by Kris Parfitt
- The Capitol Hill Times -
What is the most vital nutrient required for human survival? – Chris
There is one nutrient that’s vital for our everyday balance of wellness. Too much of it depletes sodium and causes cells to fill with water, which causes our brains to swell, putting added pressure on the brain, and causes our lungs to fill with fluid. Too much of this nutrient causes hands and feet to swell, along with headaches, vomiting, and, sometimes, death. But not enough of it also causes headaches, vomiting, and, eventually, death. We may also experience dizziness, light headedness, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, and dry mouth. Studies show that not getting enough of it increases the our amount of infections, gastrointestinal problems, and need for antibiotics.
What is this most-vital nutrient? Water.
Depending on our bio-individuality, genetics, and body-fat level, humans can live up to 10 days without food, but it’s rare to find someone who can live more than four days without water. Dehydration (the result of not enough water) and hypernatremia (the result of too much water), which flushes out our electrolytes, are the two illnesses caused by clean water. A perfect balance, however, supports sustained wellness.
We’re all aware that hydration is important, but we know less about how water impacts our health, or why it’s a life-sustaining and functional nutrient in every aspect of our cellular structure.
Body water, which makes up approximately 60-75 percent of our weight, is found in our blood, tissues, bones and cells. Variations in age, gender, weight, diet, geographical location, and our overall health impact the average percentage. This intracellular fluid found in our cells accounts for roughly two-thirds of our body water, whereas extracellular fluid (water found in our blood, organs, tissues and bones) makes up for the remaining third. Not only does water make up a quantitative amount of our body systems, it’s also the solvent that moves nutrients, oxygen, enzymes, antibodies and hormones through our bloodstream, cells, bones, and lymphatic system.
Our brain is the hard drive for our body, sending signals for cells to take action. While only one-fiftieth of our body weight, and using only one-twentieth of our blood supply, brain tissue is made up 85 percent of water. Dehydration decreases energy and functionality, and increases fatigue, depression, migraines, and confusion.
Water aids our ability to simply breathe, because, in order to take-in oxygen and breathe out Co2, our lungs require moisture. The body regulates temperature through perspiration, and water lubricates our joints for greater mobility. It’s also vital to the health of our kidneys by dissolving acid, urea, and lactic acid.
The amount of water required to keep the human body hydrated depends directly on bio-individuality. Every person requires an individual, specific daily amount of water to maintain functional health. Some people need four glasses of water per day, for others it may be eight or more. Some articles and medical professionals stress that eight glasses of water per day is the minimum for each person, but keep in mind that humans digest water through food, too. Through experimentation and tracking, we can hone in on the amount of water required to be consumed each day through drinking and the amount of water-rich foods that need to be eaten to equal our perfect hydration balance.
Fruits are ripe with water. Watermelon carries the highest water content, while melons, citrus fruits, and berries are also high.
Non-processed foods don’t hydrate us, but most don’t require water to aid in digestion. For example, grains or rice aren’t processed, but if they’re undercooked, they require water to aid in digestion, thus depleting our water levels.
Then there are processed foods, which decrease the amount of water stored in our bodies because of the high sodium content and the amount of water required for digestion and absorption.
Beverages that decrease hydrations are anything with caffeine or alcohol, which can act as diuretics or suppress thirst. Drinks high in sugar or enhanced with chemical-based vitamins, or flavored with chemical-based flavors or colors don’t aid in hydration due to the body’s reaction to attempting to digest or absorb the sugar, sodium, and chemicals. But non-caffeinated, unsweetened, non-carbonated type beverages (e.g. freshly squeezed juice, frozen juice concentrate, and coconut water), are good sources for water. Vegetable, meat, or poultry broth are also viable resources.
And if you’re one of those people who find plain water boring to taste, try adding fruit to a glass of water like berries, lemon, oranges or cucumbers, which add natural flavor and provide a chewable snack, too. If that’s doesn’t do it, just remember how water aides in the wellbeing of our body, thus supporting our ability to live life well.
Have a nutrition question for Kris? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org