Plant-based Lifestyle

How Can I Achieve Optimal Health?

Secret #3 - Water

This series is exploring NEWSTART, an acronym that covers the principles of optimal health in an easy to remember way. Before you read about Secret #3 you might want to check out the article on Essentials for Optimal Health that gives you an overview of NEWSTART. It’s right HERE.

W stands for Water, the 3rd secret to Optimal Health. We need generous amounts of water both inside and outside of our bodies for optimal health. Let’s look at the benefits of adequate water intake as well as what your individual requirements are.

Benefits of Water

Water is indeed the body’s most essential nutrient  and is truly the No-calorie wonder. Our adult body tissues are composed of 70% water overall, while our brain is 85% water, and an infant’s body is 75% water. So we are more water than anything else. Water is important for respiration, digestion, to make saliva and tears, to control our body temperature and to give us flexible joints. It is a like oil in a car engine. It is the magic lubricant that makes everything else work.  Our water should come from one of two sources – our food and pure water drunk liberally. Other beverages cannot replace water. Coffee, tea, and caffeinated and sugary sodas all act as diuretics that cause our body to lose water instead of hydrating the body. So these beverages actually can cause dehydration in our bodies. On top of that, many of of these beverages also have phosphoric acid, which weakens the bones. Juices are high calorie and fiber free and require extra water for digestion. What about diet drinks, You might ask. Although they may not contain sugar many DO contain chemicals that are added for color, or flavor, to preserve them and other reasons. Some of these are irritating to the stomach lining and also put a load on the kidneys and/or liver to detoxify them.

Water, on the other hand has NO calories, NO irritating substances, is easy to get and is economical. Every day we lose water through perspiration, breathing, and through other organs like the kidneys that make urine, and the intestines through which waste is eventually eliminated.

Staying well hydrated is essential to good mental performance. Even slight levels of dehydration have been shown to impact mental productivity and performance. It’s an easy and cheap way to increase your ability to do your jobs, whatever they may be.


Would you ever dream of trying to wash a sinkful of dirty dishes with a single cup of water? Yet every day that you do not drink the amount of water your body needs for best function, you are forcing your kidneys to do just that. A rule of thumb for water intake in cups is –

  • 5 to stay alive
  • 8 to feel great
  • 10 to rejuvenate!

As it turns out, actual body needs for water are based on your body size. To figure a baseline amount that you need for your own body, follow the following formula.  If you take your weight in pounds, then divide that number by 2, it will tell you what your body’s baseline need is in ounces. You will need more if you are sweating a lot or exercising, you are in a very dry environment, or you are consuming caffeinated drinks. If you drink any caffeinated beverages, remember to add an extra cup of water to your requirements for every cup of caffeinated beverage you consume. If you are drinking enough water, your urine should be a very pale yellow with no unpleasant odor.

Signs of Dehydration

When don’t drink enough water the body must excrete wastes  in a much more concentrated form, causing body odor, bad breath, and unpleasant smelling urine. These include thirst and dark colored urine, headaches, constipation, fatigue and dry skin. Most people don’t think about being tired as a sign of dehydration, but it is actually closely tied to your energy levels. More water will decrease your fatigue and help you to be more energetic.  As Americans, we are consuming less and less pure water, but more and more beverages of every other type. I remember having a neighbor who was a contractor complaining of getting a headache mid morning every weekend. He was a bit puzzled, as he didn’t get headaches during the work week. After further questioning, I discovered that he carried a water bottle to work every day as part of his routine, but that on the weekend, his home routine was more relaxed but didn’t include regular water intake in the morning. I suggested that he intentionally drink several glasses of water in the morning on the weekends and, amazingly, his headaches completely disappeared! In fact, if I start feeling like I am getting a headache, the first thing I do is drink several glasses of water. Most of the time that is all that is needed to get rid of it. Because you are already dehydrated when you start to feel thirst, you will want to figure out your requirements and then plan when you will get that quantity in.


It is very helpful to digestion to start your day with a couple cups of room temperature or warm water. It enhances circulation to your stomach and helps your stomach be prepared for breakfast. If taken 30 minutes or more before breakfast, it gives your stomach a chance to absorb the water before you eat so that the water doesn’t act as a diluent to the stomach acid necessary for good digestion. Large amounts of fluids taken with meals delay the digestion and can contribute to indigestion. So for best results drink your water in the window of 2 hours after a meal until 30 minutes before a meal. So mid morning and mid afternoon are prime times for getting in the rest of your water.

Best Water Sources

For most Americans, tap water is perfectly safe. If you aren’t sure, a simple charcoal filtered setup will remove unpleasant smells and flavors quite economically. Due to this becoming more of a known issue, if you are in an older house or metropolitan area you may want to have your water specifically tested for lead levels. There is no established safe level for lead in drinking water, so you will want it to be completely lead free. If it’s not, there special filters you can get to remove the lead from water you will be drinking. If you have a household with small children, this is especially important. Distilled water is the purest form of water and has had the minerals removed. Some people don’t care for the flavor as flavor is usually from the minerals in the water. If you have well water, you can have it tested for pollutants to make sure it is good quality. In general, bottled water is just a high-priced option for drinking water and many times not any better than what comes out of the tap.



Proof Positive, by Neil Nedley

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