Did you drink enough water today? Probably not. Many of us suffer from chronic dehydration and may not even know it. The body is designed to adjust to numerous environmental conditions, and lack of water is a good example. Over time, the normal signals that tell us to drink water become less sensitive. We simply do not feel as thirsty as we should. Instead, other signs can manifest:
- Allergies: Dehydration causes histamine levels to spike. Subsequently, your immune system can become imbalanced. These conditions promote the onset of dust, pollen, mold and animal allergies.
- Digestive problems: Constipation and acid reflux are signs of chronic dehydration. Optimal hydration is necessary to keep all functions of the digestive tract running smoothly.
- Depression, irritability or mental fog: The brain relies on a consistent, large blood supply. With dehydration, this critical circulation is reduced, resulting in mental and emotional imbalances. In extreme cases, temporary mental impairment results. Dehydration and stress can also be a vicious cycle. High levels of circulating stress hormones further increase dehydration in the body. You need to relieve stress and keep well hydrated to break this cycle.
- Constant snacking: Persistent sugar cravings, for example, can be a surprising sign of imbalances caused by dehydration. We often mistake hunger for thirst. That’s why many people grab a sugary snack when actually their body is crying out for hydrating fluids.
Don’t Let Your Engine Burn Out
What are the consequences of chronic dehydration? You may feel dizzy and fatigued, suffer from headaches or experience any of the related issues above. It’s the long-term consequences that are most concerning, however.
Ideally, water makes up more than half our body mass, so to say it’s important for good health would be an understatement. It’s essential. Think of blood, the most important bodily fluid. It carries oxygen throughout the body and removes carbon dioxide while transporting nutrients, immune cells and antibodies. More than 83 percent of blood volume is water; so when we’re chronically dehydrated, we simply don’t have enough blood flowing through our bodies.
Water is also a key driver of the body’s signaling mechanisms. Cells are constantly talking to each other as they share information, maintain their locations and even determine if a neighboring cell is malfunctioning. Water forms a large part of the highway on which signaling molecules travel. As a result, dehydration can have a negative effect on functions right down to the cellular level. Over time, this can result in chronic inflammation and numerous degenerative diseases.
In the big picture, dehydration impacts our daily lives. We feel sluggish and tired. Athletic activities become more difficult. Our mental and physical performance is significantly impaired. Our emotions can become unbalanced. We are simply not ourselves.
Twenty years ago, getting a drink of water was a pretty simple operation: You went to the tap and filled your glass. However, since then, our consumer water choices have exploded, and that is not necessarily a good thing. There are countless selections of filtered, treated and bottled waters — a situation that sets up two dilemmas. First, how do you choose? What objective measures can you apply to make that decision? And second, how do you know the water you have chosen is actually pure?
Water purity is a serious issue. We have been led to believe that bottled water has fewer contaminants than tap water. This is not always the case. A number of studies have found numerous contaminants, including bacteria and chemicals, in bottled waters. In addition, bottled water companies have no legal requirement to test their product. Compare this to tap water, which is much more rigorously tested. Furthermore — most bottled water comes in toxic plastic containers which leach health-robbing chemicals into the water, especially in the heat, when you need good hydration the most.
So let’s go back to the first question: Which brand should you choose? We would say none. Given that as many as 50 percent of bottled waters are simply filtered tap water, does it make sense to pay up to $4 a gallon (not including the extra gas to visit the store) for something you can get for pennies in your own home? And with all the uncertainty over bottled water purity, what exactly are we paying for? Even recycling has its own cost.
The Filter Solution
The best advice is to invest in a high-quality filtration system. Carbon block filtration systems have been shown to be some of the most effective in removing a broad range of microbial and chemical contaminants from drinking water. Purification systems such as reverse osmosis systems and water distillers do an excellent job of removing contaminants, but they also remove essential trace minerals that are naturally present in our water. If you do choose distilled or reverse osmosis-treated water, it’s important to supplement with extra trace minerals.
How much should we drink? Eight cups daily is a good marker, but that’s only a starting point. As always, other factors must be taken into account, such as age, activity, body weight and environment. Keep a glass of fresh water near you while you work, and don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of good hydration. Drinking plenty of water is a very simple way to maintain long-term health. It also offers rapid, noticeable results in terms of increased energy and vitality. Drink up!
Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc is a licensed acupuncturist, physician, and homeopath, has an MS in traditional Chinese medicine, and has done graduate studies in herbology. Dr. Eliaz has been a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine since the early 1980s, with a focus on cancer, immune health, detoxification and mind-body medicine. Visit him online at dreliaz.org.