Water: How Much Do You Know about Water and Health?

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

When it comes to health issues and management, it seems like the Eastern and Western approaches often differ. However, the perception of water and its value to your health appears to be very similar. It is a popular belief in Hong Kong, Japan and China that you should drink two cups of warm water before eating breakfast. It is recommended that you brush your teeth first, get rid of the germs in your mouth, and flush your system with warm water. There is no scientific data or research to randomize two populations to test its efficacy. However, it does make sense when you think of what water could do for your body. By drinking two cups of warm water, you hydrate your body, cleanse the dirt in your bowel, and help move the solid waste from your intestines. For patients with constipation, water is often recommended to relieve constipation before using medicine. Chinese value warm water than cold water because they believe it is more compatible with your body. Come to think of it, cold water might cause vasoconstriction, perhaps making absorption less efficient? There are many claimed benefits such as decreasing inflammation, building up immune system, and killing cancer cells. Like I said, I have not come across hard core research data to support the above claims. Yet it makes sense to keep your body well hydrated. Reviewing the education information from the Mayo Clinic, here is what I found:

Water: How much should you drink every day?

Water is essential to good health, yet needs vary by individual. These guidelines can help ensure you drink enough fluids.

How much water should you drink each day? It’s a simple question with no easy answers. Studies have produced varying recommendations over the years, but in truth, your water needs depend on many factors, including your health, how active you are and where you live.

Although no single formula fits everyone, knowing more about your body’s need for fluids will help you estimate how much water to drink each day.

Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.

Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

How much water do you need?

Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.

So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.

What about the advice to drink 8 glasses a day?

Everyone has heard the advice, “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.” That’s about 1.9 liters, which isn’t that different from the Institute of Medicine recommendations. Although the “8 by 8” rule isn’t supported by hard evidence, it remains popular because it’s easy to remember. Just keep in mind that the rule should be reframed as: “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day,” because all fluids count toward the daily total.

So at the end of the day, the East meets the West and we agree on the benefits of water. By the way, we should not count beer or alcohol as your daily water intake.

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Your homework assignment from the Care Ministry this week: look at your water intake and determine if you have the appropriate amount for you.

The Care Ministry welcomes your comments/suggestions: kunlouis@gmail.com

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