized in the body. Every function within the body is dependent upon an adequate supply of water – at least 64 ounces per day, but more if you drink a caffeinated beverage, alcohol, exercise or perform physical labor.
Drink an 8-ounce glass of water every two hours. A study from Loma Linda University in California found that women who drank more than five glasses of water a day were half as likely to die from a heart attack as those who drank less than two. This is likely due to the fact that maintaining good hydration keeps blood flowing well; dehydration can cause sluggish blood flow and increase the risk of clots forming. Water works best when it comes to improving blood flow; soda is worthless.
Soft drinks, sodas, and diet sodas are like a plague on our society. In 1994, it was reported that 49.1 gallons of soda was consumed per capita during the year. In 2011, 48% of surveyed Americans drank soda on a daily basis. Fifty-six percent of young adults between the ages of 18-34 drink soda daily. Soda is not equivalent to water. Regular and diet sodas are responsible for continuous weight gain, even from moderate consumption. Research has shown that the artificial sweeteners induce a response of “hunger” from the brain leading to over eating, and thus weight gain. It’s in fact the addictive combination of caffeine and sugar placed in the drink that tricks the brain into thinking it will quench your thirst.
Important facts to consider about children and sodas. Consumption of soda and other sugar drinks contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, hyperactivity, addiction and weight gain. Growing children constantly need water otherwise growth would not be possible. The brain’s alertness and learning capacity are dependent on the intake of water. Brain functions improve when water intake is increased to fully hydrate the body at all times. Think ADD. . . .
Water and Dehydration
It is estimated that more than 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration is not determined by whether or not you are thirsty. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Thirst and hunger can be confused. Often when a person feels hungry their body needs water; it is thirst, not the desire for food that causes the “need to eat” sensation.
A way of determining if you are dehydrated is by observing your urine daily. If it is dark yellow, you are dehydrated. Your urine should be clear unless you take B vitamins. In this case, your urine would be a pale yellow. The next time you feel “hungry” drink some water and wait 20 minutes. If you are still hungry after 20 minutes, your hunger is legitimate, if not, you were just thirsty. A gauge of how much water to consume per day is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, then your water consumption would be 100 ounces.
Dehydration can manifest itself slowly over a long period of time. In his book, You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty! F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. states that a number of ailments, even diseases can be directly linked to dehydration or the lack of water. Significantly, water can also provide the cure, at times superior to medication. The health problems directly related to the lack of water and can be helped with proper hydration are:
- Kidney problems
- High Blood Pressure
According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, drinking eight glasses of water a day or more decreases the risk of colon cancer 45%, reduces the risk of breast cancer an incredible 79%, and makes one 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.
Water During Exercise
The most important function of water for people who exercise is to regulate temperature. It’s necessary for optimal performance when exercising. Dehydration during physical activity can lead to a 2% loss of body weight and may affect mental ability and performance. A loss of 10% may cause extreme weakness and heatstroke. Here are some other tips to keep in mind on race day:
Drink plenty of fluids
- Weigh yourself before and after running then drink 2 glasses of water for every pounds lost
- Drinking a glass of water before a meal helps fill you up so you eat less and still feel full
- Water keeps your energy level up
- Water quenches thirst without adding calories
- It increases the body’s ability to burn fat
- Helps remove by-products created by the breakdown of fat tissue when you diet
- Improves metabolism
- Wear light, breathable clothing that keeps moisture from skin
Iyanla Vanzant states in her book, Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for Black Women, “Water is the most powerful healing force known to man. Water soothes, heals, nurtures and cleanses. The energy of water changes your consciousness and helps to move energy. Water nurtures your being because it is symbolic of the protection of the womb.” So drink your water! It does a body good!