The Fountain Of Life
Water, from the dew that distills on the rose leaf to the ocean that heaves its vast tide around the world, is one of the many wonders of existence. It makes the beauty of our silvery clouds and golden sunsets; it spans the heavens with the hues of the rainbow; it dances to earth in April showers; it murmurs in brooks and thunders in cataracts; it waters the earth, bids plants to grow and carries our commerce over vast seas. Without it the earth would have forever remained one vast, barren rock—a lifeless desert upon which the winds would sweep up the dust.
Water has given the earth its covering of soil and carpeted this soil with verdure. Deprived of water, plants droop and wither; without water, animals thirst and die. No wonder an early writer has left us the thought that at the dawn of creation the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. There is no life without water.
The foregoing eulogy of water is paraphrased from Dr. Thomas Low Nichols. We need only add that, without water, no seed could germinate, no plant could grow. What wonder, then, that water has so often been worshipped as the source of life. The Egyptians worshiped the Nile, the river that made possible their yearly crops, their life and civilization. The Hindus worship the Ganges. Are these people doing other than paying tribute to one of the basic elements of living structures and functions?
Water is a primal need of all forms of life. We have previously emphasized the fact that the cells require a liquid home and that dehydrated protoplasm is as lifeless as dust. It is only in a liquid environment that sperm and ovum can meet and mingle; it is only in a fluid medium that cellular reproduction can take place in the complex body; it is in a liquid medium that the embryo evolves towards maturity. It is only by being dissolved in water that the elements of vegetable matter take on their beautiful forms and colors.
The mystic motto of Thales, “Ariston men hydor” (the best of all things is water) might, perhaps, be explained by the fact that dehydrated cells are as lifeless as dust. In a similar vein, Goethe said of the elements of liquids: “They come from heaven and rise to heaven, returning again to earth.” Water is so essential to life that none of its functions can be carried on without it.
Deprive man of water and he is soon reduced to a few pounds of dust. His body is about 70% water, his blood 90%. Water forms the greater part of his brain and nerves. The eyes are composed of little sacs of transparent water. Water not only enters the composition of all his tissues, but those tissues that have least water also possess little vital endowment.
Bone, which is the most passive tissue of the body, has much less water than muscle, which is very active. Water is the grand agent of all man’s vital functions. It is essential to the process of assimilation and disassimilation. A lack of water soon manifests itself in failure of function.
Not a particle of nutriment can enter one’s blood and from there is taken to the cells until it is first dissolved in water. It is water that carries nutriment to the cells; by water, also, the body carries its waste from cells to be excreted. Those who have worshipped oceans and rivers have not been so far wrong in regarding water as a sacred element.
The fountains of Greece were chosen as sites for her temples. Water was the symbol of purification among the Jews; in baptism it became a similar symbol among the Christians. How appropriate was the symbol! It is not only the best medium with which to cleanse the surface of the body, but it is the only medium by which internal waste can be carried to the organs of excretion.
It is the only medium capable of circulating in all of the tissues of the body and penetrating their finest vessels without irritation or injury.
Without water, the blood, lymph and tissues could not be kept sweet and clean. It might almost be said that water literally cleanses the tissues.
As water is being constantly lost from the body in its excretions—sweat, breath, urine, feces, mucus—there is need to frequently replenish the supply. Water is the only drink, although we do not take as drink all the water we use. All other fluids we take are either foods (fruit and vegetable juices, milk, soup, etc.) or poisons (beer, wine, whiskey and other alcoholics, tea, coffee and poisoned soft drinks).
There is water in everything we eat, so that under many circumstances of life, it is possible to get all the water the body requires in foods without the necessity of taking other water. While fountains bubble and rivers run, water will not be abandoned by those who love the welfare of their body.
Man’s lifelong water requirement is associated with his continuous secretion and excretion. He expels water through the lungs each time he exhales; he loses water through his skin continuously; he loses water through the kidneys just as continuously; he loses water through the bowels and mouth at all times. Because of this continuous loss of water, he must replenish his supply at intervals, the frequency of replenishment depending on the rate of loss. Water evaporation through the skin is hardly noticeable when he is resting; if it is warm or if he is very active, he sweats more; hence there is greater water loss.
The evaporation of water from the skin is a most important arrangement for control of body temperature. Man’s normal body temperature is supposed to be 98.6°F., although there is reason to think that this, like all the other “norms” of life that have been accepted, may be slightly high. Heat regulation is of great importance to the body. But sweating serves another important function; namely, that of maintaining normal water balance of the body. Too much or too little water in the fluids of life means trouble. If there is too much water, increased sweating helps to reduce this; if there is too little water, reduced sweating helps to conserve the water supply.
It is said that water is the life-supporter and that more should be taken than thirst demands. But no good reason has yet been offered for the implied principle that thirst is an unreliable guide as to how much water is needed. Dr. Trall stated: “Only a very small quantity of water is necessary as a drink, provided our dietetic and other voluntary habits are physiologically correct.
The vast quantity usually taken to the stomach is called for by the feverish and inflammatory state of the system produced by concentrated food, flesh, salt, spices, etc.” There is no fixed quantity of water that one must drink during the day. The amount needed is determined by a variety of factors. Age, sex, temperature, activity and the character of food eaten are the chief factors that determine the amount of drink required.
