Why Water Is The Key To Detoxifing Your Body

Water is, quite literally, the river on which our good health flows. Water carries nutrients to our cells, aids digestion by forming stomach secretions, flushes our bodies of wastes, and keeps our kidneys healthy. It keeps our moisture-rich organs (our skin, eyes, mouth, and nose) functioning well, it lubricates and cushions our joints, and it regulates our body temperature and our metabolism, just to name a few of its many functions.

Water also plays a crucial role in disease prevention. In a study conducted at the Centre for Human Nutrition at the University of Sheffield, England, researchers concluded that women who stay adequately hydrated reduce their risk of breast cancer by 79 percent. Another study, done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, found that women who drink more than five glasses of water a day have a 45 percent reduced risk of colon cancer compared with women who drink two or fewer glasses of water a day.

Many doctors believe that proper hydration can help prevent chronic joint diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, because water reduces inflammation and promotes cartilage health.

Adequate water consumption can also slow the signs of aging and improve conditions such as constipation, diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity, arthritis, kidney stones, dry skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and glaucoma.

H20: The Toxic Avenger

Without enough water flowing through our systems to carry out wastes and toxins, we would literally drown in our own poisonous metabolic wastes. I don't mean to sound alarmist, but this is no exaggeration. Even slight dehydration can wear down our systems in ways that seriously compromise our overall quality of life.

Just as the liver is crucial to the digestive process, the kidneys are necessary for helping the body remove water and waste. The kidneys are a pair of small organs that are located near the spine at the small of the back. They take in about 20 percent of the body's blood each time the heart beats, cleans it of unwanted substances and then produce urine, the fluid by which these wastes are eliminated from the body. Normal-functioning kidneys also control the concentration levels of body fluids. If body fluids are too dilute, the kidneys expel excess water via urine. If body fluids are too concentrated, the kidneys excrete the excess solutes and hang on to the water. In short, the kidneys are all about balancing the fluids and electrolytes in our bodies so that our systems run smoothly.

If the kidneys don't get the water they need to perform these filtering functions, our health deteriorates rapidly.

Electrolyte is the scientific term for a type of salt made up of ions that are positively and negatively charged. These are the "sparks" that transfer electrical messages across cells, and this activity is what makes our bodies function. Our kidneys work to keep our electrolyte concentrations steady, since they must be replaced constantly. If they're not, dehydration can set in, which can lead to organ damage and seizures. How can we be sure that we're getting enough electrolytes? Do we need to buy specially formulated, sugar-enhanced sports drinks? Many sports physiologists actually recommend water -- that's right, plain water -- over the fancy sports drinks that are marketed to us. Experts have found that the difference in electrolyte content between water and sports drinks is important only to elite athletes who are competing professionally in endurance events. Since electrolytes are already plentiful in the American diet, moderate to regular exercisers don't have to worry about running out of these salty ions. Edible sea vegetables, the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, are a great source of electrolytes as well as of minerals and trace elements.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys and bladder regulate the fluids in our bodies and make up the Water Element. Our kidneys are fantastic waste removers; they get rid of the waste products from protein metabolism -- uric acid, urea, and lactic acid -- but they need lots of water to accomplish this.

Traditional Chinese Medicine reveres the kidneys because they distribute qi, or vital life energy, throughout the body. The kidneys are responsible for removing excess hormones, vitamins, minerals, and foreign toxins such as drugs, chemicals, and food additives.

How To Boost Your Water Intake

Here are the tips I share with my clients on how to get enough water in their diets.

  • Drink one to two glasses of water as soon as you get up in the morning. You have been asleep for 6 to 10 hours, and that's a long time to go without any liquids. (This often helps people overcome their addictions to caffeine, as rehydrating the body and brain lead to clearer thinking and better energy.)
  • Keep a beautiful pitcher of filtered water near your work space so that you are constantly reminded to drink during the day. Fill up the pitcher with the amount of water you want to consume in the day.
  • Drink a glass of water before exercise.
  • During exercise, drink about 8 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, which have a dehydrating effect.
  • Never restrict the amount of water you crave during regular exercise.
  • Always make fluids a part of your exercise routine.
  • Bottles, bottles everywhere! Keep bottles of water in your car, at the office, or around your work areas. One client of mine bought a whole case and kept it in the trunk of her car!
  • To reduce the amount of chlorine in your drinking water if you aren't using a filter, try this simple tip: Allow drinking water to stand at room temperature for an hour or more, which will allow most of the chlorine to evaporate out of the water.
  • Drink at least one glass of room-temperature water with every meal.

© 2005, Alex Jamieson

Source: Alex Jamieson is a Holistic Health Counselor and Gourmet Natural Foods Chef. She lives in Los Angeles and New York with her fiancé, Morgan, and their cat, Sue. The Great American Detox Diet: 8 Weeks to Weight Loss is her first book. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc.

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