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"And God said, let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear and it was so. And God called the dry land earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he seas: and God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:9, 10
The earth's reservoir of water
We have about 326 million cubic miles of water covering 70 percent of our planet. There is in addition an untold amount of ground water and water vapor in the atmosphere. For the last 6,000 years of earth's history this same water supply has been recycling itself through an endless process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. All along the way it services and nourishes every form of plant and animal life. It unselfishly brings its blessings, lingers until its job is done and then departs, many times carrying a load of waste materials which it kindly delivers to some other life form down the line as useful food.
Water in the human body
Water is the most common molecule in the human body. Adults are about 45-75 percent water, depending on the percentage of body fat—fat cells contain less water than muscle cells. Muscle tissue, about 50-70 percent water, contains approximately ½ of the water found in the body. No wonder one feels weak when short of water. Blood is up to 80 percent water, brain grey matter 70-85 percent and bones 20-33 percent. Approximately five eighths of the body water is inside the cells and three eighths is outside, between the cells and in the circulation.
Respiration, digestion, circulation, glandular secretion, temperature regulation, waste elimination, and virtually every body function, require water. Water helps to lubricate, insulate, protect, and give flexibility to the muscles, ligaments, and joints.
Water for the outside of the human body
We also need water on the outside. The days of the "weekly bath, whether needed or not," are gone. Even if we do not get obviously dirty from manual labor outdoors, our pores are constantly at work secreting perspiration, body oils, and wastes. Thus our skin is benefited and our overall health improved by daily bathing, either in a tub or shower. Even washing the body with a washcloth while standing at the sink will do.
Water is even more than a nutrient and a cleanser. Its many uses externally as a tonic, stimulant, sedative, and healing agent make it nature's elixir, if there ever was one. Warm water is relaxing. A short, cold bath or shower tends to stimulate. Prolonged cold depresses.
Water, in all its forms, (ice, liquid, and steam) can he used to make thermic impressions on the skin. As these temperature changes are sensed by the nerves in the skin, they cause profound reactions all through the body that have a direct effect on health and healing. There are whole books written on the subject of "hydrotherapy" or "water treatment," as it is often called.
One example of such a treatment is the use of ice packs to lessen the swelling of an acute strain or sprain. After the initial trauma has subsided, alternating hot and cold applications to the affected area increase the circulation, thus bringing in fresh blood to repair the damage and to carry away wastes, speeding up the healing process and lessening pain.
Infections and inflammations can also he treated with alternating hot and cold. The hot and cold also stimulates the action of the germ-killing white blood cells, helping them to do their job better.
A congestion headache, or almost any pain caused by congestion or swelling, can be treated by applying cold over the affected area while at the same time immersing the feet in hot water up over the ankles. The cold tends to "push" the congestion away while the heat draws or "pulls" it away, thus equalizing the circulation and reducing the swelling and pain.
The human body recycling effort and making up the gap
The body recycles all but about 10 of the 40,000 glasses of water that it uses every day. About 400 gallons of blood pass through the kidneys each day, and about 50 gallons is actually filtered. Of this amount only about 5-6 cups of water are lost in the urine. Another 2 cups is exhaled through the lungs in the form of water vapor, ½ cup is lost through the bowels and 2 cups are evaporated from the skin through the 2 million sweat glands located there. Of the 10 cups of water lost per day, we gain about three cups in the food we eat and another one and a half is available as a byproduct of energy metabolism. This leaves five and a half cups of water per day that must be replaced by drinking water. Of course this is the minimum requirement. It is a healthful idea to drink more than that to insure that we have all we need.
Several factors can increase our daily need of water. living in a hot, dry climate or at higher altitudes, as well as physical exercise and sickness, can increase our need by 80% percent or more. An excessive amount of salt, sugar, or protein in the diet requires more water to process. Vomiting, diarrhea, lactation, and even a runny nose increase water loss and must be replaced by drinking water.
Symptoms of dehydration (not having enough water) include thirst, dry mouth, lethargy, mental confusion, reduced skin elasticity, sunken eyes, fever, scanty dark urine, accumulation of urea, creatinine and sodium in the blood, thickening of the blood, shock, constipation, kidney and bladder infections and stones, and elevated hemoglobin/hematocrit readings. A 20 percent water loss usually spells death. Thirst is not necessarily a good guide in insuring that we are drinking enough. We usually need more water than we realize.
How to get enough water down
A systematic approach to water drinking is best. Here is one suggestion. Drink 2 glasses (16 oz.) upon arising. This is a good internal cleanser first thing in the morning. Then, another 2 glasses midmorning and 2 more mid afternoon. Another way is to take a quart with you in the morning and sip it all morning and then another quart in the afternoon and do the same. More water than this amount may be needed, depending on the circumstances.
By increasing our water consumption we decrease the work load on the kidneys, whose job it is to cleanse the blood. It's like washing a load of dishes in a full kitchen sink versus doing the job in a small bowl. Much of the so-called tired blood is probably dirty blood in need of a good internal bath.
