Water, elixir of life


I drank half a glass of water before writing this article. For, a thirsty brain does not work efficiently enough. A hydrated brain sits up, all alert, ready with words and all the skills it possesses. Ditto with a hydrated body. It gets set to stave off all illnesses and… bloom with health. And the mind? Nothing seems too much, when your brain is well hydrated. It peps up.

No exaggeration, that’s the great effectiveness of water. A humble fluid yet a fantastic health enhancer and lifesaver. Never undermine it just because it’s there everywhere, literally. Understand its immense value, why it has been made abundantly available ever since the world came into existence. It is one of the best supplements and medicines you can lay your hands on. It’s not just a necessity, but like air, it’s a super necessity. Have a few sips as you read this article and keep sipping, dear friends. I’d love to feel that you and I are together flowing in this lovely river of health and well-being…


The best breakfast ever

To be in mint condition, the body needs to maintain its 70 per cent water composition. The water keeps the body at the right temperature so that it doesn’t overheat and cause health problems. Take the first sip in the morning. After you’ve brushed your teeth, enjoy two glasses of water. And then have coffee or tea. Water is the best breakfast in the world, and an ideal way to break a fast. Those who fast formally are advised to break their fast with a glass of water before they eat. And don’t we all go on an all-night fast when we sleep?

With meals, keep sipping water or, if you want a change, go for thin buttermilk. It helps the food slide smoothly down your throat. It’s a great digestive ally. Some people feel tired after they’ve eaten. That is because the body uses up loads of energy to digest, more energy than it can handle when it is not in its optimum condition. A glass of water or two during a meal hydrates and banishes tiredness.


A litre or two a day

When you drink a litre of water in a day, you will feel pretty good. When you drink two litres, you will feel extraordinarily better, more fit, more cheerful. So, don’t let the water level fall. Keep your inner monsoon going. Every time you go to the bathroom, come out and head for the water bottle. When you perspire even a little, have a few sips.

My thumb rule is: Drink a lot when you’re thirsty, drink a little when you’re not. When you keep ­sipping, you’ll be surprised how thirsty you feel as if the body is enjoying it and saying, ‘Give me more.’ Even before or after your afternoon tea, please have some water. It’s a good practice. The benefits far outweigh the slight inconvenience of running to the bathroom more often:

  • Water beats constipation, promotes easy elimination without strain.
  • Eases digestion as it breaks down the food and washes off excess sodium which means the blood pressure stays balanced. It softens fibre in the food and prevents the bloated feeling.
  • Boosts kidney health as it dilutes minerals and salts that can later become stones. Well-irrigated kidneys are whizkids in balancing blood pressure, filtering waste and even maintaining the body’s vital 70 per cent water level.
  • Makes your skin plump up and minimises wrinkles. Flushes out toxins and leaves the skin radiantly youthful.
  • Keeps your walk or workout cramp-free. Two cups of water before training are recommended. If you stretch your legs at night while asleep and your calves cramp painfully and wake you up, it’s because the dehydrated muscles are asking for water. Water is the champ of cramp-busting any time.
  • Lifts your mood. Dehydration stresses the body, hydration peps it up. Drinking water through the day takes care of exhaustion, low moods, negative thoughts, anger or frustration.
  • Clears your mind. Lack of water causes confusion and disorientation. Adequate water re-orients: you feel more yourself.
  • Helps the immune system. How? The immune system needs its daily dose of H2O to produce lymph which helps wash out toxins and keeps the body in prime health. Often, when the body organs are dehydrated, they work slowly and listlessly and you feel fatigued and weak. Drink to feel energised.
  • Flushes out toxins. Your body does its job. Its lungs, kidneys, liver work hard to detox. They rely on water. Give it to them. When a person is recovering from a serious illness and is on strong medicines, the doctor prescribes four litres of water daily. Why? In order to help the lungs, kidneys, liver throw out the rubbish and keep the system clean and working and healing smoothly. So, please don’t take it lightly. Drink up.
  • Boosts brain performance. Studies show that being dehydrated by just two per cent lowers motor, memory and cognition skills. It beats caffeine.
  • Prevents headaches. Medical News Today calls it a dehydration headache which comes on when the body loses essential fluids. Along with the rest of the body, the brain too gets dehydrated and this makes it shrink. This shrinking becomes a painful contraction. So, if you’re prone to headaches, please keep the sips on to replenish the seepage of fluids.
  • Boon for the heart. Ah yes, it helps keep the heart hale and hearty. Doctors say water regulates the viscosity of blood and plasma. It thins the blood and reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke.


Avoid overhydration

Yet, for all that, too much water in the system is as bad as too little. And nothing brings it home more poignantly than the latest findings on the martial art legend Bruce Lee who died at 32 half a century ago. After a recent review of the evidence, with new advances, a team of experts says in the ­Clinical Kidney Journal, “We propose that the kidney’s inability to excrete excess water killed Bruce Lee.” Overhydration or hyponatremia is bad because it washes out precious electrolytes such as sodium from the body and can cause confusion, nausea, disorientation and, in rare cases, even death.

So, how much is too much? Experts say that a healthy kidney can eliminate about 27–34 ounces per hour or 676–947 ounces per day, that is, a total of 20–28 litres per day. That’s huge! Since no one can put away such copious quantities, why should overhydration occur at all? Malfunctioning kidneys, regular intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, uncontrolled diabetes, or a blockage in the urinary tract could make the body retain waste fluids. That’s why, if the body suddenly stops passing urine, it is time to consult a doctor.

So how much is safe?According to doctors, we need one litre of water for every 20kg of body weight. So, if your body weighs 60kg, you need about three litres a day. And you can include in your calculations, tea, coffee, sodas, fruit juices, vegetable soups, even sauces. A special mention here for those who may be on a low-salt diet due to high blood pressure — please do not overhydrate. Check with your doctor about how many glasses are safe for you. Exercisers need to keep  ­Electral sachets or tetra packs handy to be chugged when they perspire too much.

Ultimately, go by your level of comfort. Don’t force yourself to drink through gritted teeth and don’t ignore your thirst. Learn how much keeps you feeling healthy, fresh and all there.
As Epictetus said, ‘Only the educated are free.’


The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme


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