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Water: The elixir of life

Many people wonder, “How can I easily and affordably improve my health?”

The answer is simple: Drink more water.

In adults, about 60% of the body is made up of water, so for someone who weighs 160 pounds, that’s about 40 liters of water. The lungs are about 83% water, making proper hydration crucial for breathing and respiratory health. The heart is more than 70% water and relies on water to create blood volume so the heart can circulate the blood and oxygen with ease.

The kidneys and liver are basically sophisticated filters of the body. When the liver and kidneys don’t have sufficient water to do their jobs, we can’t process toxins or eliminate waste as effectively, allowing compounds to recirculate rather than exit the body.

Through sweating and respiration, water regulates our internal body temperature. Not only does it lubricate all of our joints, water also acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord. It is literally protecting our most vital organs.

Research estimates that about three quarters of our brain is composed of water. Therefore, hydration status can have a big impact on mental health, even mild dehydration. Common symptoms of not being “fluid” enough include fatigue, headaches, stress and sleep issues. In fact, the first clue you’re dehydrated is lack of mental clarity. This foggy state of being often gets chalked up to needing a “pick-me-up,” so we often reach for caffeine or sugar when we start to drag. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose water, making the dehydration situation worse, causing us to rely on more stimulants ... you can see where this will lead.

Your digestive tract is essentially a slip and slide. If you want things to run smoothly, lubricating the tube with plenty of water is key. Water forms saliva which contains amylase, an enzyme for digesting carbohydrates and stimulating hydrochloric acid in the stomach – so it’s crucial for triggering optimal digestion. Proper water intake will also improve how much nutrition you receive from your food.

Getting more water in your system can be easier than you think. Start by putting one large glass (at least 12 ounces) on your nightstand and drink the whole thing before your feet hit the ground in the morning. While you’re waiting for your tea or coffee to brew, have another large glass (bonus points for adding a squeeze of lemon to help alkalinize your system). This way, you’re starting your day well-hydrated and simply have to maintain this status, rather than play catch up.

If you don’t like plain water, jazz it up by adding mint, lemon or lime, or cucumbers. Herbal tea and bubbly water count as well. For ultimate absorption, try adding a tiny pinch of sea salt or electrolyte powder to the water so it more closely matches the salinity of the water inside your body already. A good rule of thumb to follow is to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day – adding an extra 8 ounces for any caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.

Once you are hydrated, you’ll notice at how much more energy you have, your appetite normalizes, food cravings shift, mental capacity brightens and constipation goes away. Water – it truly is the elixir of life!

Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.