Foundations of Good Oral-Systemic Health: Water

When you think about what your body is made of, you probably think of things like skin, bone, your brain, your blood – big, solid stuff. But truth be told, we’re made much more of stuff that you can’t see, at least not with the naked eye. For instance, scientists estimate that we contain 10 times as many bacteria than human cells.

As for the part of us that is human? We are mostly water – as much as 75%. It’s in our bodily fluids. It’s in our brains. It’s in each and every cell. Every single bodily process depends on it. Only oxygen is more important – and even then, not by much. As with oxygen, no water, no life.  

 

 

Fortunately, most of us will never have to deal with extreme, life-threatening dehydration. Unfortunately, most of us still remain chronically dehydrated – as many as 75% of us, according to some researchers. (Why that is, we’ll get to in a minute.) We get enough water to go on living, of course, but the ongoing shortage means that our health falters. It’s like with our current drought: The plants in your yard may not all die, but they certainly don’t thrive.

Common health issues observed in those chronically dehydrated include

  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Joint pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive disorders
  • Sleep issues
  • Skin disorders
  • Liver, kidney or bladder problems

Dentally, chronic dehydration contributes to dry mouth. Because saliva helps cleanse and protect your teeth and deliver nutrients needed to remineralize the enamel, chronic dry mouth raises your risk of caries (tooth decay), gum disease and other oral health problems.

Clearly, if you want good health, you want water.

Why You Might Be Thirsty – Even If You Don’t Feel Thirsty

Every day, we lose water through sweat, waste products, breathing and routine cellular function. About 20% of it is replaced through water in food. The rest of it, we need to drink.

And sodas, juices, teas, coffee and other liquids just aren’t going to cut it. Sure, they contain a lot of water, but they can also have other ingredients that aren’t healthy in large amounts – sugar being the big one – or that interfere with absorption. Some may actually cause you to lose water through more frequent urination. (Caffeine is an amazing diuretic.)

Similarly, the sugars, excess salt and chemical additives and preservatives in processed food products can also interfere with your absorbing enough water. (Some pharmaceutical drugs are dehydrating, as well.) Eating a lot of such products means we need even more water to offset their dehydrating qualities.

How Much Water Do You Need?

Normally, most of us need to drink half our weight in ounces of water each day to stay hydrated and healthy. If you weigh 150 pounds, say, that means 75 ounces a day; 200 pounds means 100 ounces; and so on.

Some recommend drinking this in 4 or 6 ounce increments. Others others say you should sip it through the day. We say, you need to do whatever works for you. For some, keeping a refillable water bottle always at hand helps them remember to drink often. Others like “water breaks” to break up or structure their day.

Whatever works.

What Kind of Water Do You Need?

glass of waterOne thing that doesn’t work is water straight out of the tap – particularly if you live in an area like ours, where fluoride is routinely added. (According to their website, the Alameda County Water District fluoridates at levels a touch higher than the current federal recommendations but which they say are “within the State-specified control range.”) While there’s evidence that fluoride applied directly to the teeth may be helpful, the same can’t be said for swallowing it. Rather, the evidence suggests it’s risky business. As one review of the science summed up:

Fluoride has modest benefit in terms of reduction of dental caries but significant costs in relation to cognitive impairment, hypothyroidism, dental and skeletal fluorosis, enzyme and electrolyte derangement, and uterine cancer. Given that most of the toxic effects of fluoride are due to ingestion, whereas its predominant beneficial effect is obtained via topical application, ingestion or inhalation of fluoride predominantly in any form constitutes an unacceptable risk with virtually no proven benefit.

Use the CDC’s search tool to find out if your local water supply is fluoridated.

Fluoride can be filtered from your water, but a Brita or similar unit isn’t enough. Currently, the main methods for removing fluoride are reverse osmosis or activated alumina defluoridation filters. Both are quite expensive, and the former has the added effect of stripping out other minerals, as well.

Your next best option for pure, healthy water is bottled spring water. It’s crucial that the label indicates “spring water” and not just something like “purified water.” Most major brands of bottled water are merely filtered public water and thus apt to contain fluoride.  Spring water may contain low levels of naturally occurring fluoride, but it will not have it added in as public water does.

Even better is alkaline water, which has a higher pH than tap water and appears to help clear heavy metals and other toxins more effectively from the body, boost your metabolism and absorb nutrients more effectively. While some bottled alkaline waters are available, there are also home units that will both filter and alkalinize what comes out of your tap. While some of these can be quite expensive, small countertop and portable units are available for a few hundred dollars or less.

That may seem like a whole lot to go through just for the sake of water, but again, getting enough good quality water is foundational to good health. Your health is worth it because YOU are worth it!

 

 Image by Greg Riegler