Water works wonders for health and vitality, but if you don't drink enough, you are at risk of developing health conditions.
It is estimated that 8 out of 10 people do not drink enough water for the body to carry out all of its healthy functions. Being dehydrated can be a factor in many illnesses including; arthritis, heartburn, constipation, muscular back and neck pain, diabetes, high cholesterol and stress. Drinking plenty of water is therefore one of the most important things that we can do for our health.
When the body is dehydrated it has to respond by making compromises that in time can be a contributory factor that can lead to health problems. If you are diagnosed with any of the problems below then the conditions have become severe, often requiring medication.
Gastritis and Ulcers
The stomach contains a mucosal layer that protects it’s lining from the highly corrosive hydrochloric acid used to digest food, 98% of this layer is water. When dehydrated, this mucosal layer will be less capable of holding sodium bicarbonate and will leave the stomach lining vulnerable to damage. Furthermore, the sodium left behind from the neutralisation of stomach acid requires additional water to be flushed out and prevent impaired function of the mucosal layer. While the use of antacids and acid blockers may temporarily relieve the pain caused by hydrochloric acid reaching the stomach lining, they do nothing to resolve the dehydration that’s allowing it, and further stomach damage can result.
The stomach is the only part of the body that can deal frequent exposure to high concentrations of hydrochloric acid, it needs to be acidic to break down our food. When the body move food from the stomach to the small intestine the pancreas secretes a solution to neutralise this highly acidic mix of digested food.
If your body is dehydrated, then the ability of the pancreas to neutralise this is impaired, so to avoid damaging the small intestine, digested food is delayed from leaving the stomach via the intestine and instead the body sends gases and foods upwards.
Colitis and Constipation
The colon is naturally designed to preserve water by removing it from excrement. When dehydrated, even more water will be extracted which will result in hard and dry stool that causes pain, irritates the intestinal lining, and doesn’t move well through it.
The end of each bone within a joint is coated with a layer of cartilage that allows it to glide smoothly across the surface of another bone. Because water provides cartilage with it’s smooth and low friction characteristics, it’s essential for proper joint function.
When the body is dehydrated, cartilage loses its ability to glide smoothly, and the additional friction that results during joint movement causes an increased number of cartilage cells to be destroyed.
Back and Neck Pain
The spine supports the entire weight of the upper body and about 75% of this support comes from the water within the small spinal discs that sit between each vertebra. When the body is dehydrated, these discs contain less water, are smaller in size, and less capable of providing support. This results in an increased risk of nerve impingement, additional strain on the musculature that supports the spine, and an increased risk of disc herniation, all of which are significant sources of back and neck pain.
With the fast pace of modern living, repetitive stress is one of the most common causes of poor health. It often results in adrenal fatigue and in turn, a host of other frustrating health issues. Although emotional stress is an obvious and significant contributor to this, few people realize that internal physiological stress plays a large role as well. Dehydration is interpreted by the body as a state of emergency, it involves the “fight or flight” stress response. If invoked frequently enough, it will physically wear down the body and gradually destroy your health.
High Blood Pressure
Because water represents a significant portion of blood volume, dehydration decreases the overall volume of blood in the body. To prevent gases from escaping from the blood and creating blockages, blood vessels must be constricted in conjunction with the smaller volume of blood, constricted blood vessels will often result in elevated blood pressure.
Salt is essential for the absorption of water by cells, and as such, dehydration causes the body to make an increased effort to retain both salt and water in addition to constricting blood vessels. Unfortunately, most people with high blood pressure are urged to reduce salt intake and use diuretics that force the excretion of salt and water. While this may artificially lower blood pressure, it worsens the level of dehydration and puts the body under additional stress.
The membrane of a cell is vitally important not only because of the physical protection it provides, but also because it controls cell function by regulating what is transferred in and out. Much of a cell membrane is composed of water, and when the body is dehydrated, additional cholesterol is required to compensate for the lack of water and maintain membrane integrity. As a result, cholesterol production is increased.
Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar can rise to dangerous levels because of inadequate insulin production by the pancreas. Regardless of how much insulin the pancreas can produce, dehydration can suppress its production and result in a state that can easily be mistaken for diabetes. Brain function consumes a significant portion of the body’s energy and when dehydrated, the brain’s reliance on blood sugar increases. As such, the release of insulin is inhibited to increase the body’s threshold for blood sugar. Insulin promotes the absorption of sugar by cells, and because water is typically absorbed along with the sugar, the suppression of insulin production serves as another mechanism for the body to conserve water during dehydration.
Aim to drink eight glasses of water per day, about four pints. Start your morning with water and have a couple of glasses first thing. Keep water beside you during the day, if you’re at work then have a bottle permanently with you or a glass topped up on your desk. If you drink coffee or tea then have a glass of water first, once you’ve had the water you may find that you don’t fancy the coffee after all.
Drink before snacking and eating, 20 minutes before you eat have a glass of water, you need a gap of at least 20 minutes either side of eating to allow the stomach to be properly prepared for digestion.
Follow these tips and you will find you become, less stressed, able to concentrate better and you may find that other health niggles magically disappear.