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How Nutrition Works

The Importance of Water

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Water regulates your body temperature. 

It may not be as sexy as vitamin E or as trendy as beta-carotene, but water is the true nectar of the gods because it is so essential to life. Without it, you wouldn't live long -- four or five days at most.

Every part of your body relies on water. Your blood, for example, is more than three-quarters water. Other body fluids, like saliva and digestive juices, are based on water, as is urine. You couldn't get rid of body wastes without it. Almost every chemical reaction in the body takes place in a water medium, and water also lubricates and protects the joints, organs, nose, and mouth.


Most clever of all is how your temperature stays near that magical 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body needs water so that when you get hot, you can sweat. The water you sweat off then evaporates on your skin, cooling you down. Without it, you'd suffer heatstroke.

Water Levels

So how much do you need? Generally, you should drink six to eight cups of water a day. Although you can get by on less, drinking this much water is especially kind to your kidneys and colon, because it helps to flush toxins out of your body. When you drink a lot of water, the toxins can't hang around too long and cause damage to your kidneys or cancerous growths in the colon. In fact, drinking plenty of water may be the simplest of all disease-prevention tips.

Why not just drink when you're thirsty? Because your body's thirst-o-meter isn't very reliable. You should drink about three cups more than your thirst tells you to. And as you get older, your body loses the ability to tell when it's thirsty, making it doubly important to drink water even when you don't crave a cool drink.

Water Wary

Is your water safe? Milwaukee was not the place to be in 1993. Nearly 400,000 people were stricken with diarrhea and vomiting from drinking the public water, which had somehow been contaminated with the Cryptosporidium organism.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that thousands of people in the United States and millions worldwide get sick every year from drinking water. Some scientists think the incidence is higher, but in any event, bacteria like Giardia and Cryptosporidium do pose risks to public water supplies.

Fortunately, most people don't get sick from low levels of contamination, but those whose immune systems are not at 100 percent--infants, elderly people, patients receiving cancer treatments, and people with HIV infection -- are more susceptible. They may want to find out if local health officials post advisories when organism contaminants are too high.

Organisms aren't the only problem, though. If your image of lead poisoning involves peeling paint in a rundown tenement, think again. Experts now warn that water is a significant source of lead -- and not just in older houses. New faucets are particularly likely to leach lead into water. Exposure to lead is especially dangerous for pregnant women, infants, and young children, causing brain damage that results in learning difficulties. It can also injure the kidneys, nervous system, and red blood cells.

Another aspect of nutrition that you have probably been hearing a lot about lately is carbohydrates. Should you eat all carbohydrates? No carbohydrates? In the next section, we will help you separate fact from fiction with an in-depth look at carbohydrates.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.