May 17, 2010

Our body of water

by Steve Yap

Water is the most abundant ‘nutrient’ in our bodies and on planet Earth. When we were born, our body had 75% of water. By the time we reach middle or old age, our body retains 50% or less water.

Generally, overweight or obese youngsters have less than 50% body water. Women tend to have more body fat than men and so they, too, have a lower percentage of water compared to men. 

Fat cells store no water. Water is stored mostly in muscles. Those with low muscle mass tend to have less body water. The lack of body water is referred to as ‘dehydration’. 

If your body water drops by as little as 2% of your body weight, your physical and mental functions and physical performance are impaired.

Many people do not even notice anything abnormal with such a small loss of water from their bodies. They may not know that some of their mental and physical functions are being compromised by this dehydration.
When water loss reaches 7% of body weight, the body may collapse. 

Due to its crucial role in human physiology, nutritional medicine regards quality water as an essential ‘nutrient’ just like protein, essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins.

We lose about two litres of water per day depending on our body mass, working/living environment, diet, lifestyle, and physiological problems. Two-thirds of this water loss is through urine. One-third is lost through sweating (skin), breathing (lungs), and in the stools. 

In a state of dehydration, most water loss comes at the expense of our cellular health. Without healthy cells, we cannot have healthy organs for our body to function at its optimum. 

Essentially, nutritional medicine and (more recently) anti-ageing medicine reverse chronic health disorders by targeting these problems at the cellular levels. 

If you do not have adequate body water, you may suffer from one or more of these consequences of dehydration:

- obesity (including youngsters and children);

- constipation; urinary bladder stones; higher risk of coronary heart disease; salivary gland malfunction; sleep disorders;

- thicker blood and poor blood flow; higher level of body toxicity and wastes; weak overall mental performance; early exhaustion during exercising;

- loss of muscle mass after weight or resistance training; increased incidence of lower back pain; and increased risk of cancers of urinary tract, breast, colon, and rectum.

Signs & symptoms
The signs and symptoms of dehydration include the following: dry lips/mouth; feeling ‘heaty’; hard stools; sunken eyes; wrinkles; fatigue; low pain tolerance; poor control over allergies; low mental performance; weight (fat) gain; and low urine output despite adequate water intake.

We all need at least eight glasses of water a day but it may not be adequate to meet the needs of every adult, taking into account factors such as levels of muscle mass and physical activities. 

Recent research suggests that even our DNA and genes are able to perform their functions only with sufficient intake of quality water.

Alkaline/acid water
The crucial acid/alkaline balance is created by the amount of ionisation, which splits water into two parts, namely hydrogen ion (H+) and hydroxide ion (OH-). When both these molecules are equal in number, the water is deemed to be ‘neutral’ and has a pH of 7. 

When the body neutralises large amount of acidic liquids (soft drinks, alcohol, sugary beverages, coffee, and packaged fruit drinks), it may not be able to neutralise acidic wastes generated by its metabolic processes such as lactic acid, uric acid, sulphuric acid, and phosphoric acid. 

When the body’s supply of alkaline buffers is overwhelmed, these toxic wastes accumulate causing chronic health disorders including gout, allergies, diabetes type II, hypercholesterolemia, and cancers. 

Yes, creating an alkaline internal environment is considered in nutritional medicine to be a key cancer-prevention strategy. 

While the kidneys work hard to maintain blood pH at 7.4, we tend to lose minerals in the urine after consuming an acidic meal. 

Alkalinising diet improves bone density, nitrogen balance, and serum growth hormone concentration whereas an acidic diet contributes to bone loss, osteoporosis, and loss of muscle mass (Frassetto et al, 1998). Furthermore, drinking sufficient water with a pH of nine or 10 helps detoxify the body.

Views expressed here are those of the author, who’s president of the Federation of Complementary & Natural Medical Associations, and not necessarily those of the professional bodies and government committees of which he’s a member. Dato’ Steve Yap can be contacted at: