The importance of water to the human body

Water is an absolutely essential nutrient of the body. Survival is possible for months together without other nutrients, but not without water. But a lot of people are ignorant about the importance of water. They would consume sodas or fruit juices on feeling thirsty but avoid water.

Sixt per cent of an adult’s body weight is constituted by water and the percentage is higher for a child. Water is a fluid in which all essential body processes occur. It may be within or outside cells.

All nutrients are carried across the body in water. Waste products are removed from the body via water. It helps to form structure of large molecules essential for various processes in the body. It actively participates in many chemical reactions. It also serves as a solvent for minerals, vitamins, glucose, e.t.c. substances essential for the body.

Water serves as a lubricant for the various joints of the body. It is due to gradual depletion of this lubrication that people start suffering from stiffness and pain of joints with advancing age. It also serves as a shock absorber inside the eyes and spinal cord. During pregnancy it protects the fetus in the amniotic sac (gestational sac where baby is held in mother’s womb).

Water helps in the regulation of the body temperature and also in maintaining the volume of blood in the body. The electrolyte balance is also maintained in the body with help of water. It helps to clear the bowels and aids in digestion.

Thus importance of water can never be underestimated. When the body needs water, a person feels thirsty. Many people satiate this thirst by drinking tea, coffee, alcohol or other beverages. But that serves the purpose only partially. That is why, one feels the need for drinking water even after drinking juice or soft drinks.

How much water a person drinks depends on, climate, nature of work, other medical conditions like diabetes (one has intense thirst in diabetes), conditioning of body and availability of potable drinking water, are some of the factors which influence one’s drinking habits. Therefore a general requirement is difficult to establish.

Water is lost from the body as urine, sweat and other invisible losses. If more water is lost than the intake, one develops dehydration. Mild dehydration manifests as dryness of mouth, but severe dehydration can lead to shock and kidney failure which can be fatal.

Therefore it is important for people to take adequate amounts of water. On an average it is recommended that 8 to 10 glasses of water is sufficient for an adult doing ordinary physical work.

Drinks of various kinds, supply some water to the body, but cannot be substitute for water. Fresh vegetables and fruits are yet another source of water. Many other food items like meat and cheese contain 50% of water. But water by itself is the prime and most healthy source of water. Beverages like tea and coffee, alcohol, cause gastritis if taken in large amounts. Fruit juices, sodas, e.t.c. contribute to obesity and can cause dental problems due to their high sugar content. Caffeine containing products also have a diuretic action, i.e. they promote loss of water from the body. Meat and cheese increase cholesterol and obesity. Therefore it is good to take other substances in moderation but they should not be substituted for water.

The Government of Rwanda has taken efforts to supply clean water to the public and they are also being sensitised about use of safe drinking water.

Therefore all should understand the importance of water and start drinking sufficient amounts of water. People should know that it is unclean water which is the source of diseases and should be avoided, but not clean water.

Dr Rachna Pande,

Specialist, internal medicine