Water! Too Much of a Good Thing?
Water! Too Much of a Good Thing?
by Peter Laker
Over the years I have observed in my herbal practice that more and more people come in to see me carrying a litre or more of bottled water.
Quite often during the course of an initial consultation that lasts one and a half hours, my patients will need to relieve themselves up to 3 times. It seems that they are under the impression that drinking vast amounts of water will keep the body clear of all toxins.
Where did this idea come from
I have researched high and low and cannot find the source, and yet many practitioners recommend 8 to 12 X 8 ounce glasses of water a day without understanding where this philosophy comes from. I’m beginning to believe it is an urban myth!
However, I have discovered through observation, the negative side effects of consuming too much water.
How much is too much
It is said that the average person needs about 2 liters daily or 8 X 8 ounces a day which includes all fluid intake, including food and beverages. One problem I have encountered is that most people, including health practitioners, believe that the 2 liters of water should be on top of the amount consumed in food and beverage.
Look to nature.
Animals will drink when thirsty, not before. Try to force an animal such as your pet dog, cat or bird to drink when they are not ready, it’s impossible. Obviously the more active they are the more they drink. Often, even when pets are sick they will not eat or drink much until their condition improves.
Given that it is against our nature, why do we force ourselves to drink so much water Many of my patients tell me how difficult it is to drink so much water, but they will persevere because they believe that it will do them some good. They spend the entire day from the moment they wake until bedtime trying to gulp water. These days I see many people from all walks of life with water bottles in their hands constantly taking a sip. I won’t go into the various types of water they are drinking because that is another matter altogether.
We eliminate about 2 liters of water a day through urination, perspiration, breathing and through bowel excretion. Most of this water loss is replaced with foods such as fruits, vegetables, even meat, as well as beverages including juice, coffee and tea. The amount will vary depending on the individual's health and their lifestyle as well as the climate one lives in. I think we are quite capable of determining our body fluid needs depending on our state of health and how active we are.
Certainly there are circumstances where our fluid requirements are greater. For example, strenuous exercise, or extending oneself beyond normal every day activities, can cause a loss of water and minerals through perspiration. This is when we need to replace that loss.
Also, when the weather is hot, there is the need to replace that fluid lost through constant sweating.
Increased fluid intake is also justified in certain health conditions such as urinary infection’s or kidney stones that need to be flushed out, not to mention fevers, diarrhea or vomiting which also warrant an increase in fluid intake to prevent dehydration.
a water poem
The water you are about to drink
Deserves a second thought, I think;
For Avogadro, oceans, and those you follow
Are all involved in every swallow.
The molecules of water in a single glass
In number at least, five times out-class
The glasses of water in stream and sea,
Or wherever else that water can be.
The water you're about to taste
No doubt represents a bit of the waste
From prehistoric beast and bird,
A notion not at all absurd.
The water in you is between a' betwixt
And having traversed you is thoroughly mixed;
So someone slaking a future thirst
Could easily drink what you drank first.
The fountains spraying in the park
Distribute bits from Joan of Ark
And Adam, Eve, and all their kin;
You'd be surprised where your drink has been.
The water you cannot retain
Will some day hence return as rain,
Or be beheld as the purest dew,
Though long ago it passed through you.
Dr Verne N. Rockcastle
When an individual drinks too much water it can cause a loss of minerals vital to the function of our entire system, through excessive and frequent urination. Potassium, for example is integral to the proper function and maintenance of our musculature, including the heart, not to mention the delicate balance of sodium in relation to all other minerals in our system.
What does this mineral loss do to the body
Symptoms of potassium deficiency:
High blood pressure, congestive heart failure, heart arrhythmias and palpitations, depression, fatigue, weakness, tiredness, constipation, muscle cramping, stiff or sore joints, bradycardia, sensitivity to loud sounds, headaches originating from the cranium and neck, clouded mind and lack of concentration, numbnesss and tingling, nausea, and vomiting are all symptoms of mineral difficiencies.
Symptoms of sodium deficiency:
Confusion, fatigue, decreased levels of consciousness.
The symptom I most often see as a sign of potassium deficiency is a dry mouth, dry eyes, twitching eyelids and leg cramps, especially at night. When someone has a dry mouth, they want to drink more water which compounds an already bad situation.
Potassium deficiency can also be caused by thiazide drugs which are diuretics used for high blood pressure, however they do not spare potassium, a side effect I often see in my practice. The patient may have heart palpitations as a direct result of the potassium loss which can be extreme at times, as well as muscle twitching or cramping, especially at night as a result of this mineral deficiency. Potassium gluconate supplementation usually gets rid of the symptoms.
Often excess water can force the kidneys to over function causing a condition called water intoxication otherwise known as hyponatremia, where our naturally occurring sodium becomes diluted in the bloodstream. This happened recently to a marathon runner who drank excessive amounts before and during a race and eventually collapsed. The diluted sodium in the blood along with sodium loss through excessive perspiration can cause a serious mineral imbalance leading to coma and even death.
I have worked with many patients over the years with health conditions directly related to excess water intake, problems that were resolved very quickly by decreasing the volume.
A gentleman was being monitored for abnormal heart rhythm, the cause of which was never found, however he was told to eventually consider surgery if the problem persisted. He was never asked how much water he was drinking. Once the amount of water was decreased the irregular heart rhythm was resolved.
A patient consulted me for herbal therapy because he suspected a prostate problem. He was making frequent trips to the bathroom, especially at night. His problem was resolved when he stopped drinking his 10 to 12 glasses of water a day. He now sleeps through the night.
So how much should we drink
The best advice I can give is to drink when one is thirsty or when your fluid requirements need to be increased during exercise or in hot summer months. Drink only purified fresh water as opposed to carbonated drinks, alcohol and coffee or tea. Fresh fruit or vegetables juices are an excellent alternative because they not only give you pure water but a whole host of necessary minerals which are lost through sweating and urination.
Individuals following a healthy diet, with a balance of fresh fruits and vegetables along with fresh juices do not need to drink excessive amounts of water on top of it. However, I think if one has up to 4 glasses of water a day on top of regular beverages that amount will not cause potassium or sodium imbalance.
Although our bodies are comprised, to a large degree, of water, it is not necessary to “re hydrate” as often as we have been led to believe. A healthy, balanced diet, and moderate water intake will allow our bodies to stay healthy and in balance. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day can very well be “too much of a good thing”.