For several centuries water has been an integral part of treatment of several diseases among the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, Persians and Hindus. The Chinese used water as a remedy several centuries before Christ, the Japanese used cold water for treatment of several diseases almost eight hundred years ago. Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, also used hot and cold water successfully for management of diseases such as fever, ulcers, bleeding, inside or outside the body, etc.
How is the water regulated?
Whenever there is water shortage in your house, you would prioritise the use of water for essential purposes. For example, you would use the necessary water for drinking and cooking but reduce the amount of water used for bathing, washing, etc. Similarly, when the body receives less water, histamine, a chemical compound present in all cells, initiates a system of water regulation. This system prioritises the distribution of water to more important organs of the body such as the brain, heart, lungs, etc.
Histamine directs and operates a system of chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals either modify or transmit impulses in the nerves. Histamine directs some neurotransmitters to operate sub-systems to regulate water intake. These sub-systems use chemical substances such as “vasopressin” and “renin-angiotensin” for regulating water intake and distribution.
Vasopressin is a hormone that increases reabsorption of water by the kidneys and therefore decreases the production of urine. Renin is an enzyme produced and stored in kidneys. Whenever the volume of blood decreases, renin initiates a series of chemical reactions that produce a chemical compound, angiotensin. Angiotensin results in contraction of the blood vessels of the kidneys and therefore reduces the rate of filtration of blood by the kidneys. Reduced filtration helps the body to retain more water.
There are three stages of water regulation of the body at different stages of life. These include (a) before birth, (b) between birth and adolescence and (c) in adulthood. Before birth, the unborn baby sends signals to the mother if more water is required for its growth and development. Thus, although the unborn baby sends the signal, the mother experiences the effect. It is believed that morning sickness in a pregnant woman is the first indicator that the unborn baby needs more water.
Water regulation efficiency of the body reaches the peak by the age of twenty years. Subsequently, it gradually declines. Thus, the thirst sensation gradually decreases as age advances. This is perhaps why chronic diseases such as arthritis, high blood pressure, etc. that are also attributed to inadequate intake of water, are more common in the older age group. The amount of tea, coffee, alcohol, aerated drinks etc. you consume regularly may also adversely affect the water regulation in later life.
The ratio of the water content in and outside the cells of the various organs is very important. As age advances, water content in the cells decreases. Since the water content in each cell plays a vital role in maintaining its normal function, inadequate water can lead to loss of some functions. Loss of functions results in specific signs and symptoms.
Why is water important for maintaining normal health?
The water content in various parts of the body regulates their functions. They also help regulate the functions of solids such as minerals, vitamins, etc. dissolved in the water. In other words, every function of the body is influenced by the flow of water in the various organs. Adequate distribution of water in all parts of the body ensures that water and the chemical substances that it transports (such as hormones, nutrients, etc.) first reach the more important organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs. Several organs secrete chemical substances that act on distant parts of the body. These chemicals regulate their own production and release into the “water” around them.
Naturopathy describes the following roles of water in our body:
1. Water helps maintain the moisture of the lining of the internal organs of the body;
2. It maintains normal volume and consistency of fluids such as blood and lymph;
3. It regulates body temperature;
4. It removes “poisons” or “toxins” from the body through urine, sweat and breathing; and
5. Water is essential for regulating the normal structure and functions of the skin.
The body loses about four litres of water every day. It is therefore necessary to replenish this volume by drinking at least the equivalent amount of water every day. Inadequate intake of water can lead to dehydration.
Important functions of water in the body
• Necessary for all chemical reactions in the body. Just as water helps a seed grow into a tree, it also helps our body grow from birth to adulthood.
• The How of water inside and outside the cells generates energy. The energy is stored in the body along with oilier chemical sources of energy in the body.
• The energy generated by the water in the cells helps transmit impulses in the nerves.
• Helps formation of a glue-like material that helps the solid substances in the walls of the cells to be “stuck” to each other.
• Helps transport the chemical substances produced by the brain that carry its messages to different parts of the body. Just as there are lanes on a main road for different types of vehicles, chemical substances of the brain are transported in the “water lanes” along the length of the nerves.
• Water content in the body influences the functions of the various proteins and enzymes that are dissolved in it.
It is difficult to quantify the exact amount of water each person requires to maintain normal functioning of all the organs of the body. This is because the quantity of water required for the body functions depends on several factors such as age, climate, season, physical activity, type of food consumed, amount of condiments and spices used for cooking, the water content in the food, salt intake, etc.
Normally, our daily diet provides about two-thirds of the body’s requirement of water. Some health practitioners suggest that you drink about eight to ten glasses of water everyday to meet the remaining one-third of the body’s requirement. You also need to drink a lot of water when you are tired and/or are sweating profusely.
It is also important to learn when not to drink water. It is desirable that you avoid drinking water while eating food, as it will adversely affect chewing of the food and secretion of the saliva. Water leaves the stomach within five to ten minutes of drinking and therefore some of the food is also likely to leave the stomach along with the water. Thus, digestion of the food is likely to be adversely affected. Water also dilutes the digestive juices in the stomach. It is desirable that you drink water on empty stomach or three hours after food or one to one and a half hours before food.
One of the ways to ensure that you are drinking adequate water is to observe the colour of your urine. If it is almost white, it means that all parts of your body are hydrated. Yellowish tint in the urine indicates that the kidneys have to work harder to remove the waste products because of inadequate water in the blood.
Most people tend to drink water in large gulps. Naturopathy recommends that you need to “eat liquids and drink solids”. This means that you need to take water sip by sip, and “chew” it in the mouth in order to mix it with the saliva. Avoid regular use of straws for drinking water and/or fluids.
Can water be substituted with other drinks?
• No, there is no fitting substitute for water. Drinking tea, coffee, aerated drinks or alcohol are not desirable substitutes for water.
• Although these fluids contain water, they also contain substances that cause dehydration.
• As a result, the body not only excretes the water in these beverages but also some water that is reserved in the body.
• Regular intake of aerated drinks and juices automatically reduces the urge to drink water when these drinks are not available.
What is the best type of water for drinking?
Naturopathy recommends drinking pure water to which no minerals are added. This is because the minerals may either be rejected or deposited in some parts of the body, thus causing health problems. However, water from natural sources may contain minerals that can be beneficial to the body in specific conditions due to their reaction and affinity towards the mineral content in the food.
Does temperature of the drinking water affect health?
Yes, the temperature of the water you drink is also important for maintaining normal health. Cold water from natural sources (which is not cooled in a refrigerator or with ice) is fit for drinking.
If it is cold water
1. It lowers the body temperature;
2. It dilutes the blood to the required consistency;
3. It promotes excretion of poisons from the skin in the form of “evaporation”;
4. It stimulates the normal functions of the kidneys and therefore increases the rate of removal of “poisons” from the body through the urine;
5. It increases movement of the intestines, thus facilitating formation and passing of soft stools.
If it is hot water
Sipping hot water has several benefits too. For example, as soon as you drink hot water, there is instant stimulation of the inner lining of the stomach and contraction of its blood vessels. As a result, there is less blood circulation in the lining of the stomach. This leads to reduced activity of the glands that secrete acids in the stomach. Thus, you are less likely to suffer from increased acid secretions in the stomach.
Hot water cleans the stomach, relieves heartburn, belching, flatulence, acute indigestion, vomiting and cramps in the abdomen. Drinking hot water is not recommended for those who suffer from ulcers in the stomach. It is important to remember that hot water should be sipped and not gulped.