Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Health Benefits of Drinking Water

By Philip Collins, D.H.Sc., M.P.H.
(Originally printed in Mother Earth News. This is an excerpt of the full article.)
A number of years ago, the Swiss put together a fine mountain-climbing team, hopping it would be the first to scale Mount Everest. Many months went into the group's preparation because of the tremendous demands that would be made upon human energy in the effort to reach the top of the world. Unfortunately, despite all that careful planning, the Swiss team had to abandon the attempt because of sheer exhaustion, not realizing that a source of relief was covering the ground all around them.
A year or so later, when a group of British climbers undertook the same challenge, their team physician, Sir John Hunt, remembered that the Swiss had consumed only two cups of water per day during their assault on the mountain. Dr. Hunt recommended that the U.K. team carry additional snow-melting equipment, since he believed that the climbers would function better if they drank more water. He felt that when working in the thin, chill air, people lose a lot of water not only through perspiration, but also through respiration, because the air entering the lungs has to be humidified as it's brought nearer to body temperature. Therefore, the doctor insisted that each British participant drink a minimum of 12 cups of water daily. That team, headed by Sir Edmund Hillary, followed his advice and became the first expedition to plant its flag on the summit of the world's highest peak.

Little-Known Scientific Facts About Water
In order to further examine Dr. Hunt's theory about how water consumption affected endurance, a Harvard physiologist, G.C. Pitts, tested groups of male athletes by putting them on treadmills timed at 3-1/2 miles per hour.
The subjects in the first group were given no water at all and were asked to walk until they were so fatigued that they could go no farther. These athletes lasted about 3-1/2 hours. Their temperatures rose rapidly during the test period and, in the exhaustion phase, finally reached an average of above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
The members of the second group were allowed to drink as much as they desired, and their temperatures didn't rise nearly as rapidly. However, after approximately six hours of exercise on the treadmill, as the men reached exhaustion, their body heat zoomed up.
Finally, Dr. Pitts chose a third group and carefully calibrated their water losses, replacing the exact amount of water lost (about one cup every 15 minutes) while the men were exercising. As a result, though they stayed on the treadmill seven hours, the test subjects did not experience a drastic rise in temperature nor did they reach exhaustion. In fact, when asked how they felt, they replied that they could go as long as the doctor wanted them to!
Several conclusions based on the benefits of water can be reached from these experiments. The first is that thirst isn't necessarily a good indicator of the body's need for water. You must, in general, drink more liquid than your thirst seems to call for. Second, there's a close relationship between water consumption and fatigue. Third, drinking water appears to have a significant effect upon the regulation of body temperature. And fourth, a more active person is in greater need of water because of the dehydrating effects of perspiration and rapid breathing.

How Much Water Is Enough?

Generally speaking, the average person loses at least two cups of water daily through the respiratory process. Another two cups are emitted through perspiration, even when no significant amount of physical work is carried on, and the intestines and kidneys together lose a total of about six cups during the day. So if you add it all together, you come up with a total loss of ten cups (and that's not counting any excess lost through perspiration during exercise).
The body cannot economize on water. Because temperature control has a very high priority in the body's operation, the human system will dehydrate itself in the struggle to keep cool. It's been reported that such fluid losses can actually reach two quarts a day in very hot climates, and people have been known to lose as much as 15 quarts in 24 hours. In fact, perspiration continues to provide cooling even when a person is dying of thirst in the desert!

As you do your day's work, put a cup of water in front of you. When it's emptied, fill it up again. You'll be astonished at how much you toss off without any difficulty. Make it a habit to stop and refresh yourself every time you pass a drinking fountain. Or try putting a pitcher containing your estimated daily requirement of water in the refrigerator, and periodically have a glass until it's used up.