One of the most abundant fluids in the planet "still", one of the most abundant fluids inside of our bodies, one of the most abundant fluids in almost every form of life!
And yet, we are completely unaware of so many functions that it performs inside of our bodies, from being a huge component of our blood that transports every molecule and nutrient, to being the most important and reliable catalyzer for practically more than 90% of your metabolic reactions.
Water is not only a molecule or fluid that hydrates your body, as in superficial sources is being handled, it is the essential donor of protons or hydrogen ions (H+) inside your body which have the amazing function of reducing several of your coenzymes that keep your small cell compartments, known as organelles, inside of your cells functioning and empowering the balance of nutrients, the balance of protein production, energy sources, using your fats to assemble membranes (boundaries, sort of like customs), and functioning as one of the best traffic agents, logistics partner to enhance the production of an amazing amount of essential compounds to survive!
Underappreciated by many, and not known for the internal benefits by the other majority, water is now a matter of discussion between many of the most powerful countries as the resources that we have are dangerously being depleted in many undeveloped countries and now this kind of threat is coming to first world countries.
But, inside of our bodies How does it work? Why do we feel thirsty? What are some of the most important functions that when not having it can start to fail? ...Let's find out!
How does it work?
Being one of the more stable substances in terms of the bonds and symmetry that it presents, water allows our biochemical reactions (which are essential for your metabolic functions) to happen.
The formula, H2O, permits it to share one of hydrogens to function as a reducing agent, which protects many of the oxidants agents in your body to keep damaging or wearing down your organs, your proteins, your enzymes and produce some toxic agents that can start producing aging inside of your body or in the long term, they can even start producing some epigenetic changes, which we have talked about several times, but we'll clarify these concept if this is your first approach to an article with technical terms.
Epigenetic modifications, occur in your hard drive (DNA) and they are small "spots" or "stains" in some of the components of your DNA strands, which in turn will provoke changes in the production of functional proteins that will enable your organs, your cells and your reactions to happen in a proper way.
When any of us accumulates these kind of spots or stains, as a consequence you start generating "cheaper" bad quality proteins which will in turn fail to perform their functions properly, leading you eventually to develop some of the most popular chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, some types of cancer, autoimmune diseases, and why not, some of the mental illnesses that are trending our new society such as depression, anxiety and attention disorders.
Therefore water is more important than the superficial campaigns to give you awareness of hydration.
As water is essential to all processes in the human body, it is not surprising that dehydration is thought to be a factor in illness and disease. The evidence suggests that even chronic mild dehydration may increase the risk of urinary tract infections, hyperglycaemia, chronic kidney disease, hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and bladder and colon cancer; although more research is necessary to corroborate studies carried out so far (1).
Hydration status has been shown to affect cognitive performance. For instance, dehydration has well established negative effects on cognitive performance. In adults, dehydration to a loss of more than 2% body weight, induced by heat exposure or exercise, results in poor performance on tasks assessing memory and psychomotor performance. Subjective feelings of concentration and alertness are also negatively affected (2).
Similarly, in children, dehydration negatively affects performance on memory tasks. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence that water supplementation has positive effects on cognition. In children, supplementing with water results in improved performance on tests of memory and attention. In adults, it has been shown that thirsty individuals perform better on a rapid visual information processing task after having a drink (2).
As mentioned above and evidence by research, water is involved in the balance of many of our internal nutrients, more importantly in the balance of essential ions such as K, Ca, Na, Cl which are the most relevant in terms of maintaining many metabolic functions involved in processing your macronutrients and allowing to regulate your sugar levels, obtain energy from carbohydrates and occupy them as well to form receptors (antennas to receive chemical and electric signals) and for the assembly of more complex chemical compounds such as your neurotransmitters.
In addition to that, when we process proteins, for instance, many of the essential reactions needed to form muscle tissue, to repair your body, to assemble immune messengers require water as a donor and acceptor of protons (H+).
Many of the protein metabolism incorporates reactions to process the amino group (NH2), to eliminate nitrogen and maintain a healthy balance of this element, which in higher quantities is toxic for your body and brain. It can lead you from mental severe problems to even a coma.
