The world’s most precious natural resource is water. If we also look at how our body mirrors the world in terms of its proportion of water at around 75%, it is also our body’s most precious resource.
We can manage without food for a surprisingly long time. In 1992 James Scott managed 43 days fasting. Some stories, though they cannot be authenticated but are nonetheless noteworthy and should not be dismissed, are of people lasting for many years without food. Giri Bala is said to have lived for 66 years without food, taking her energy from yoga and the sun and air. Similarly Devraha Baba is claimed to have fasted his whole life.
Fasting has come into the limelight in recent months following Michael Moseley’s coverage of the 5:2 fasting diet on BBC’s Horizon programme. This ‘diet’ is not strictly a diet as such, but a dietary lifestyle whereby the body goes into cellular repair rather than cellular renewal if fasting for 2 days out of 7 are followed. The fasting in this programme actually consists of consuming less than 500 calories a day for women and 600 calories per day for men. The results in terms of improvements to health and reduced risk of chronic disease were impressive.
Of course many practitioners and health enthusiasts have understood the benefits of fasting for many years and have employed fasting as an opportunity to allow the body’s digestive system to rest and cleanse, and likewise the 5:2 diet is very successful at doing this too, as well as being very effective for those wanting to lose weight, namely visceral fat. Visceral fat is the fat that even a slim person can deceptively carry around and is the biggest risk factor to chronic systemic disease like diabetes and heart disease.
However much we play around with our diets and food, living without water, (depending on the temperature and climate, how much fat you have in your body, and how much activity you do in that time), you’d last at tops only about 12 days. If you live without water but still with food, depending on the food quality, (as living food as opposed to processed food contains a lot of water), you could possibly survive a few more days, maybe for an average of about 2 weeks.
When we consider that we are made up of 75% water and the brain close to 80%, it is surely common sense that any depletion in our stock of water is going to have a big affect our ability to function. But how many people are conscious of giving their bodies the 2 litres of water a day, and I mean water, they require to function at maximum health and effectiveness?
Everybody drinks fluids and it is well known that without fluids we would perish very quickly. However, the vast majority of people drink little or no water preferring tea, coffee and soft drinks. These are probably the same people who are likely to suffer from poorer health and will project this in their demeanor with poor sleep patterns, mood swings, food cravings and energy dips throughout the day. These people seem to have lost their natural instinctive need for water. On top of this our body’s first messages of dehydration through symptoms of ill health are dealt with by ‘medical practitioners (who) have been taught to silence these signals with chemical products.’ As demonstrated by Dr F Batmanghelidi, and documented in his book ‘Your Bodies Many Cries for Water’. Whilst imprisoned and with limited resources, water was the most basic medicine available to the prisoners he treated, and was shown to have an enormous positive effect on their ill health.
What is less understood by the majority of people are the essential messages and information that are carried in the water within our bodies to help them function fully. Water is first and foremost a message carrier of hormones, nutrients and chemical messengers and the body’s water content was once incorrectly assumed to act only as a space filler or packing material.
Our bodies lose on average 2 litres of water a day through sweating, breathing and urinating. So if we are not drinking the recommended 2 litres of water a day where is all this fluid coming from? Our bodies need fluids to function; every organ needs fluid to achieve its job effectively in the form of blood, bile, gastric juices saliva etc. Our very clever ‘water management’ system will transport nutrients to reach the more vital organs. When we do not replace the fluids lost, our body does what it needs to, to remain functioning as well as it can and tries to keep us as well as it can with limited water resource. The body will then start to utilize some of the water normally used for the body’s functioning, which in turn slowly depletes our body’s water supply.
Common signs of lack of fluid where it is required within the body and an increasing dehydration problem include, surprisingly, greasy skin, skin eruptions, dry eyes, constipation and inability to produce fluid on ejaculation. None of these are considered life threatening but can make life very uncomfortable for the sufferer. With lack of water our bodies start to contract. Like any machine, when fluids are lost, it functions for a while less well, but still functions making the adjustments it can with what is available. Eventually the body will become so depleted it will become unwell.
The importance of proper hydration cannot be emphasized enough if good health is to be achieved and maintained. When the body becomes dehydrated cellular cleansing becomes impaired and toxicity starts to build up and the all essential flow of the electrolytes sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium in and out of the body’s cells is no longer achieved effectively. When the electrolyte function is impaired then disease starts to present itself.
The person who is dehydrated will mimic what is happening within the cell, becoming very closed off, stuck and withdrawn from the functioning around it. In extreme cases the brain has been seen to lose up to 40% of its normal hydration, a shocking fact when the brain is uppermost in the preference of allocation of water supply. The person no longer identifies with the world around them but becomes very insular and isolated in their response, seemingly almost cut off, very clearly seen in cases of bipolar and autism. By the same token, when hydration occurs and the dehydration alert is switched off. The newly hydrated, well and ‘open’ person will have a radically different experience of the world around them. A better connection is made with their surroundings and they are better able to interpret messages both inside and outside of their body.
In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the water element represents fear and anxiety, an abnormal amount of this emotion reflects an imbalance of water in the body. Of course fear is part of our survival instinct and makes us react in dangerous situations. However an imbalance can cause the body to be constantly in an anxious, fearful state and locked into the survival fight or flight mechanism.
According to TCM both fear and stress are held in the water and the fear only becomes negative when it is allowed to rule our entire lives. We then start to feel fear in situations that do not represent the danger we imagine they do. Fear in turn stops us doing things, depletes our energy and restricts our lives. Good examples of this would be phobias, nightmares, panic or anxieties. When fear is allowed to rule our lives, we may become isolated and suspicious of others. Stress plays the largest part in diminishing our hydration and will quickly register on the water component. It results in the body’s electrolytes balance becoming disturbed and as the body dehydrates it also loses essential minerals. As Dr Barmanghelidj surmises ‘chronic dehydration is the root cause of most major degenerative diseases of the human body.’
Here are 7 great strategies you can use to ensure your body is properly hydrated everyday!
1. As soon as you wake up start your day with a pint of water with some lemon juice – add some hot water if you feel the need to drink it at a warmer temperature – this way you are already establishing a good habit for the day and have had a large amount of your daily requirement
2. Invest in a good quality stainless steel 1 litre drinking bottle to take to work and make sure you finish it, (avoid plastic containers where possible as they leach chemicals into the water)
3. Make a weekly chart tick off each time you have 1 of your recommended 8 glasses a day – after 21 days you have established a new habit
4. Add fruit to your water to make it more interesting – lemons, limes, oranges
5. Set a timer or reminder on your phone at regular intervals throughout the day to drink a glass of water, (there is a great free App called ‘Tell Me Later’)
6. Always carry a small stainless steel bottle with you when you are out and about and keep one in the car and take regular sips
7. Make a list and keep it visible as to why drinking water everyday is a good idea – for example – better quality sleep, regular bowels, great skin and hair, more energy!
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Your Body’s Many Cries For Water - Dr F Barmanghelidj, (Tagman Press, 2007)