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Water is the only drink for a wise man. ― Henry Thoreau

 Water is involved in almost every function in our bodies and it is essential for optimal health. Water transports vital nutrients and oxygen to our cells and muscles and lends a supportive structure to our organs and musculoskeletal system. It can also be a source of toxic metals and contaminants, so it is important to drink enough but also to drink clean water sources.

Let’s start by looking at some water facts:

  • Water is around 70% of weight in men and 60% of the weight in women.
  • The sedentary adult needs at least 2.4 L to maintain proper function in the body.
  • Sweating rates of 1.5 L liters per hour are common in sports. Athletes can lose 2 – 4% of their water with vigorous workout. Marathon runners can lose 6 – 8% or more during their long runs and workouts. With greater than 2% dehydration, a decrease in sports performance will occur.
  • Dehydration can be a burden to our systems. First, it can be a thermal burden. With every one percent of water lost, a one to two-degree increase in temperature is found. This is from decreased skin vasodilation and decreased sweating. It’s also a cardiovascular burden as dehydration puts more stress on the heart to pump a lower blood volume, resulting in a decreased stroke volume and an increased heart rate.

Most of us are not drinking enough water throughout the day which can lead to many problems. At 1% dehydration, we will start to feel thirsty. By 2%, we will feel a vague discomfort, as well as a decreased appetite. At 3 to 4% loss of water volume, our blood cells start to concentrate, we feel slow, have flushed skin and feel apathetic. By 6%, we will have tingling in our extremities, stumble and enter heat exhaustion with an increased temperature, heart rate and breathing rate. With 8% dehydration, we will feel dizziness and confusion. Greater than 10 to 15% water loss leads to delirium, dim vision, deafness and cracked skin. Greater than 20% loss of water volume is not compatible with life.

Following are some symptoms associated with chronic dehydration:

  • Allergies
  • Heart pains
  • Asthma
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ulcers

Symptoms Associated with Chronic Dehydration

 On the flip side, too much water can cause problems as well. An over-abundance of water without electrolytes will dilute our sodium and hyponatremia can occur. This is a decrease in sodium level in the blood, which leads to headache, nausea, confusion, muscle spasm and even death. Muscle cramps with exercise or activity is often on early sign of low electrolyte levels. When drinking and replenishing large amounts of water, it is important to add electrolytes to the water to avoid diluting your electrolytes.

There are three important properties of water that help us sustain life and optimize health. First, water acts as a solvent that can keep things suspended in it, enabling water to transport oxygen, nutrients and waste. Next, it is incompressible and helps us support our body structure, giving shape and volume to our cells and blood. It also holds in heat to help us maintain adequate body temperature. Adequate water intake can lead to many health benefits, including improved bowel function, increased energy and mental alertness. We can also experience increased exercise stamina as well as increased weight loss.

Because water is a solvent, many things can be dissolved into it. Some substances are very helpful, like nutrients and oxygen, but some can also be harmful. Let’s take a closer look at what else can be dissolved in tap water.


Chlorine is added at 98% of water utilities as disinfectant to kill microorganisms. The problem with chlorine as it can combine with natural substances like bark, leaves and sediment to create trihalomethanes (THMs). This by-product is known to be a carcinogen and can cause birth-related complications.


Fluoride is also added to water because of early studies showing benefits in preventing tooth decay. Excess amounts can actually cause bone and tooth fluorosis, which is a breakdown of the tooth enamel. Many organizations are now questioning if the risk to benefit ratio favors adding fluoride to water sources. Fluoride also inhibits many enzyme activities in our body preventing optimal functioning.


Microorganisms, or unwanted bacteria, are also found in our tap water. These come from animal and human waste and can cause infection and diseases. Chlorine kills most but not all microorganisms. It is important to use a home filtration system to remove what is missed by city facilities.


Water is the most common source of heavy metal toxicity, including mercury, lead, cadmium, aluminum and arsenic. Heavy metals have many negative effects on the body, including inactivating critical enzymes, increasing free radical damage, causing a decreased immune system function, a lower IQ in children, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is important when dealing with pain, fatigue or inflammation to have your heavy metals checked and then get appropriate treatment if metal toxicity is an issue contributing to your symptoms.

What’s in the well? Many rural homes still use well water as their source of water. With our increasing environmental pollutants, well water may not be as clean as it once was as contaminants near the well, including fertilizers, pesticides, gas and oil, and other hazardous chemicals, can leak into the ground contaminating the well. If you use well water, it should be tested annually for radon, bacteria and nitrates.

It is recommended that most well and city water be treated to take out any toxins or impurities that might be harmful to your health. Three methods that have been shown to be successful in removing toxins are reverse osmosis, deionization (ion exchange), and steam distillation.

REVERSE OSMOSIS High pressure water through membranes Consistent and priced more affordably Requires a lot of water. Needs frequent cleaning

DEINOIZATION (ION EXCHANGE) Done after RO Expensive Pure, neutral water

STEAM DISTALLATION Water vaporized to separate out pure water Pure and clean All minerals are left behind so need to supplement if used or water will steal from body sources

Water Purification Methods

There are a lot of different bottled water options available. It is sometimes difficult to know exactly what you are drinking and what makes one better than the other.

Following is a summary of the different types of bottled water:

ARTESIAN Water from a well between rock layer

DRINKING Water that may be just filtered tap water

MINERAL Minerals from the natural source of the water, cannot be added

OZONIZED/UV Pathogens killed from oxygen or UV light exposure

SPRING Water collected from underground natural source that flows to the surface WELL Water from a hole that taps an aquifer

Types of Bottled Water

Amazingly, 25% of bottled water is just bottled tap water. If buying bottled water, it is best to buy water labeled ‘purified’ and identify how it was treated. From an environmental standpoint, buy a clear polyethylene container and use your own filtered water to decrease the use of plastic bottles. You should sip clean and filtered water throughout the day and avoid drinking greater than 2 – 4 ounces at one time as it will cause diuresis through increased urination. Try to drink around 4 – 8 ounces before a meal and sip water throughout the meal.

Your goal is to drink one-half your body weight in ounces a day for maintenance. If you weigh around 160 pounds, you will need 80 ounces of water per day and more if you are active, exercising or in a hot climate. Drink 12 – 20 ounces two hours prior to exercise and drink another 8 – 12 ounces thirty minutes before exercise. You should strive to drink 4 – 8 ounces every fifteen minutes during exercise. It is important to stay hydrated during a workout to maximize your fitness outcomes.

If you find it hard to drink that much water, it might be helpful to flavor your water to help encourage more consumption.

Following are a few tasty options you can infuse into your water to make it more appealing.

  • Lemon, lime or citrus
  • Cucumber
  • Mint leaves
  • Honey (few drops)
  • Green tea
  • Stevia
  • Ice

Also, with fruit- and vegetable-infused water, you not only get good flavors but also some of the antioxidant properties out of the food. Water is the basic foundation for cell health. It is involved in most cell functions and, when we are dehydrated, our cells, muscles and organ systems don’t function optimally. Let’s drink to health, happiness and hydration… Cheers!