In the Tackling Tobacco chats and message boards, I often
recommend drinking lots of water. As with breathing, water is one of those obvious health
enhancers that many people, including health professionals, overlook.
While researching material for this article, I was very surprised to
find that only one out of every four health books mentioned water. Water is vital to life,
and it is cooling, soothing, refreshing, healing, detoxifying and tasty as well!
There are many good reasons to drink water, and many
different ways to use water for self-help. Water is a miraculous compound of hydrogen and
oxygen molecules that helps to make life possible on this planet. All living things rely
Our bodies are composed of 65 percent to 70 percent water,
with women having less water and more fat in their bodies. Every cell and every system in
the body is dependent on water for healthy functioning. Without water, we will quickly
become dehydrated and die, usually within seven days.
Every day, we can lose four or more
pints of water through our breath, saliva, tears, urine, stools and sweat. The fluid that is
lost must be replaced. If you exercise, especially if you exercise vigorously, you will
need to increase your water intake by up to 50 percent. On average, you should drink at
least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. But if you have exercised, cried,
sweated or urinated more than usual, you may need to drink more, even up to 16 glasses per
Some of the water that we require comes from food. Just as
our own cells contain water, so do the cells of the food we eat. Generally any water-based
fluid will help to satisfy our water needs, except those beverages that contain caffeine,
salt, carbohydrates or sugar. Drinks containing these ingredients may cause you to
dehydrate or retain water. Beneficial beverages include water, mineral water, herbal teas,
fruit juices or vegetable juices. Try to moderate or avoid soft drinks, coffee, processed
fruit or vegetable juices, and alcohol.
Many health educators recommend getting your daily fluid
intake between and before meals, and to minimize or avoid beverages during a meal. Often,
if you drink beverages during a meal, they allow you to swallow food in larger pieces
without thoroughly chewing it. Without drinking a beverage, you will chew your food
better, enjoy your meal more, eat more slowly, and even eat less.
Instead, precede your meals -- even breakfast -- with a
glass of water. This strategy often will help to reduce hunger and you will eat less. If
you must have a beverage during your meal, try to limit it to one-half cup to one cup, and
drink in sips and not in gulps!
Think in terms of "preventing thirst," rather
than drinking water "in response to thirst." Thirst can be an unreliable signal
in the early stages of dehydration. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Common
signs of dehydration are fatigue, headaches, dryness of the eyes or nasal passages,
inability to concentrate, dryness of the mouth, and dizziness. These symptoms, which many
people experience daily and may believe are from other causes, may really be the result of
lack of water.
When you do not drink enough water, your body tends to hold
on to the water that it does have, thus reducing kidney function and the elimination of
waste products. When this happens, your liver must flush out the impurities in your body,
which hampers its ability to perform one of its main functions -- metabolizing stored fat
into usable energy.
Thus, aside from its life-giving properties, water also
helps with weight management. When your body burns fat for fuel, some of the fat may be
burned incompletely. These partially burned fat by-products are called "ketones."
Your body can use these for fuel, but if there are too many to use, it will dispose of
them in your breath or by passing them out in the stool or urine.
The more water you drink, the more urine you make, the more
ketones pass out of the urine, and the more weight you can lose. You can maximize your
calorie burn by drinking ice water because your body requires more energy (about 200
calories for every gallon of ice water) to warm it to your core body temperature.
Water not only cleanses inside the body, it cleanses the
outside of the body and it can be a soothing therapy for the cravings and irritability
that often accompany changes in your tobacco habit. Soaking in warm or hot showers and
baths, swimming in cool natural springs or hot spas, splashing your face with cool water,
and soaking your feet in warm water are all recognized as effective tools for reducing
stress and cravings. Water simply has the magical ability to make us feel better, inside
If you are planning to reduce or quit your tobacco use, be
sure to include a variety of water strategies in your plans!