Water: An essential nutrient for your body, brain and health

Water: An essential nutrient for your body, brain and health

Many people are chronically dehydrated but have no idea that dehydration is the root cause of their health complaints.

Many people are chronically dehydrated but have no idea that dehydration is the root cause of their health complaints.

by Paula Owens — 

Water is an essential nutrient but is often overlooked when it comes to its importance for a clear mind, weight loss, performance, brain function, detoxification and overall health. The body is 70 percent water, brain tissue is approximately 75 percent water, and blood is roughly 83 percent water, and we must constantly replenish its supply. Infants, children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to dehydration.

Many people are chronically dehydrated but have no idea that dehydration is the root cause of their health complaints. Muscle cramps, fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, poor concentration, dry skin, dark urine with a strong odor, dizziness and back pain are all initial symptoms that can be attributed to dehydration.

Dehydration can affect consciousness and induce speech incoherence, extremity weakness, hypotonia of ocular globes, orthostatic hypotension and tachycardia. Not drinking enough water increases the risk of kidney stones, as well as urinary tract infections in women. It can also lower physical and mental performance, and salivary gland function.


Benefits of staying hydrated 

Water can lower high blood pressure, cholesterol, cortisol and other stress hormones, and aids in fat loss. It boosts metabolism; eliminates waste and flushes out toxins; regulates body temperature; transports nutrients to cells; lubricates the spine, bones, joints and muscles; and rids the body of excess sodium, which results in less fluid retention. It is a key nutrient for healthy brain function.


Causes of dehydration 

Common causes of dehydration include not drinking enough water; chronic stress and adrenal dysfunction; sickness, fever, vomiting or diarrhea; an increased output of urine due to a hormone deficiency; high blood sugar, diabetes or kidney disease; and prolonged exposure to heat and humidity, physical activity and excessive sweating.

Other causes include eating low-calorie, low-carb, high-protein diets and drinking too much alcohol or taking over-the-counter and prescription medications. Also, body water content is higher in men than in women and decreases in both with age. Older adults lose about 85 to 90 ounces of water per day. An air traveler can lose approximately 51 ounces of water during a three-hour flight.

Normal urine color should be clear, light yellow or similar to the color of lemon juice to amber. It can be more yellow if taking vitamins and certain medications. Urine that is a dark yellow (the color of apple juice) and lower volume output (than usual for you) are indicators of dehydration.


Consequences of dehydration 

Not drinking enough water can cause constipation; increases in cortisol and other stress hormones; high blood pressure; headaches and dizziness; fatigue, tiredness and low energy; decreased strength and performance; poor concentration and short-term memory loss; and confusion, hallucinations and mood changes.

Other signs include dry skin and cracked lips; sugar and carb cravings; kidney stones; joint and low back pain; Charley horses, muscle cramps and spasms; and a lowered immune function.

To stay hydrated, the amount of water we need depends on our body size, metabolism, the weather, the food we eat and our activity levels. Here is a formula to help you determine the number of ounces of water to consume daily. Take your body weight and multiply it by .7. This provides you with the number of ounces of water for you specifically to consume every day.

Upon rising, sip a cup of water with the juice from a fresh lemon or lime. Add a pinch of Celtic sea salt and a dash of cayenne pepper. Repeat again before meals. In a study, those who drank one to two cups of water before each meal lost an average of five pounds more weight than those who did not drink water.

Instead of plastic water bottles, switch to glass or other eco-friendly materials to avoid BPA and other toxic chemicals. Ten popular U.S. bottled water brands contain mixtures of 38 different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol® and industrial chemicals, some at levels no better than tap water, according to laboratory tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group.

The bottled water industry has also contributed to one of the biggest environmental problems facing the world today. Only one-fifth of the bottles produced by the industry are recycled. The remaining four-fifths pile up at landfills, litter our neighborhoods and foul our oceans.

Consider installing a reverse-osmosis water filtration system in your home to filter water from impurities, such as fluoride, chlorine, lead and other toxic heavy metals, contaminants and chemicals.

Give water a nutrient boost and refreshing flavor by adding lemon or lime slices, cucumber slices, fresh mint, ginger root or berries. Unprocessed sea salt will increase minerals, nourish the adrenals and help with absorption.


Monitor intake of other fluids 

One or two cups of coffee can actually be healthy as long as your body is able to metabolize it. Opt for organic coffee to avoid pesticides and other contaminants. Avoid all soda, including diet soda, commercial fruit juices, sports drinks and energy drinks. The majority of these beverages are liquid sugars that spike insulin, are calorically dense and nutritionally void, contain zero fiber, and have an ingredient list full of chemicals, artificial sweeteners, fructose and artificial colorings that are harmful and toxic.

Most alcohol is made from grains and spells trouble for those with hidden food sensitivities. Aside from causing dehydration, in excess, alcohol is estrogenic, adding to hormonal disruption, bloating and cravings. Also, overindulgence negatively alters mood, skin, sleep, motivation, brain function and your waistline.


Paula Owens, M.S., is a holistic nutritionist, Functional Health practitioner, and fitness and fat-loss expert with more than 25 years of experience. She is the author of The Power of 4 and Fat Loss Revolution.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 35, Number 1, February/March 2016.

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