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8 Common Myths About Dehydration

Monday, 23 August 2010 13:35

Written by selected from Experience Life

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8 Common Myths About Dehydration
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Water plays an integral role in nearly every biological process in the body. Everything from controlling the body’s thermostat to regulating blood pressure to taking out the trash relies on water to get the job done. Yet, for such a life-and-death nutrient, most of us take water for granted.

Sure, we know we should imbibe, but how much? Does the water in caffeinated drinks, like Hydrationcoffee and soda, count for or against us? And should you drink before you’re thirsty or wait for your thirst signal to kick in?

“A lot of what we think about water is sheer guesswork,” says Elson Haas, MD, an integrated-medicine physician in San Rafael, Calif., and the author, most recently, of Staying Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts, 2006). “A lack of research has led to a lack of knowledge. In fact, most of what people think they know about water isn’t even true.”

To get beyond confusing water myths and delve into some commonsense wisdom, we tapped several experts on water intake and human health. Here are the ins and outs of keeping your body well watered.

Myth No. 1: Dehydration is relatively rare and occurs only when the body is deprived of water for days.

Reality: Low-grade dehydration (versus acute and clinical dehydration) is a chronic, widespread problem that has major impacts on well-being, energy, appearance and resiliency. Christopher Vasey, ND, a Swiss naturopath and author of The Water Prescription (Healing Arts Press, 2006), believes that most people suffer regularly from this type of chronic dehydration because of poor eating and drinking habits.

Chronic dehydration can cause digestive disorders because our bodies need water to produce the digestive juices that aid the digestive process. If we don’t get that water, we don’t secrete enough digestive juices, and a variety of problems — such as gas, bloating, nausea, poor digestion and loss of appetite — can ensue.

Bottom Line: If you’re not actively focusing on hydrating throughout the day, there’s a good chance you could be at least somewhat dehydrated, which could be negatively affecting your energy, vitality and immunity — as well as your appearance. Experiment with drinking more water throughout the day. You may observe an almost immediate difference in your well-being, and even if you don’t, establishing good hydration habits now will do many good things for your cellular health over the long haul.

 

Myth No. 2: Your body needs eight, 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

Reality: Your body does need a steady supply of water to operate efficiently and perform the many routine housekeeping tasks that keep you healthy and energetic.

That said, there is no scientific evidence to back up the very specific and well-worn advice that you need to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day (a.k.a. the 8 x 8 rule). In 2002, Heinz Valtin, MD, a retired physiology professor from Dartmouth Medical School and author of two textbooks on kidney function, published the definitive paper on the subject in the American Journal of Physiology. He spent 10 months searching medical literature for scientific evidence of the 8 x 8 rule only to come up empty-handed.

In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), a division of the National Academy of Sciences, actually set the adequate total-daily-water intake at higher than 64 ounces — 3.7 liters (125 fluid ounces) for men and 2.7 liters (91 fluid ounces) for women. But those numbers refer to total water intake, meaning all beverages and water-containing foods count toward your daily quota. Fruits and veggies, for example, pack the most watery punch, with watermelon and cucumbers topping the list.

But the “it all counts” dynamic cuts both ways. Vasey believes that many people suffer from low-grade, chronic dehydration because of what they are eating as well as what they are drinking. The “I don’t like water” crowd could probably make up their water deficits by eating the right kinds of foods, he asserts, “but most don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Instead they eat meat, cereals and breads, which don’t have much water and contain a lot of salt.”

Animal proteins require a great deal more moisture than they contain to break down, assimilate and then flush from the body. And many processed foods, such as chips and crackers, for example, are nearly devoid of moisture, so — like dry sponges — they soak up water as they proceed through the digestive system.

The body requires only 3 to 5 grams of salt a day to stay healthy, but most people gobble up 12 to 15 grams of the stuff daily. To rid itself of the overload, the body requires copious amounts of liquid.

Bottom Line: If you want to stay optimally healthy, hydrated and energetic, it’s a good idea to eat plenty of water-containing foods and drink water throughout the day. And when in doubt, it’s probably not a bad idea to make a point of drinking a little more water, rather than a little less. But that doesn’t mean you need to down eight glasses exactly, or that if you run a little shy of 64 ounces, then something awful is going to happen. Just be aware that the fewer vegetables, fruits and legumes you are eating, and the more dried, processed or chemical-laced foods you include in your diet, the more water you’ll need to consume to compensate.

 



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