How often have you visited the doctor with a minor illness and been prescribed water? “Keep your fluids up and get plenty of rest.” It’s one of the most underestimated medicines, and it’s absolutely free! No health insurance needed, no hidden costs for prescriptions. What’s more, in our westernised modern world, we can rest assured our water is safe, accessible and drinkable, and can come from thousands of taps across the city we live in. But what is it that makes water the best medicine? How does it help us to keep healthy, and to get better when we are ill? We’ve got some great information about water and it’s endless benefits that will have you drinking a load of the good stuff from the moment you finish reading this post.
Our bodies are mainly water - around 60%-70% of an adult body is made up of it, so depriving yourself of the water you need will have a big impact in a short amount of time. We can last a few weeks without food, but with no water serious health implications will begin to show with the first couple of days, and it’s estimated a week is the longest any human could go without fluids. We do of course get some water from foods and other liquids, but water is the most effective way of getting your body the fluids it needs. That makes water an important, if not the most important, nutrient our body requires to survive.
We all know drinking water is good for you for many reasons, but perhaps the most vital role of water is to leave our body out the other end - the function of our kidneys in removing dangerous toxins from our body through our urine is impossible without adequate water supplies. Urea Nitrogen is the main toxin in our blood, created when proteins are broken down in the liver. The kidneys then remove the urea nitrogen from our blood and pass it through to be removed from the body through our urine. The key fact in this process however, is that urea nitrogen is water soluble. Without the water part, there can be a build of the toxin in our blood and in our kidneys, causing a lower immune system, illness and in some cases, kidney stones. With enough water, however, the kidneys are able to do their job in dissolving the harmful urea nitrogen sending it out the body.
Although it can’t categorically get rid of a virus or infection, water certainly aids and speeds up the process your body goes through in repairing itself when you do fall ill. Take for example a fever. Biologically speaking, a fever is triggered when your immune system detects a potential problem that needs to be removed. The thermostat in our brains, called the hypothalamus, allows overall body temperature to increase and helps us retain that heat. That heat then helps to get on top of the problem, stopping any bacteria or virus from reproducing and spreading as the conditions are too warm. Your body will also carry the heat away from your vital organs through the water in your blood, and send it out through your sweat glands, helping to protect you from the fever that’s being created by cooling you down where you don’t need to be warm. All this puts added strain on the rest of your body, so your metabolism can increase, your digestive system stops working effectively, and sometimes your muscles shake or you lose control of your limbs. The entire process requires much more water than normal, not only to replace sweat, but also to support all systems in your body which are now putting all their attention on fighting the bacteria or virus. If you were to stop drinking whilst battling a fever, you are at greater risk of dehydration, which will in turn make your body temperature too high and your fever much worse, requiring much more serious medical attention.
The moral of the story? Drink enough water. If you’re someone who doesn’t drink until you’re really thirsty, you’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel and look by simply prioritising keeping your fluids up throughout the day. Guidelines say around 2 litres of water a day is the target to aim for, which is around 8-10 glasses, but really the key is to sip on water or other non-alcoholic drinks throughout the day, to prevent ever feeling thirsty.
If you have a fever lasting longer than three days, or that rises above 103F, run your symptoms through Isabel and talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns.
Mandy has worked for Isabel Healthcare since 2000. Prior to this, she was a Senior Staff Nurse on the Pediatric Infectious disease ward and high dependency unit at one of London's top hospitals, St Mary’s in Paddington which is part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Her experience in the healthcare industry for the past 28 years in both the UK and USA means she's a vital resource for our organization. Mandy currently lives and works in Scottsdale, Arizona.