It is best to avoid drinking anything for 10-15 minutes before eating and for 1-2 hours after meals. This practice improves digestion, as the digestive juices are not diluted. Also, very cold water is not good to drink with meals because it arrests digestion temporarily. Very cold water also deadens the thirst signals so that one would tend not to drink enough. The best water to drink is slightly warm or cool. Hot water just before meals is a good medicine when one is sick.
Plain water alternatives—bad and better
However, drinks like tea, coffee, cocoa, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages, are better avoided, as they contain some unhealthful ingredients and actually increase thirst by acting as diuretics. Many people prefer these beverages to the taste of their drinking water. Bad taste is usually due to algae, minerals, gases, or organic chemicals in the water. However, small amounts of impurities in the water are less harmful than either reliance upon these substitute fluids, or not drinking enough water.
There are healthful herb teas that are much better than regular tea. Cereal beverages such as "Postum", "Pero", and "Roma" have a coffee-like taste and can take the place of regular coffee. 'These products contain no caffeine at all and no caffeol (a stomach irritant) which even decaf coffee still contains.
Carob is a naturally sweet and nutritious substitute for chocolate. It can be made into a hot-cocoa type of drink. Carob candy may or may not be a health treat, depending on the other ingredients added to it.
For alcoholic beverages there are nonalcoholic sparkling fruit juices, or sparkling mineral waters. These drinks will not mar that special occasion as alcohol so often does.
Soft drinks can't win. If you take out the added caffeine, there is still the sugar. Remove the sugar and caffeine, and there are still the acids that contribute to calcium excretion and bone demineralization. How about good old water in place of the pop? An occasional fruit juice may do. But these should not be overused because they are really a refined product. You get a heavy dose of the fruit sugar, and sometimes a lot of added sugar as well, without the fiber. Remember, it takes five oranges to make a glass of orange juice. Watch out for the sodium content of some vegetable juices. Pure water is still the best choice to drink. A little lemon or mint in a pitcher of cool water makes normal tap water quite pleasant to drink.
Sources of drinking water
There are four sources of water: precipitation (rain, snow, et cetera), groundwater (underground reservoirs and springs), surface water (lakes, rivers, et cetera), and sea water. Only about 3 percent of the earth's water is fresh, but most of it is frozen in glaciers and icecaps. There is plenty of fresh water up in the sky—about 326 million cubic miles of it. Little drinking water is obtained directly from the sky or the oceans. We get about half from surface sources and half from ground sources. We are almost entirely dependent upon precipitation filling our rivers and lakes. It is estimated that around 4.2 million million gallons of rain fall on the United States each year, only 6 percent of which is used by man; 70 percent evaporates or is used where it falls, and 24 percent returns to the sea.
Surface water tends to have more suspended matter, plants and microorganisms; but fewer minerals than ground water. Ground water is usually more potable than surface water, and there is much more of it—twenty times more, the equivalent of 20 years of solid rain on this country. About 30 percent of the surface water comes from ground water percolating up to the top. Although only about 2 percent may be currently considered polluted, most of it is near population centers, where it is used for drinking. And when it does get contaminated, it takes much longer to cleanse itself due to the lack of oxygen, sun, and movement.
Sources of water pollution
About half of the water pollution problem stems from leaking gasoline storage tanks, storm sewers, sewage treatment plants, septic tanks, and industry. The rest comes from parking lot runoff; lawns, agriculture, and construction sites. These sources not only affect surface water, but solvents and pesticides are also able to slowly trickle down through the ground to the aquifers deep beneath the earth's surface.
The age-old pollutants, viruses, bacteria, and other microbes are still with us, producing polio, colds, flu, hepatitis, cancer, typhoid, salmonella, cholera, amebic dysentery, shigella, myelitis, and other diseases. Many of these organisms get into the water supply through public bathing, cesspools, outhouses, septic leach, inadequate water treatment, and the lack of good sanitation. Most of the time these can be controlled by proper sanitation and chlorination. Chlorine, for all the good it has done in controlling microorganisms, may facilitate later chronic ailments. The chlorine combines with various organic chemicals, producing chloroform and trihalogenated methanes, which may promote atherosclerosis and cancer of the rectum, colon, and bladder. The risk-to-benefit ratio of adding fluoride to our water (to prevent tooth decay) is still being debated.
In view of the sheer volume of contaminants now being introduced daily into our water supply, nature is overwhelmed in her purification efforts. Our efforts toward cleaning up our water have not kept pace with our polluting.
Purification—small scale and large
Hopefully, we will see more innovative solutions to the water-pollution problem. At least there are methods of insuring pure drinking water with home-treatment units if these are needed or desired. But how long can we survive if we continue to pollute at the present rate? Whatever the answer to that question and whichever way we decide to go with our management of earth's resources, we do have this assurance from God: Our abused earth is going to undergo a colossal remake in which the polluted oceans will be a thing of the past, and only pure, clear water will flow through it.
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. . . . And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." Revelation 21:1; 22:1
Compiled by Kurt Unglaub, M.P.H.
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Web page created: 1/26/99 Updated: 12/22/2003