The Four Elements: Water
So many people don’t drink water, or enough of it, regardless of knowing that “it’s important”. But do they really understand just how important it actually is? In Chinese medicine, the water element is known as the essence of life. Without it, all other elements, and their associated organs, would not be able to function or remove waste products. When switching back to conventional views, this statement holds true especially when considering over half our body content is made up of water. Therefore, water is and should be treated as an essential nutrient.
Water is considered yin in nature, as opposed to yang, meaning it’s used by the body as building material. Water is required to build blood with 98% of blood plasma being water. In fact, water consumption directly increases blood volume which has an impact on blood pressure levels and by association circulation. Water also makes up a large percentage of muscle. Studies show even a 1-2% dehydration can cause a decrease in physical performance such as endurance as well as causing negative impacts on cognitive function such as alertness, concentration, and short-term memory. Water also acts as a building block for the brain. A brain lacking water shrinks away from the skull as it decreases in volume and is part of the reason why those who are dehydrated develop headaches. Therefore, without water the body wouldn’t be able to build blood, muscle, or brain.
Aside from acting as a building block, water is required for many other body functions. Most obviously, water is required for tissue perfusion as seen in the skin. Those who don’t consume enough water can present with a dull, dry, sunken complexion. Increasing water consumption is an easy way to keep the skin moist from the inside out. Aside from the skin, water does literally the same thing for every other organ (including reproductive ones for my fertility patients) in your body. Water is also important for transporting nutrients in and chemicals out, for any chemical reaction using hydrolysis (think food breakdown), and thermoregulation.
Furthermore, if we don’t drink water our bodies go into dehydration. Our bodies can survive far longer without food than they can without water. When under situations of severe dehydration, we can experience things like speech incoherence, extreme weakness, dry axilla, and sunken eyes. As mentioned before we can also experience symptoms of dehydration even with small percentages of water loss. Symptoms of dehydration seem like enough evidence to prove the importance of H2O.
In closing, an essential nutrient is a nutrient required for normal body functioning that can’t be synthesized by the body. Without it, we would not survive and is why water should be treated as an essential nutrient. If you are now motivated to drink more water, I’m sure you’re wondering just how much you should be drinking. Funny enough the well known statement 8 x 8 oz glasses of water a day was actually never based in research, but instead widely repeated from something someone said in an interview one time. However, that recommendation does come pretty close to those made by various nutrition advisory councils. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, general recommendations are 2.7 litres of total water for women, and 3.7 litres for men. Total body water does include sources coming from beverages and food, with an average ratio of 80:20 respectively. If this seems overwhelming, start by adding one glass of water right when you wake up in the morning, you might be amazed at the changes you notice pretty soon after doing so. Happy hydrating!