By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine
When I was growing up, my mother always stressed the importance of drinking water. If she’d had a mantra, it would have been “eight glasses a day.” Did I listen? Of course not.
In fact, water wasn’t high on my list of priorities until just a few years ago when my doctor told me that I was showing signs of dehydration. This time I listened – and started drinking water. Actually, I drank so much water that my husband actually thought about buying stock in Sparkletts. I guess I was making up for lost time.
Then last year, I came across a study saying that the old 8 x 8 (eight eight-ounce glasses a day) maxim was a washout. According to Dr. Heinz Valtin, the Dartmouth researcher who conducted the study review, that advice was just a national myth with no basis in fact. He went on to say that – well gee, you really don’t need water at all – juice, coffee or soda work just as well!
Now I had heard it all.
When I told my mom about the study, she said it was ludicrous. That everybody knows you need at least 64 ounces of water a day. I figured that the truth was somewhere between Dr. Valtin and my mother – and I was pretty sure that the odds were in favor of mom. But just to be sure, I checked with Elson Haas, M.D.
A Drinking Problem
One of Dr. Haas’ favorite sayings is “dilution is the solution to inner pollution.” But even he admits that scientific study on the subject is lacking. That said, he also points out just how important water is to good health.
According to Dr. Haas, or bodies are at least 60 percent water. It’s the primary component of all the bodily fluids — blood, lymph, urine, tears and sweat. But there’s more:
•Water is involved in almost every bodily function, including digestion, the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of wastes, to name just a few.
•Water carries the electrolytes; mineral salts that help convey electrical currents in the body. The major minerals that make up these salts are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride.
•Water lubricates our joints and connective tissue, helps regulate our body temperature, and protects and cushions our vital organs.
Without water, none of these critical functions could occur. I should also mention that water is the best way to avoid problems like constipation and dry skin.
Since there aren’t any studies that give us a quantitative answer to the amount of water we really need, how do we know when we’re getting enough? Dr. Haas says that the amount is based on a number of factors: our size, our activity level and the climate or temperature.
We lose water daily through our skin, urine, bowels and lungs (as water vapor in the air). About half of our water losses can be replaced with the water content in our food. The remaining half requires specific fluid intake, primarily from drinking good water. Contrary to what Dr. Valtin says, caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, colas) and alcoholic beverages don’t count because they act like diuretics in the body, increasing the amount of fluid lost.
According to Dr. Haas, the average human requirement is about three quarts of water a day, including food and beverages. An inactive person in a cool climate may need less, while an athlete training in the desert will need much more. People who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, which are high in water content, will require less drinking water than people who eat a diet high in meats and fats, which are more concentrated and require additional water to help utilize them. In addition to a healthy diet containing fresh fruits and vegetables, Dr Haas recommends drinking at least one-and-a-half to two quarts of water a day. That’s 60 to 80 ounces – or at least eight eight-ounce glasses a day.
I hate to say it but Mom, you were right all along.
One Last Thing …
Now that that’s settled, should you go to the tap and get a nice tall glass of municipal water? Probably not. Despite the Safe Drinking Water Act, which has been in place since 1974, the water that comes from municipal systems and wells can contain a number of contaminants, including pathogens like cryptosporidium, bacteria that can cause severe gastrointestinal disease. That seemingly benign glass of water you just drew from the tap may also contain lead, cadmium, mercury or arsenic. It can also be a source of hidden chemicals, including pesticides and substances used to manufacture plastics and personal care products. A recent survey by the U.S. Geological Survey even found measurable amounts of prescription drugs in our water.
Then there are the chemicals cities add to the public’s water deliberately – chlorine and fluoride. In 1974, studies began surfacing which showed that, when chlorine reacts with naturally occurring organic matter, a group of toxic byproducts called trihalomethanes (THMs) are created. THMs have been associated with rectal and bladder cancers, as well as birth defects. Fluoride is a byproduct of aluminum, and dentists have sworn for years that it’s the best thing since sliced bread to prevent tooth decay. But some scientists, environmentalists and consumer groups point out that fluoride is a carcinogen and its addition to municipal water is irrational and dangerous.
Since virtually all municipal and well water harbors some contaminants, the healthiest way to hydrate is by drinking bottled water. But some bottled water is nothing more than spruced-up municipal water. Instead of reaching for a bottle brought to you by Coke or Pepsi, look for water that has been steam-distilled. Distilling water in this way removes bacteria, viruses, chemicals and pollutants. Better yet, once you drink it, the pure distilled water captures inorganic minerals rejected by the cells and tissues and helps remove them from the body.
So find a good source of bottled water and drink up. And forget the naysayers. Like most flash-in-the-pan claims, this one will dry up and blow away too.
This Just In …
I love to be the bearer of good news. So when I read a study about tomatoes and heart health, I just had to share it with you. Unfortunately, the mainstream media beat me to it. And wouldn’t you know it – they got it all wrong.
According to the nightly news, if you want to boost heart health – eat pizza! Yep, pizza. You know, the pie made from a refined-flour crust and topped with artery-clogging cheese. Hmmm – they didn’t mention pepperoni. I wonder if it’s optional.
Well, don’t get too excited. Pizza still isn’t a health food. What the study actually said was that tomatoes and tomato-based foods (like salsa, spaghetti sauce and yes, pizza sauce) could lower the risk of heart disease. So now we know how they jumped to the pizza conclusion. But, it’s too bad they didn’t report the actual study, because in my book, it’s pretty impressive on its own.
The Harvard study reviewed the diets of 40,000 women from an ongoing women’s health study started 11 years ago. The researchers found women who consumed seven or more servings of tomato-based foods a week had an almost 30 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease compared with women who consumed less than one and one-half servings a week.
If you’re anything like me, you might think it’s because tomatoes are a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene. Nope. The results of the report showed lycopene itself doesn’t significantly reduce the risk for heart disease. So it’s something else hidden away in tomatoes. While science may never know the exact compound responsible for the findings, it’s enough to know that there’s one more delicious way to guard against cardiovascular disease.
Bove F, et al. “Drinking water contaminants and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a review.” Environmental Health Perspectives. 2002; 110 Suppl 1:61-74.
George MH, et al. “Carcinogenicity of bromodichloromethane administered in drinking water to Male F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 mice.” International Journal of Toxicology. 2002; 21:219-230.
Glasser F. “US Environmental Protection Agency reveals that tens of millions of Americans may be at risk from fluoridated drinking water.” http://home.att.net/~gtigerclaw/EPAresponse.html.
Rawe J. “Tomatoes may reduce risk of heart disease by 30 percent.” University Wire. 29 July 2003.
Valtin H. “Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.” Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 x 8?” American Journal of Physiology. 2002; 283:R993-1004.