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 Drink More Water - And Other Healthy Uses of H2O 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by . View all columns in series
All humans come from the water - evolving from the creatures of the sea, bathing in the uterus of the mother. Everyone is primarily made of water, which accounts for about 70 percent of our overall body weight.

Water is essential to balanced health. The body relies on it for digestion, cooling, elimination, and the circulation of nutrients to every cell. Low-level dehydration is commonplace, and many people are unaware when this occurs since they do not feel thirsty. So drink up! Eight big glasses of clear pure water a day is a good recommendation to follow. Don't assume that you are getting enough water from the foods you eat and the beverages you consume. Many water-based beverages, like coffee and soft drinks, contain caffeine and sugar, which actually have a dehydrating effect. More water is required to aid in their digestion and metabolism.

Unless your system is flushed regularly from the inside out, toxins from food and air will accumulate in fat cells (everyone has them), muscles, and joints, causing pain and stiffness and various health problems. Most kidney stones, for instance, consist of urates, phosphates, oxalates, and other wastes that have crystallized from urine that was too concentrated to be excreted as dissolved solids. To protect against this kind of accretion, drink lots of water. Constipation and headaches are often the result of insufficient water in your system. If your feces are hard and small, and sink rather than float, this may also indicate that there is not enough water in your diet.

If you could accurately assess your body's need for water, you'd probably find that you are at least two quarts low.


Drinking plenty of water also aids in maintaining your ideal weight, since water provides oral gratification and gives you a temporary sense of fullness. Some types of overeating may be the body's way of compensating for the lack of water it craves.

Many urban water supplies contain industrial pollutants such as lead, asbestos, and mercury, as well as agricultural chemical pollutants from aquifer contamination and surface water runoff. These accumulate in the body over time. Consider using bottled spring water that has been tested by an independent laboratory (call or write the bottling company), or attaching a high-quality filter to your spigot.

Other Ways to Use Water for Better Health
Now that you consider water to be a necessary part of your diet and a source of inner cleansing, look at some of the ways that it can refresh, cleanse, and heal you from without.

  • Showers. Alternate hot and cold water to aid circulation. Showers are also great for washing away the accumulated tension and worries of the day as they relax your body and break up the psychic residue left by the negativity of others with whom you have interacted during the day.
  • Baths. Nothing tops a bath to help alleviate muscle soreness. If your bath is warm enough to make you sweat a bit, it is providing the added benefit of releasing wastes through the steam-opened pores of your skin. For relaxation, fill a tub with comfortably hot water and add a few drops of mild bath oil to moisturize your skin, or add your favorite scented oil. Light a candle. Burn some incense if you like. Have a glass of juice. Play some soft, slow music. Nurture yourself.
  • Swimming. Regular swimming is a great form of aerobic exercise. Or you can exercise in water to achieve similar benefits. Whether you know how to swim or not, it is therapeutic just to get in the shallow water and splash out your frustrations or problems. Be a child again - play!
  • Sweating (in a sauna, steam bath, or sweat lodge) or soaking (in a spa, hot tub, or mineral springs). These ancient remedies for stress and pain are as valuable today as they have been for centuries. If you can't get to a spa, soaking your feet in the bathtub or a basin at home is a simple way to enjoy and heal yourself.
  • Hot compresses. Grate some fresh gingerroot and wrap it in cheesecloth. Place the bundle in a large pot of water. Heat the water, but do not let it boil. Turn off the heat and soak a towel in the water. Carefully remove the towel; let it cool until it is comfortable enough to handle, then wring it out. Apply the towel to any ailing body part. Leave it on until the heat is exhausted. Then do it again.
  • Rituals. Compose a ceremony in which you use water to symbolically cleanse your body, mind, and soul from illness, darkness, "sin," and painful memories. This is a beautiful way to love yourself.

Go get yourself a big glass of water right now. Drink it slowly and experience it with all your senses.

Reprinted with permission, from Simply Well by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan. Copyright 2001. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA.

The online version of Dr. Travis' Wellness Inventory may be accessed at ( The Wellness Inventory may also be licensed by coaches, health and wellness professionals, and organizations.

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 About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of ...moreJohn Travis MD, MPH
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