December 30th, 2009
Learn why the most basic of beverages is also your best choice for healthful drinking, particularly when living with chronic liver disease.
By Nicole Cutler L.Ac.
Water makes up between 60 and 70 percent of the human body. Besides preventing dehydration, consuming a sufficient quantity of water is also necessary to help an ailing liver fulfill its duties.
To encourage consuming water over less beneficial drinks, some proclaim a random standard of how much water a person should drink. However, water quantity consumption cannot be generalized, because everyone is different. Besides realizing that each individual’s water intake needs are unique, those with liver disease are especially encouraged to define their body’s water requirements.
Besides the air we breathe, water is the single most important requirement for life. Blood is mostly water, and the muscles, lungs and brain all contain a lot of water. In general, water:
· Hydrates and lubricates the body
· Moves vital nutrients through the body
· Removes waste
· Regulates body temperature
· Aids in digestion
· Helps maintain a healthy weight
If a person doesn’t drink enough water, the following possible consequences may result:
· They may not get the full benefits of the healthful nutrients ingested.
· Toxins will build up in the body, which can hinder kidney, liver and bowel function.
· They are more likely to quench their thirst with beverages full of sugar, questionable chemical additives or calories.
· Their cognition might be impaired and leave them feeling foggy and sluggish.
Although water is the main ingredient in many commercially sold beverages, none of them are as healthful as plain, pure water – as long as it is not contaminated with toxins, chemicals or other pollutants.
Eight Cups a Day
A popular belief that has lasted for several generations is we need at least eight cups of water a day. However, there isn’t much evidence behind this mantra. A kidney specialist at Dartmouth Medical School searched the scientific literature for studies that might support the idea that people need eight glasses of fluid a day. He determined that no such evidence exists.
According to an interview with Emily Creamer, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietician providing nutritional counseling at a dialysis center in Chicago, “Every person’s fluid intake is individualized.” Different body metabolisms, health conditions, activity levels, climates, sizes and weights are just some of the factors that could affect how much water a person should drink. In addition, some of a person’s water requirements can be satisfied from other foods and beverages. Complicating the equation of how much water to drink, certain beverages (like soda or coffee) actually drain water from the body, which increases the need for more.
Not Enough Water
Water is lost through urination, respiration and perspiration. Anything that accelerates the rate of urination, respiration and perspiration increases a person’s water intake needs. Examples include:
· Physical activity – this increases respiration and perspiration.
· Diuretics – water pills, alcohol or caffeine increase urination.
Unfortunately, too many people allow thirst to guide their water consumption. By the time a strong sensation of thirst is realized, dehydration may have already set in. While severe dehydration is a medical emergency, the following symptoms could indicate your body is suffering from insufficient water:
· Chronic joint and muscle pain
· Lower back pain
· Poor concentration
· Dry skin
· A strong urine odor with a yellow or amber color
According to Creamer, checking the color of your urine is a good indicator of your hydration level. Dark colored urine could be a sign of dehydration; however, it also requires further investigation. For example, dark colored urine could indicate a bladder or kidney infection, advanced liver disease or other serious health condition. Be aware that certain B vitamins could turn urine bright yellow or orange and eating nutrient-rich beets could color it red or pink.
Water for the Liver
Water is largely responsible for the fluid content of blood. As the organ that filters the blood, its viscosity impacts the liver’s detoxification abilities. Accordingly, not drinking enough water will increase the blood’s thickness and make it harder to filter. Since the livers of those with chronic liver disease already face obstacles to efficient detoxification (like inflammation or scarring), not having enough water to keep the blood viscous magnifies this challenge.
A special concern about water intake may surface for someone whose liver disease has led to ascites. A sign of advanced liver disease, ascites is excess fluid in the space between the tissues lining the abdomen and abdominal organs. Those affected must know that water does not cause or perpetuate ascites. Rather, ascites is often a result of portal hypertension and is made worse with salt intake. Therefore, sodium restriction – not fluid restriction – is the mainstay of ascites treatment. However, those with extreme hyponatremia (sodium levels in the blood that are too low) may be required to limit their water intake.
Unless dealing with hyponatremia, those with liver concerns have an incentive to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Besides water’s long list of healthful properties, staying well-hydrated also helps the liver with detoxification. By using your urine’s color as your guide, you can make sure to consume enough water and avoid the additional burden of dehydration.
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http://nutrition.about.com/od/hydrationwater/a/waterarticle.htm, Drinking Water to Maintain Good Health, Shereen Jegtvig, Retrieved June 18, 2009, About.com, 2009.
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/top-5-reasons-to-drink-more-water.html?&page=2, Top 5 Reasons to Drink More Water, Rachel Venokur-Clark, Retrieved June 18, 2009, Care2.com, 2009.
http://www.gihealth.com/html/education/ascites.html, Ascites, Retrieved June 19, 2009, Three Rivers Endoscopy Center, 2009.
https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/HEALTHbeat_091405.htm, How Much Water Should You Drink, Retrieved June 20, 2009, President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2009.
http://www.liver-health.info/?page=liver_cirrhosis, Liver Cirrhosis, Retrieved June 19, 2009, KYOTSUJIGYO.INC, 2009.
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