The Weight of Water
Water is a vast topic. Consider that our bodies are 65 percent water, and water covers 70 percent of our planet’s surface, while comprising only 0.05 percent (1/2000th) of its mass. This unique substance enables the processes of life on Earth, and measuring and understanding the waters within our body is an important tool in our quest for optimal health.
Compartments and Types of Water
We keep cash in our wallets, in savings accounts and in retirement funds. Even though it’s all money, it has different roles. Some we can access readily, some require a few steps and some funds are stashed away for the gravest of emergencies. Likewise, the water in our bodies is not all the same. In fact, the MRI works because the water in each type of cell is slightly different.
Water is a universal solvent, able to carry many substances within its liquid state. Much of the biological world can be divided into things that are either water-soluble or water-insoluble (i.e., fat, plastic and rubber).
The cell, the basic unit of life, can be depicted as a sphere of water contained by a fatty bag. Within that fatty membrane sit hormone receptors, signaling molecules, transport proteins, pores and other structures that enable the cell to exchange substances and information with the rest of the world. In dehydration, the cell shrinks, causing a closing of pores and crowding of molecules that impair several functions, including excretion and detoxification. This is why sufficient water is necessary for any detoxification, and why insufficient water leads to toxicity.
Immediately surrounding the cell is extracellular fluid. Nutrient and waste molecules pass through this fluid on its way to and from the circulatory system. The circulatory system consists primarily of arteries, veins and lymphatics. The arterial system ends in capillaries that bring nutrients in proximity to every living cell of our bodies. The venous and lymphatic systems return wastes and fluids for detoxification, disassembly and excretion.
The body adds special fluids to our digestive system, starting with saliva and including pancreatic juices, bile and other secretions, accounting for up to 25 percent of the volume of our gut.
The brain has two large collections of water within its very center, called the ventricles. Their purpose is unclear.
Inflammation is a process by which the body recognizes and disassembles invaders, followed by repair. This occurs in the joints, skin, gut, brain and liver—wherever an intervention is required. Inflammation is necessary to repair a broken bone, a skin wound, a torn muscle or an infected liver. The optimal outcome is a return to baseline or even better. Exercise of the body or mind causes it to grow stronger by the process of inflammation.
Inflammation involves cells and materials needed for defense and repair. Water is necessary to carry the materials to and from the problem area. Excessive extracellular fluid, commonly experienced as swelling, edema, stiffness or puffiness, causes a barrier to proper flow. Symptoms of such inflammation can appear as weight gain, weight loss resistance, bloating, nighttime urination and swelling of the face or other locations based on use or gravity.
Modern theories of disease and aging include chronic inflammation as an important, often dominant, factor.
In general, water weight will go up with inflammation. Problematic foods, either singly or in combination, can cause a gain in water weight immediately.
To measure water in the body, we can weigh ourselves on a daily basis, at the same time and under the same conditions, using a scale that measures in increments of 0.2 pounds. Since a gallon of water weighs 8.5 pounds, 0.2 pounds of weight represents three ounces of water. Most of us can fluctuate by one to two pounds (a full quart of water), and some of us up to 10 pounds, in one day. This weight cannot be muscle or fat, since we can’t grow or burn these quantities that quickly.
Important to note is that water accumulation can also occur over several days, making it challenging to identify problematic foods or combinations. A knowledgeable practitioner can help identify the significance of water weight fluctuations.
Michael Cheikin, M.D., practices holistic medicine and physiatry at Center for Optimal Health, in Plymouth Meeting. For more information, call 610-239-9901, email [email protected] or visit CohLife.org. April 2019