You may be wondering where to turn when trying to choose the healthiest way to stay hydrated in this complex, information-overloaded world we live in. It’s refreshing to know that the answer is actually quite simple: it’s water.
We ingest fluids daily to satisfy our thirst. These fluids vary from pure water to teas, soda, coffee, juices, etc. While most fluids are water-based, they do not have the same effect on our body as pure water does. Water is fundamental to all life on earth, and pure water is fundamental to optimal health. The famous French bacteriologist Louis Pasteur in the 1870s stated that “We drink 90 per cent of our illnesses.”
What on earth was he talking about?
When exploring the virtues of water to human function, you need only to understand that your body is composed of approximately 60 per cent water. A 70 kg person is made up of about 42 kg water. Water is a primary component of all bodily fluids: blood, urine, lymph, digestive juices, sweat. It bathes our cells so they stay healthy, and it supports necessary chemical reactions that keep our body functioning. Approximately two-thirds of the water we consume comes in the form of pure water and other beverages, and the remainder comes from the food we eat.
What to look for when assessing health-potential of water
If water makes up such a vital component of our body, it follows that the volume of water consumed, the form in which it is consumed — pure versus some other beverage — and its quality can have a dramatic effect on one’s health.
It’s been demonstrated that adequate hydration reduces the likelihood of overeating and improves the function and health of human beings. At my naturopathic clinic, I recommend to patients that they consume approximately two litres of pure water a day to meet their physiological water needs.
The volume may need to be adjusted upward depending on the temperature of an individual’s environment, exercise intensity and the amount of dehydrating substances — such as alcohol, coffee and sugar — he or she ingests. Since your body requires approximately 2.3 litres a day of fluid replacement, the remainder can come from other beverages and food. Tea, coffee, juice, soda and other types of fluids do not count as part of the two litres. While these fluids will keep you from becoming dehydrated, they do not replace the healthy components of water your body requires.
What are the parameters of good, healthy water? Fortunately, these can be measured. Measuring devices that give you information on the quality of water you drink are available. Water is routinely tested for toxins, organisms such as bacteria and other contaminants. While identifying and removing impurities from water is essential for good health, several other parameters should be tested to establish whether or not you are drinking water that is giving you optimal health benefits. These include pH, redox potential and resistivity.
The optimal pH level of water is about 6.5-6.8, or slightly acidic (the pH range is 1-14, with 7 being neutral, that is, neither acidic nor alkaline). If the water is too acidic or too alkaline, this can upset the normal pH level of your body and create unhealthy stress.
Measuring the redox potential (rH2) indicates whether the water has the capacity to donate electrons to the body. Available electrons in water provide energy to the body by way of cellular respiration and an oxygen-dependent process known as the Krebs cycle. The body needs electrons to make necessary chemical reactions happen. The ideal range on the rH2 scale is 25-28. While electrons come from food, too, it is essential the water we drink provides energy-rich electrons to help replenish and maintain the high proportion of water our body needs.
Resistivity (r) is a measure of the mineral content of water. Ideally, water will have a resistivity of at least 6,000 ohms, which indicates a fairly low mineral content. Minerals from water are poorly absorbed compared to those found in our foods, so water with a high mineral content can put undue stress on kidneys and other organs and tissues in the body.
These parameters make for good water that supports our bodily functions. Teas, sodas and juices should not be used as a substitute for water because they don’t meet the above parameters. While vegetable or fruit juice can provide nutrients and may be a healthy complement to your diet, drinking just juice might alter your body’s normal pH in a detrimental manner over time.
If you consumed only soda pop or even fruit juice as a principle source of fluid, your pH level would likely be low or acidic and the rH2 levels too high. Such an acidic environment can set the stage for disease.
Go to the source
Although water with a high mineral content is often marketed as therapeutic, I don’t recommend it — for the reasons outlined above. Also popular is distilled water, which, while considered ultra pure, should be avoided for drinking. It has the opposite problem of mineral water in that it has no minerals, which means the body has to draw on its own mineral stores. Perhaps this is what Louis Pasteur was talking about when he suggested we drink 90 per cent of our illnesses. Being aware of this and acting on it might make a huge difference to your health over time.
You might now be wondering how to make sense of this on a day to day basis. The packaging on most of the bottled water we consume when we are on the go won’t have the information needed to assess the water’s quality. But drinking bottled water is still a better option than drinking other liquids, such as large volumes of juice or soda. I suggest people look to their major water source, which for most of us is the municipal water supply in our homes, and spend a bit of time to make sure this source meets the health parameters outlined above.
To help ensure that it does, tap water should be dechlorinated and then processed using a reverse osmosis filter, which should produce almost pure water. To take it a step further, measure this water for the three parameters mentioned above. If it comes close to the ideal ranges, you can be assured you have pure water that you can rely on to meet your health needs.
In considering what beverages to consume on a regular basis, good old dependable water is your best choice. Critically thinking through your beverage choices and their effects on your body can have a positive impact on your overall health.