In sustaining the life of all living organisms, clean water is second only to clean air. In a moderate climate, human beings can survive for approximately five weeks without food, but only about five days without water.

In a man weighing 70 kg, 60-70% of the total body weight is water; at least 40 litres.

Actual water content and requirements of the body varies according to build, body weight, body fat, size of bones, salt intake, occupation and climate.

Living in a climate with an average temperature of 20 degrees celsius, a healthy person needs at least 2.4 litres of fluid each day. About two/thirds should be in the form of pure fresh uncontaminated water; at least 6-8 glasses (250 ml.) per day, and fresh fruit and vegetables which have been grown without any artificial chemicals (most contain 80-98% pure water).

The remaining third is from the food we eat. About 1400 mls. is lost in urine,100 mls. in sweat (99% water), and 200 mls. in the faeces. The remaining 700 mls. is lost by evaporation through the lungs or by diffusion through the skin. Hot weather and exercise increase water loss dramatically.

Alcohol and coffee are not good substitutes for water. These along with salt, sugar, soft drinks and food additives are thirst stimulants that dehydrate the body. Meats, refined carbohydrates and snack foods are extremely low in water.

What has all this got to do with looking after one’s back?

Bodily functions that can only be accomplished in the presence of water are respiration, digestion, assimilation, metabolism, elimination, waste removal and temperature regulation. Water also keeps the pressure, acidity and decomposition of all chemical reactions in equilibrium.

The fluid medium of all human cells is water. Water is essential in dissolving and transporting nutrients such as oxygen, proteins, minerals (electrolytes), enzymes, carbohydrates and lipids (fats) via the blood, lymph and other bodily fluids into the cells.

Regular water intake enables this natural process of cellular feeding, lubrication and cleansing of waste products, toxins and carbon dioxide to continue at full capacity.

Electrolytes influence nerve and muscle function and structural strength. Muscle cells are about 75% water.

Potassium and sodium exist in important ratios; potassium in the cell water as the principal electrolyte, and sodium in the extra-cellular fluids. They regulate water balance in the body and their equilibrium enables them to stimulate nerve impulses for the heart and other muscle contractions. To preserve their balance, we need sufficient water intake.

A lack of water causes contraction of the cells ie. they shrink, muscles cramp and joint pain may increase due to dehydration. Pain is a result of dehydration. Non-infectious, recurring chronic pain is often an indicator that the body is thirsty. As part of a dehydration stress response, hormones called endorphins are triggered to help raise the body’s pain threshold.

A rheumatoid joint is a thirst signal of the body. Water held in the cartilage of a joint is the lubricant that protects the contact surfaces of the joint.

About 75% of the weight of the upper part of the body is supported by the water volume that is stored in the discs. The other 25% is supported by the fibrous material around the discs. Hydration and proper spinal exercise are essential in improving lower back and sciatica problems.

As the body ages, it tends to dehydrate because we seem to lose our thirst sensation and the critical perception of needing water. As our bodies dry out, physical shrinking begins. The skin becomes harder and cracks, the hair drier and thinner and in some people stooping develops. Also the blood becomes thicker and does not flow as freely around the body, thereby becoming less effective in nourishing the brain, the joints, and in fact all the cells of the body. The ‘dry mouth’ is the very last sign of dehydration.

Because of environmental pollution, city drinking water has many chemicals added to it, in particular chlorine to combat bacteria, and fluoride to combat tooth decay. Water purifiers with filters such as carbon, ion exchange or reverse osmosis should be used to remove these chemicals for safe drinking.

Do NOT drink water with or just after a meal. It will dilute the digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid in the stomach, thus affecting the breakdown of food, especially protein.

THE BEST TIMES TO DRINK WATER ARE; one glass half an hour before each meal, another glass two hours after each meal and one glass before going to bed.

Greg Blain is an accredited Naturopath and a Bad Backs Champion.
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