Note: This is the third of a 3-part series that explains, in practical terms, how beneficial water is to the human body. If you haven't read Part 2, you can view it here.
Water, a nutrient vital to all life, doesn’t get the same media attention as do prescription medications, injections and surgeries when it comes to preventing and curing disease. Therefore, don’t expect your MD to enlighten you on the healing benefits of water next time you go for a visit. But feel free to share this information with friends and family.
All drinks are not created equal
In this article, we cover what types of liquid are good and bad for hydrating.
You may wonder why we can’t just drink those sweet, pleasing soft drinks we find on the grocery aisles. After all, they contain water and make us feel like they quench our thirst, right? Not quite. This is where the misconception sets in.
As far as the chemistry of the body is concerned, all waters are not created equal. Some drinks have a strong hydrating capacity and some are weak.
Those popular and well-marketed beverages contain chemicals that alter the body’s chemistry at its central nervous system’s control centers.
To get more details on this, written in plain terms, we suggest you read the paperback "The Water Prescription" by Dr. Christopher Vasey.
So what are the characteristics a drink should have to be most beneficial?
For optimum hydration, a drink should be easily assimilated by the digestive tract and cross easily through the walls of the capillaries and cellular membranes. It should not contain any irritating factors when drunk regularly in large quantities.
As you've probably concluded, the drink of choice is: water.
Because all drinks are composed largely of water, it is generally believed that they all contribute to hydration—so what we drink doesn't matter. This is not the case. The components of certain drinks retard or obstruct hydration.
Below are two major classes of beverage, as covered in Dr. Vasey's book.
Drinks with a STRONG hydrating capacity
Water (obviously). Simple, plain drinking water.
Infusions: The leaves from plants (mint, verbena, etc.) give water a pleasant aroma and flavor as well as variety. The water in infusions easily penetrates the body, so they do a good job of rehydrating the body—unless the plant used for the infusion has diuretic properties, which then thwart rehydration by making the kidneys excrete more water. When diuretic infusions are drunk exclusively, the volume of liquid eliminated by the body is greater than that ingested.
Otherwise, and for the most part, the medicinal properties of plants won’t have a negative effect on the body’s assimilation of water.
Fruit and Vegetable Juices: The water in fruits and vegetables is a very effective means of hydrating the body.
With that said, you want to limit your consumption of pure juice, the kind that you would buy in a bottle or carton. Most people can easily drink a full glass of orange juice, but far fewer would want to eat, at one sitting, the 3-4 oranges necessary to create that same quantity of juice.
To maintain our harmonic balance with nature and avoid taking in too high a concentration of nutrients, minerals, sugars, and so on, we should consider juice a secondary resource. We believe that eating your fruits and veggies is better than drinking them.
Drinks with a WEAK hydrating capacity
Any drink is inevitably composed mostly of water, so why should it not hydrate you?
Here's why. It’s all about what’s in the drink.
Coffee, black tea and cocoa: These are quite high in purines, toxins that must be eliminated from the body. So while you take water in from these beverages, a good portion of it is used to eliminate those toxins. The end result is a weakened capacity for hydration.
Milk: Many people consider milk as a drink. It is actually a food, the first food of the newborn. While the hydrating properties for infants is undeniable, this does not mean it is a suitable beverage for an adult.
Commercial soft drinks: These contain mostly refined white sugar or artificial sweeteners, fragrances, acids, coloring agents, and for colas, caffeine (from the cola nut).
Because of their caffeine content, these drinks make a person lose water. Caffeine is a diuretic because it elevates blood pressure, increasing the rate of the production and elimination of urine. Therefore, the water consumed with these drinks travels through the body too quickly.
The high sugar content in these drinks also gives the body a hard time when it comes to metabolizing properly, and the body has to surrender water to correct it.
People who drink soft drinks regularly are in fact, chronically thirsty! As their thirst is never truly quenched, they must always have something more to drink.
Alcohol: Wine, beer and hard liquor obviously induce an altered consciousness (drunkenness) long before enough liquid has been absorbed to have a hydrating effect.
Another disadvantage with alcohol is that it removes water from the tissues it contacts and dries them out. The toxic substances in them require a great deal of water to be diluted and flushed out of the body.
The major portion of the liquid you drink daily should consist of water. Even if you continue to consume those drinks with low hydrating properties, they will not provide the same hydration as plain water.
Now, WHICH water to drink and WHERE it should come from is a whole 'nother topic. These days, you many choices: bottled water, tap water, filtered water, and so on.
If you're interested in learning more about the pros and cons of each, this is explained extremely well by Colin Ingram in his book “The Drinking Water Book”. He also covers what pollutants you should be concerned about, and how to find out if your water contains any of them.