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Water Consumption and Health

Water Consumption and Health

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Published by: akhileshmoney on Feb 26, 2010
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08/30/2010

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WATER CONSUMPTION ANDHEALTH
 
When examining the classical medical literature forecommendations on drinking fluids, one encounters a fewreferences to the advantage of drinking warm fluids, and to the potential adverse effects of drinking cold ones, and there arereferences to the advantage of drinking tea, but there is nomention of drinking fluids in large quantity. In a review of numerous works that include a discussion of rules for keepinghealthy, food is extensively described and almost alwaysmentioned in relation to its quantity, consuming beverages israrely discussed other than in passing. In the
English-ChineseEncyclopedia of Practical Traditional Chinese Medicine
volume titled
Maintaining Your Health
(1) some advice collected from traditional works is passed on. Regarding drinking, two ancient booksare quoted:As the book 
Qianjin Yaofang 
[
Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold
 by Sun Simiao; TangDynasty] puts it: those good at health care dine when they feel hungry and drink when thirsty. The book 
 Zunsheng Bajian
[
Eight Commentaries Honoring Life
 by Gao Lian; Ming Dynasty] holdsthe same view that one should not eat until he feels hungry and not drink until very thirsty….The
Encyclopedia
 points out that in China the traditional beverages were tea and wine, and advice isgiven regarding how to make the best use of these, indicating their benefits but cautioning aboutdrinking too much of either.A modernized interpretation of an Ayurvedic recommendation, is this from the Maharishi Institute(2):Drinking hot water regularly is a classical Ayurvedic recommendation for balancing
vata
and
kapha
dosha, strengthening digestive power, and reducing metabolic waste (
ama
) that may haveaccumulated. Boil a sufficient amount of unchlorinated tap water or (better still) mineral water in anopen saucepan, for at least ten minutes. Keep this water in a thermos flask and take a few sips (or more, if you are thirsty) every half-hour throughout the day. It is the frequency rather than thequantity that is important here. To increase the positive effect you can add 1-2 slices of fresh ginger (or a pinch of ginger powder) to the water when boiling it.A typical thermos is 1 liter, and there is no suggestion here that the full amount needs to be consumedin the day. In both the Chinese and Ayurvedic cases, the amount of water to consume is not specified, but consumption of fluids appears to be limited, regulated to some extent by actually being thirsty. InChina, a practice similar to that of the Ayurvedic recommendation is followed: a thermos of hotwater, used to pour over tea leaves, is relied upon to have small amounts of tea throughout the day.According to the Chinese view, it is considered best to have the tea between meals, not while veryhungry, and not immediately after the meal (though it can be taken shortly after eating in cases wherethe meal was too heavy, in an effort to relieve the discomfort and aid the digestion of the food).In the
Quintessence Tantras of Tibetan Medicine
(3) it is noted that there are three main beverages:milk, which opposes wind and increases phlegm; water which opposes bile and increases wind; andalcohol which opposes phlegm and increases bile. This description follows the Ayurvedic tridoshasystem (wind =
vata
or 
vayu
; phlegm =
kapha
; bile =
 pitta
). In Tibet, where there are vast areaswithout easy access to water, different natural water sources are recognized as having different benefits (or harm) for drinking:The different types of water include rainwater, melted snow, river water, spring water, well water,lake water, and forest water. Rainwater is of supreme quality and the rest are successively inferior.Rain water is of indeterminate but pleasant taste, is invigorating and satisfying, has cool, light power,and is like nectar. Melted snow water comes in rushing torrents. It is very fine, cool water which is
 
hard for the digestive power to withstand. Still calm areas of water [such asthe lake and forest water] produce germs, elephantiasis, and heart diseases.Good water is that which comes from a clean area and which has felt thetouch of the sun and wind….Cool water cures fainting, fatigue, hangovers,vertigo, vomiting, thirst, obesity, blood and bile disorders,
 
and poisoning.Freshly boiled water increases digestive heat, facilitates digestion, cureshiccoughs, promptly cures distention of the abdomen, caused by phlegm, andcures asthmatic conditions, fresh colds, and infectious fevers. Cool boiledwater does not increase phlegm and cures bile conditions, but if it is leftstanding for one day or more it acquires toxic properties and increases allthree humors.Consistent with certain ancient Ayurvedic suggestions, which differ from themodern one, the drinking of beverages is usually associated with meals and its quantity related to theamount of food consumed. The description in the Tibet tantras is: "One should fill two parts of thestomach with food, one with drink, and in the fourth part leave room for the fire-like equalizing wind,the decomposing phlegm, and the digestive bile." Of course, it is difficult to know what wouldconstitute one-fourth part of the stomach, but the idea expressed here is to not eat until full, indeed,only half full, and then consume far less beverage than food, still not filling the stomach. Dependingon the kind of food consumed and the type of humoral imbalance a person might have, different beverages would be recommended, which might best be taken at different times after completing themeal. At any rate, the quantity of the beverage to be consumed is not as critical as the type of  beverage, and it is limited.Some traditional health specialists caution about drinking too much water (or other beverages) with ameal, concerned both that digestive juices will be overly diluted and that the stomach will be overlyfilled, causing one to feel uncomfortable and tired. In his book 
Ayurveda: Life, Health, andLongevity
(4), Robert Svoboda comments:Water is essential for life, but too much water ruins health. The substances found in a humid climatetend to be full of humidity themselves, and so are "heavy" for digestion; they contribute too muchwater to the system, making it difficult for the digestive fire to remain hot enough to functionefficiently.Large parts of India have a humid climate, which is a basis for this wording. However, the concern isfor foods that have a moist nature, wherever they might be grown, as well as pointing to the problemof consuming too much moisture through beverages. A similar concern is raised by Chinese physicians, who note that the "spleen" system is easily harmed by too much moisture, and thendigestion is adversely affected, so eating too many foods that are full of moisture, or drinking a lot of fluids, would be considered potentially harmful.By contrast, within the past few years, especially in America, millions of people have adopted the practice of carrying water bottles (often with expensive pre-bottled water) wherever they go. Whilethese are often taken along when exercising (even if not vigorous or prolonged), water is alsoconsumed copiously during sedentary periods. At modern offices, many workers go to the water coolers, not just to take a break but to fill up on the publicized daily water quotient, sometimescarting large mugs back to their desks. The bottled water industry reaps the benefits, with 4 billiondollars a year annual sales (in the U.S. alone) and growing. Where does this intensive drinking behavior come from?Most people today can cite the 8 x 8 rule: drink 
at least 
eight ounces of water, 8 times a day: that istwo quarts. Two quarts of total fluid isn't very much in a day, but sometimes another rule is imposed:caffeinated and alcoholic beverages don't count; some say nothing but water counts in reaching thistotal. Is this quantity of water really necessary? Is it advantageous? Is it really true that coffee and teadon't count? Did the Chinese, many of whom only drank tea but not water, shrivel up and die becausethe caffeine drained out all their fluids?

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