Thirst, A Bottle of Water And Voluntary Drowning!
Honestly, I’ve never seen so many people walking around water bottle in hand – it must be at pandemic proportions!
If that’s you… do you know why? Perhaps you’ve heard that it’s supposedly healthy to drink lots of water or maybe you’ve seen the slogan “drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day”.
Sounds compelling doesn’t it. But what if the slogan said “10 to 12 glasses” would you trot off and do that too? Do you know that water intoxication can be life-threatening? Now I’ve made it all sound complicated, I’d better apologise… so I’m sorry (well, sort of anyway).
But don’t worry help is at hand. You see, I’m working on an invention that will take away all the guesswork and tell you exactly when to drink and when to stop. I plan to take out patents and become a senior billionaire!
I’m looking for a partner so would you like to join me? No! What do you mean it’s already been done! Are you telling me that it’s been given absolutely free to each and every person – all 6 billion or so? Are you sure they got it for free? Yep, it doesn’t cost a single cent. Right, so much for my invention… back to mousetraps.
By now you are probably wondering – in fact, you have every right to be wondering – what on earth I am rambling on about. I’ll tell you exactly that in a moment or two.
But first I want to catch up with our handy primitive man. Ah, there he is… out hunting and doing a spot of gathering too! Suddenly he stops. Perhaps he’s remembered what he saw chipped into the cave wall – “drink 6 to 8 skulls-full of water each day.
Fortunately, he has employed a mate to carry the skulls so he has his hands free for hunting. He quickly downs a couple of skulls-full and thinks to himself “that leaves just 3 more for the day – thanks heavens for that”.
I’ll bet you’re thinking this is all absolutely ridiculous? Yes, then why are you doing the same thing?
But what’s the alternative?
Well, how about your in-house brilliant automatic fluid monitoring system that’s specifically designed to protect the health of your body. It sends you messages to tell you when you are thirsty! But not only that, it lets you know when to stop drinking too.
Isn’t that fantastic? Yes, so why don’t you use it? All you need do is drink when you are thirsty and stop drinking when your body tells you that’s enough.
What do you drink when you are thirsty? Water, of course! The body is designed to run on water. My view is that beverages such as tea, coffee, sports-drinks and so on are likely to be treated as foreign invaders (toxic) by the body which then has to use up valuable resources to deal with them… so moderation is the order of the day..
I accept the fact that on some days you may well need to drink 6 to 8 glasses, On other days, you may find you drink more or less. That’s all fine because you’ll do so based on what your body tells you and not on a message in some marketing slogan.
How are thirst messages produced?
Well, you won’t be surprised to learn that the brain is involved. Thirst is a message that provides the urge for humans to drink fluids. It is part of the body’s regulatory processes that maintain body fluid balance and are essential for survival (when we talk about fluid balance we include both the volume and composition of fluids).
The desire to drink can arise from several reasons including habit and cultural practices but my main interest is in the response generated to reductions in the fluid content of the body. Most fluid loss occurs from the areas within cells and from the spaces between cells.
Anyway, how does fluid loss become a thirst signal?
The body is constantly monitoring fluid levels and when it realises a disturbance in the fluid balance is occurring certain mechanisms are activated. These might be hormonal in nature or the action of the sympathetic nervous system in mobilizing the body’s resources, for example the kidneys. Such actions are triggered in order to try to minimize fluid loss and reduce changes in body fluid composition.
However, those actions while helpful are normally not sufficient to replenish and restore the necessary balance in body fluids. The normal way to achieve that is by drinking water. Hence the signal that you are thirsty.
As you can see the thirsty message is not just some random idea that the body has conjured up. It is the result of a chain of sophisticated interrelated mechanisms and is an important signal that should not be ignored.
Importantly, the signal will switch off once the optimum content and composition has been restored. This means it can be quite disturbing to the body’s efforts to maintain fluid balance to keep drinking after that point. In fact, as I stated earlier, water intoxication can in extreme cases be life-threatening.
So, my position is drink only when you feel thirsty and stop as soon as the urge disappears. I’ll continue to hold that view until I can see results from ethically conducted randomised controlled trials that clearly refute it.
I’m sure you can appreciate there maybe certain physiological and psychological disorders that can interfere with the urge to drink and above suggestion may well be quite inappropriate.
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