Last week I wrote about some of the lesser-addressed components of “Nature Cure.” Again, these include a good diet, sunlight, fresh air, exercise, sleep, and drinking plenty of water.
Sometimes we forget about water as a key component to our health. It’s one of those subjects that my patients almost never bring up unless I ask about it first. It’s easy to forget, because it’s so readily available (despite being in a desert!) But water plays a vital role in almost every system of our bodies. This makes sense, because about 80% of our bodies are comprised of water. This breaks down as follows: water is about 70% of lean muscle; it makes up about 80% of our blood, and roughly 85% of our brain volume.
The Effect of Water on Blood
That’s why when I have a patient with low blood pressure, my first question is, “How much water have you been drinking?” Low fluid intake equals low blood volume. Low blood volume can equal low blood pressure, and thus lower blood flow to your organs (decreasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients and elimination of waste from those tissues). Patients with low blood pressure and blood volume frequently say they experience the room going dark for a few seconds when they stand up too quickly – it takes a bit longer for the blood to get to their brains from the sudden shift in position. (This is also often an indication of adrenal fatigue).
The Effect of Water on Toxins
One of the main purposes of water is to assist in the elimination of waste. This happens not just in the bloodstream (because more blood means flushing out those tissues faster), but it also helps to flush out the organs of elimination, such as the liver, kidneys, and bowels. (Think of it this way. When something *not* inside of your body is dirty, what do you use to flush it out?) Low water intake leads to low urine output and constipation – which means toxins are not getting out of your body effectively. Toxin accumulation can lead to all kinds of symptoms, depending on what the toxin is and where your susceptibilities lie.
The Symptoms of Dehydration
Low water intake can lead to dehydration, of course, and the symptoms of acute dehydration can be severe and even fatal (including a fast heart rate to compensate for low blood volume and blood pressure, fast breathing to compensate for lower oxygen delivery to the tissues, dry mouth, and eventually loss of consciousness). Symptoms of chronic dehydration include constipation (this is one of the first things to pay attention to if you are constipated – how much water are you drinking?), headache (remember that 85% of our brains are water), and muscle cramping, since dehydration leads to an imbalance in some of the key electrolytes such as magnesium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and sodium, and electrolyte imbalances are usually responsible for muscle cramps.
Drink water. Half your body weight in ounces is a good rule of thumb (so if you weigh 140 lbs, you should be drinking 80 oz of water daily), but you should increase that number if you are out in the Tucson summer heat or exercising (which you should be – that’s on the Nature Cure list too. :)) This is one of the simplest and most important things you can do for your health.