Water is the universal solvent. It is important in every natural chemical reaction and covers about 71% of the Earth. Water has hefty chemical and physical properties, and it is widely accepted that complex macromolecules and the ancestors of life had their beginnings in water billions of years ago. Water is a main component of the human body and all life forms, and it is essential to life as we know it. Indeed, the adult human is composed of 60% water, 75% of the brain and 90% of the blood. Why is that the case, and what roles or benefits does water and maintaining hydration play in our part to thrive and survive?
Water as a solvent
Water is referred to as the universal solvent due to the layout of the molecule. Its ability to form hydrogen bonds with negatively charged particles and the electronegative oxygen molecule at the heart of water can bond to positively charged atoms. Many different solutes can be dissolved into water, such as:
- amino acids (the building blocks of all proteins)
- sugars needed for energy
- various salts or electrolytes which are necessary for nerves
- heart function
- fluid balance
This phenomenon is vital for the transport and solvation of these, and other solutes needed in the physiological functions, metabolism, energy creation and utilization in cells, tissues, and organs.
Due to the bonding and binding properties of water, it is a necessary medium for chemical reactions to occur in. Water acts also as a chemical reactant and resulting product for numerous chemical reactions, where water may have a hand in making new molecules or in splitting other molecules apart. Water is also an important molecule for maintaining pH. These processes occur in all cells at any given time.
Lubricant and building material
Water is a main building material and is contained within the jelly-like fluid found in all cells of the body. It also acts to lubricate our joints and as a shock absorber as the synovial fluid within joints are composed of water. Water is also the main component of saliva, tears, eyes, mucus in the respiratory system and the digestive tract. Also, in amniotic fluid surrounding a developing fetus in utero, as a moisturizing agent for the skin, and in cushioning and preventing friction to structures contained within sacs or cavities such as the heart, lungs, central nervous system, and abdominal organs.
Thermoregulation is a relationship between blood vessels, the brain, muscles, and skin, but importantly, water. Water has a high capacity for heat, meaning that it is relatively resistant to significant changes in temperature, and is therefore able to moderate body temperature. Water, mostly in the form of blood, can distribute heat throughout the body via circulation, and when the ambient temperature is hot, the body cools itself by moving blood to the skin’s surface for sweating. The opposite is also true when the surroundings are cold.
Blood, waste, and nutrients
Water is a main transport agent. As the blood (cardiovascular system), and interconnected lymphatic system, circulate important nutrients, waste, immune cells, oxygen and carbon dioxide-carrying red blood cells necessary for gas exchange, clotting factors and other substances throughout the body.
Water balance and effects of dehydration
Given the important role water plays in our everyday survival, a lack of water or dehydration can be serious in a brief period if not corrected. Water is vital for maintaining blood volume and blood pressure. Blood pressure is required to perfuse all vital organs with blood, and a drop in blood volume through dehydration will have deadly effects on maintaining blood pressure and heart function to compensate for this distress in normal function. Therefore, water balance is very important.
Water balance is maintained mainly through the actions of the kidneys and urinary system, but is also affected by respiration, defecation, and sweating.
The adult male and female require about thirteen 8 oz and nine 8oz cups per day, respectively. This is just a general guide, and these recommendations are different depending on the age, with elderly persons and infants being specifically prone to dehydration and at a more rapid pace.
To ensure that you are consuming adequate levels of water, take note of the following signs of dehydration:
- Thirst or extreme thirst in advanced dehydration
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Inability or cessation of sweating in a hot environment and feeling overheated.
- Constipation: Drinking too little, especially if consuming a high fiber diet, can lead to excessive water reabsorption or low fluid quantity in the stool and results in hard lumps of stool that are difficult to pass.
- Dry skin
- Irritability and confusion
- Low urine output and dark, odiferous urine.
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pain- maintaining good hydration, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, low-impact exercise and taking an anti-inflammatory, joint rebuilding supplement such as JointFuel360, can help relieve joint pain associated with arthritis and injury.
Encouraging good hydration
As a general rule of thumb, your urine should be pale in color and you shouldn’t allow yourself to become thirsty, as that is an early sign of dehydration. There are certain behaviors you can employ to provide adequate hydration, such as:
- If you are leaving the house to go for a walk, to attend work or school, or to run errands, always bring a water bottle, preferably a reusable bottle.
- Keep water at hand, so that you might sip on it throughout the day.
- Try to limit alcoholic beverages as these are not healthy, contain a high number of calories and sugar and dehydrate the body.
- Limit consumption of pops, juices, coffee and teas with added sugar high in calories and low in nutrients and fiber.
- Make water and low-fat milk or milk alternatives the preferred choice.