And the last macronutrient that can't be processed without water are the fats, these group of compounds which were severely attacked during the decade of 80's, is of paramount importance for your brain connections, it forms all of the membranes in your body (customs) which will give your cells and your organelles a way to select and distribute the correct amounts of minerals, metals and ions to maintain a healthy balance for all of your physiological needs.
Moreover fats are essential as the covering, surrounding layer for neurons that will allow your electrical impulses to be passed on from one neuron to the next, allowing the synapses to be useful and to allow the information to flow in order to be consolidated and stored in your memory.
An incorrect imbalance of the essential fluid being discussed (water), would produce a disturbed process in the cognition, memory and attention process as mentioned above due to disturbed patterns of neurotransmitters and essential ions (Cl, Cu, Ca, Zn, etc) to be used and distributed among the wide variety of biochemical reactions occurring in our brain chemistry.
Furthermore this kind of imbalance would also produce effects in the mood due to either accumulation or shortage of neurotransmitters, imbalance of key minerals required to participate in brain chemistry reactions as well as the incorrect processing of all the waste that the body is producing.
What is the importance of water to maintain your energy compounds and homeostasis?
Another big process where water is essential for your metabolism, the regulation of your hormones and the final warehouses and factories of energy where you are being able to generate and propel many of your essential coenzymes and energy “saving” systems relies on a process named oxidative phosphorylation or electron transport chain.
In this metabolic process, there’s a constant flow of protons (H+) being released by the main coenzymes that help more than 60% of your metabolic pathways to process the energy, these two compounds are NAD and FAD their formation depends on two vitamins of the complex B system, Vitamin B3 and B2 respectively.
It turns out that these two compounds are the major carriers of protons inside the body in more than 60% of your metabolic energetic pathways, only that fact, makes them of great significance to enable you to perform many of your physical and cognitive functions.
Additionally and as mentioned above these two “helpers” will help keep your body young and energized during the peak moments where you need it. They will also be two amazing transporters of protons (H+) into the electron transport chain where you will be able to generate ATP and guess who is the next chemical compound produced? ..Yes you got it right! Water!
With the help of another amazing element which is essential to breathe, oxygen (O2), the process to form your best currency for energy which is ATP, will be enhanced and allowed by having a decent amount of these two coenzymes.
In order for these coenzymes to be formed you’ll also need water! Therefore it is all a perfect cycle, it is all a divine working place where all the cells, all the micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients will work together to produce your best allies to keep you in motion, to give you mental agility, to improve your memory, to enhance your attention and pretty much to keep all of your physiological needs in tune and not only survive but enjoy your life!
Whenever we have a severe dehydration process, or we’re not mindful of our hydrating patterns, we are literally resting life to our bodies, disrupting our metabolism and damaging many of our organs and internal networks of communication!
Many times in terms of nutrition behaviors, we are just not aware of the importance of many essential and common sense facts, that could literally change the course of our lives in terms of the internal balance that we’re providing to our bodies, if we were more mindful to understand the overall functions of our organs as well as we care to understand how the new gadget or app works, we wouldn’t be leading the world to the worst epidemics of chronic diseases and we would be more heading our way to a healing pattern and to better eating and activity habits that are not as painful or demanding as you want to think.
However each day we live in a more lazy society towards doing the right thing and avoiding the easy roads, the advancements of technology have led us to believe that everything has to be immediate, easy and comfortable when in fact since ancient times it is known that the more disciplined, the more constant and the more mindful paths are the ones that will lead you to health and to success!
In summary, water is an essential fluid, is an essential carrier of protons to allow your body to stay protected, younger, and repaired...in fewer words is an essential carrier of life!
Therefore the next time you feel thirst try to remind yourself that is not only about maintaining your body hydrated, but it is more about maintaining your brain alert, your metabolism up and running and all your hormones and immune system messenger in the correct balance to help you thrive!
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1. Booth, P. (2015). The Effect of Water Consumption on Schoolchildren's Fine Motor Skills, Cognitive Function and Mood (Doctoral dissertation, University of East London).
2. Edmonds, C. J., Crombie, R., Ballieux, H., Gardner, M. R., & Dawkins, L. (2013). Water consumption, not expectancies about water consumption, affects cognitive performance in adults. Appetite, 60, 148-153.