According to some, most of us suffer a wide array of maladies from not drinking enough water. Don’t believe it? Check the internet, everyone says so.
I have just started writing a feature about everything that I drink. I get many questions about health and nutrition issues, particularly about how I train and prepare for races. Therefore I figured I would share some of my routines, not that I am any real expert, but I have spent a significant amount of time figuring out what works well for me. I decided that talking about my own drinking habits would be a good starter.
As a racer and athlete I drink lots of liquids. As for writing about it, before I start anything, I typically do some internet research. Actually it seems that I spend a little bit of my day, every single day, doing research of some topic or another. As someone who is constantly on the internet, I am exposed to all sorts of crackpot ideas and, once in a while, a great idea. My Facebook friends seem very willing to pass along every crazy theory that comes along.
For this feature about my libation habits, I started out to look for statistics on coffee, green tea, Gatorade and so forth. I hardly got started this morning when a Facebook post popped up telling me that I was chronically dehydrated, probably because I don’t drink my 8 glasses of water a day. What a coincidence. How Facebook knows all this about me is still a mystery?
Are 75% of Americans really chronically dehydrated as the claim states? Are you dehydrated? Those are what the statistics say. Someone’s’ statistics that is, but I am not sure exactly who. According to my Google search, the claims of dehydration are everywhere. With so much positive reinforcement of the concept, there must be some truth to it.
The eight glasses a day theory has been around for a long time. Apparently there are 12 or more symptoms and ailments that are the result of not drinking enough. According to some published material, pretty much everything that might be wrong with you is the result of low water saturation. You name it; fatigue, constipation, joint pain, acid imbalance, weight gain, skin problems, even premature aging are all the result of missing your eight glasses.
As I do with all talk of the things that are going to kill or poison me, I keep one very important thing in mind. Human beings are pretty resilient, if we were all going to die because we don’t detox or buy organic, we would have long since faded away. Therefore, I am a skeptic about nearly everything that claims our health habits are wrong.
Getting back to our water. What is the basis for the eight glasses per day claim? As it turns out, no one really seems to know, not even the experts. It seems that it may stem from a 1940’s era suggestion of balance between calories consumed and the liquids required for proper digestion. But this was apparently supposed to include all forms of liquid ingested. This later evolved into the 8 glasses. Essentially there is no specific scientific data to support this as anything more than a suggestion. Additionally this is probably well beyond what the average person would require.
As for the rest of the purported aliments caused by lack of water, many stem from popular media and books such as “Your Body’s Many Cries For Water”. Here is the Amazon.com pitch for the book:
For the first time in medical history, F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., has identified the crisis calls of the body for water –pain, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and more. He has discovered the key to a longer, healthier, and more vigorous life. He shares with you his medical breakthrough that many people put their minds and bodies under intolerable and unnecessary stress and become sick simply because they do not drink enough water. Unintentional dehydration leads to illness and painful, degenerative diseases that can be prevented, treated, and cure by drinking plenty of water.
You will learn how to use water to: * Prevent and reverse premature aging * Eliminate pains including heartburn, back pain, arthritis, colitis pain, anginal pain, migraine headaches * Cure asthma in a few days, naturally and forever * Cure hypertension without diuretics or other medication * Lose weight effortlessly and naturally, without strict dieting
Furthermore, the credibility of this work is continually fostered by glowing book reviews such as the following;
…this book will leave you in no doubt that America’s deplorable and desperate health care crisis is born of dehydration, midwifed by medical inability to deal effectively with diseases whose etiology in dehydration is not understood (1).
…it is very apparent that this work is revolutionary and sweeps nearly all diseases before it. As an Internist/Cardiologist I find this work incisive, trenchant and fundamental. This work is a God send for all.(2)
As any rational person might expect, this is all bunk. The good Dr F. Batmanghelidj appears to have never been licensed to practice medicine in the US. But he continued to claim years of clinical studies and trials to support his work. No such support has ever been recognized in any medical or scientific group.(3)
What amazes me are the number of pseudo health websites that seem to have swallowed this story hook-line-sinker and are just as quick to pass it on as a great revealing truth. Most of these all contain a byline by someone with a bunch of letters after their name. I suspect that the bottom line is money, people have something to sell and here is an idea which supports their agenda. Bogus health claims are big business.
What do the real experts say? If you are thirsty, drink! It certainly seems like I could have come up with that. Now don’t get me wrong, I love water. It is the very first thing I do every day, drink a big glass of it. Often I drink far more than 8 glasses per day. Some days that is what I need. I drink lots of other things too.
Water is perhaps the most important tool an athlete has, but like anything else, the proper use is important. While not as common, too much water can significantly hamper performance. I have seen first hand instances of heat stroke and exhaustion from racers who continuously drank water throughout a race, but failed to replace the electrolytes.
The point is to just be careful of the myriad of ideas floating around the world that want to tell you of all the bad things which are out to get you and the magic cure that will fix it, for a slight fee of course. Like so many others, there is a large grain of truth at the heart of this concept, that is what makes any snake oil pitch credible.
Next up I will indeed talk about some of my other favorite beverages and why I choose them (for better or worse). In the mean time, check out the Snopes link below (4) for a common sense discussion of the 8 glasses issue.
If you have any interesting comments, rebuttals or insights, be sure to share them with us.