Detoxifing Your Body: Why Water Is the Key to Health

The importance of drinking water for optimal health

Woman drinking water seaside
Woman drinking water seaside. Guido Mieth

Water is the river on which our good health flows. Water carries nutrients to our cells, aids digestion by forming stomach secretions, flushes our bodies of wastes, and keeps our kidneys healthy. It keeps our moisture-rich organs (our skin, eyes, mouth, and nose) functioning well and lubricates and cushions our joints, as well as regulates our body temperature and our metabolism, just to name a few of its many functions.

Water and Disease Prevention

Water also plays a crucial role in disease prevention. Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Sheffield, England researchers concluded that women who stay adequately hydrated reduce their risk of breast cancer by 79 percent. Another study, done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, found that women who drink more than five glasses of water a day have a 45 percent reduced risk of colon cancer compared with women who drink two or fewer glasses of water a day. Doctors believe that proper hydration can help prevent chronic joint diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, because water reduces inflammation and promotes cartilage health. Drinking enough water consumption can also slow the signs of aging and improve conditions such as constipation, diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity, arthritis, kidney stones, dry skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Water Consumption and Kidney Function

When we don't drink enough water, our systems would not be able to carry out the wastes and toxins generated in our daily bodily functions. Even slight dehydration can wear our systems down that may affect our quality of life. Just as the liver is crucial to the digestive process, the kidneys are necessary for helping the body remove water and waste.

The kidneys are responsible for removing excess hormones, vitamins, minerals, and foreign toxins such as drugs, chemicals, and food additives. When we drink enough water we help the kidneys function better.

How the Kidneys Use Water

The kidneys take in about 20 percent of the body's blood each time the heart beats, cleans it of unwanted substances and then produces urine, the fluid by which these wastes are eliminated from the body. Normal-functioning kidneys also control the concentration levels of body fluids. If body fluids are too diluted, the kidneys expel excess water via urine. If body fluids are too concentrated, the kidneys excrete the excess solutes and hang on to the water. In short, the kidneys are all about balancing the fluids and electrolytes in our bodies so that our systems run smoothly. If the kidneys don't get the water they need to perform these filtering functions, our health deteriorates rapidly. Our kidneys are fantastic waste removers; they get rid of the waste products from protein metabolism -- uric acid, urea, and lactic acid -- but they need lots of water to accomplish this.

Water vs. Sports Drinks - Beyond Electrolytes

Electrolyte is the scientific term for a type of salt made up of ions that are positively and negatively charged.

These are the "sparks" that transfer electrical messages across cells, and this activity is what makes our bodies function. Our kidneys work to keep our electrolyte concentrations steady, since they must be replaced constantly. If they're not, dehydration can set in, which can lead to organ damage and seizures. How can we be sure that we're getting enough electrolytes?

Do we need to buy specially formulated, sugar-enhanced sports drinks? Many sports physiologists actually recommend water -- that's right, plain water -- over the fancy sports drinks that are marketed to us. Experts have found that the difference in electrolyte content between water and sports drinks is important only to elite athletes who are competing professionally in endurance events.

Since electrolytes are already plentiful in the American diet, moderate to regular exercisers don't have to worry about running out of these salty ions.

Reprinted from: The Great American Detox Diet: 8 Weeks to Weight Loss and Well-Being by Alex Jamieson. Copyright © Alexandra Jamieson. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.

Here are the tips I share with my clients on how to get enough water in their diets.
  • Drink one to two glasses of water as soon as you get up in the morning. You have been asleep for 6 to 10 hours, and that's a long time to go without any liquids. (This often helps people overcome their addictions to caffeine, as rehydrating the body and brain lead to clearer thinking and better energy.)
  • Keep a beautiful pitcher of filtered water near your work space so that you are constantly reminded to drink during the day. Fill up the pitcher with the amount of water you want to consume in the day.
  • Drink a glass of water before exercise.
  • During exercise, drink about 8 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol, which have a dehydrating effect.
  • Never restrict the amount of water you crave during regular exercise.
  • Always make fluids a part of your exercise routine.
  • Bottles, bottles everywhere! Keep bottles of water in your car, at the office, or around your work areas. One client of mine bought a whole case and kept it in the trunk of her car!
  • To reduce the amount of chlorine in your drinking water if you aren't using a filter, try this simple tip: Allow drinking water to stand at room temperature for an hour or more, which will allow most of the chlorine to evaporate out of the water.
  • Drink at least one glass of room-temperature water with every meal.

Reprinted from: The Great American Detox Diet: 8 Weeks to Weight Loss and Well-Being by Alex Jamieson. Copyright © Alexandra Jamieson. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.