It is, therefore, stupid to lay down any hard and fast rule (such as one must drink six glasses of water a day) about the amount of water needed. When it is hot and we sweat more, we drink more; when it is cold and we sweat less, we drink less. If we are active and thus sweating more, we need more water than when we are inactive and sweating less. Thirst guides us in drinking as hunger guides us (or should) in eating.
That drink which has no fumes is good for us. It leaves us to sing over our daily labors with ruddier cheeks, purer feelings and brighter eyes than alcohol can bestow. When water is neglected for Old Port, and sleep is traded for stimulants and narcotics, when the beauties of nature and the virtues of walks in the country are exchanged for the “thrills” of intoxicants, not only are the real pleasures of life greatly reduced, but the powers of life are also lessened. Water is the great cleanser and purifier. This has received recognition in religion as in daily life; it is the great thirst quencher and menstruum of vital activities.
Water serves its various functions in. the body in proportion to its purity, and not in ratio with which it is laden with minerals and organic substances. Mineral waters and waters that carry quantities of organic impurities are, to the extent that they are thus laden, unfit for use. The old medical notion that water so foul the cows won’t drink it is good medicine, is but another of the false notions that have been fostered by this profession. The present-day notion that only drugged water (water that has had iodine, lime, chlorine and fluorides added) is fit for human use, is a damaging fallacy.
Not many years ago, mineral springs, sulphur springs and hot springs were special resorts of invalids. When, in some out-of-the-way spot, a farmer found a spring with water so strongly impregnated with “bad smells” and “foul taste” that thirsty cattle would not drink it, he imagined himself possessed of a prospective fortune. Here is a pool, he would say to himself, with water possessed of curative properties. A hotel would be erected near the pool or spring, physicians would send patients there to drink the water and bathe in it, and many remarkable cures would be reported.
The faith in the curative or medicinal virtues of mineral waters simply means that the fundamental principle of drugging—that poisons are medicinal—has been applied to drink and that impurities have been mistaken for wholesome properties.
Animals, like man, if forced to drink offensive water from springs, learn, as man does, to relishit. It is just possible that they learn, also like man, thereafter to find the pure, soft water they once relished to be flat, insipid, unendurable. We know that animal tastes are susceptible to perverse cultivation as much as are man’s.
We pollute our water supply as persistently as we do our air supply. Our cities drain their sewage into the rivers and lakes and into the waters along the beaches of the country. Many beaches have had to be abandoned, so great has been the pollution. Some of our lakes smell to high heaven with the odor of sewage. Commercial concerns, manufacturers, etc., drain the refuse of the factories into the streams. Poison sprays poured over the vegetation of the country are washed down to the streams and lakes. With one stroke we poison the soil and the water. Spraying kills plants, birds, bees and many forms of animal life.
It has been found that many of the detergents, germ killers, insecticides, herbicides, various solvents and other synthetic chemicals now so freely employed in our determination to solve all our problems by poisoning the whole world, pass unchanged through (sewage) treatment plants to water courses and unchanged through water treatment plants to consumers.
Some of the detergents seep through the soil into wells, enough sometimes to cause the water to foam when shaken. Even more ominous than these sources of water pollution are the radioactive substances in fallout and from plants engaged in industrial production of fission products. Modern industrialism is rapidly destroying all of our natural resources in the name of “progress,” “development,” etc., but actually, for the profits it derives from exploitation of the workers and natural resources of the nation.
Rainwater, soft water from an uncontaminated spring (many springs do not provide soft water) or distilled water are the only waters fit to drink. Filtration removes all impurities suspended in water, but it does not remove those held in solution. We are told that distilled water is dead. There is no such thing as live water. We are told that distilled water, being free of minerals (dirt), leeches the salts from the tissues of the body. Were this true, the only water that is fit to drink would be that which is fully saturated with minerals.
Short of complete saturation, the water would still have a tendency to rob the tissues of their minerals. Ordinary drinking water, containing some mineral matter, would merely rob the tissues of fewer minerals than does distilled water. Water serves, in the blood, to carry minerals to all the cells of the body. Not the crude mineral matters of the soil, but organic salts of foods are the substances it should carry to the cells. There is no evidence that distilled water does not yield up these salts to the cells as readily as does mineral-laden water.
William Lamb, M.D., of England took the position that man is not normally a drinking animal, but that sufficient water for all his purposes is contained in fruits and vegetables and that these should constitute his diet. More than 50% of our food is pure water. Why, then, do we have frequently to take in water other than that contained in our foods? Because we are constantly giving off water in the form of sweat, urine, vapor in our breath and water in our stools, and we give off more than the food supplies.
This is not always true. Many factors determine the amount of water the body loses, and in many instances the food supplies all the water needed. In other instances, it does not. A man working in the fields in the heat will pour out such quantities of water that he will need extra supplies. A stenographer working in an air-conditioned room and taking a diet containing much water may not need any extra water. Our diet, in fact, is often much too dry and may be improved without resort to beer, coffee or tea; but there remain many conditions in which life is glorified with a glass of cool, clear, soft water.
It is advocated in some quarters that fruit and vegetable juices be taken instead of water. This is an irrational program. There seems to be some thought associated with this practice that water is, somehow, an evil. The relations of water to the living, healthy organism and the purposes it serves in the various functions of the body are proof that water is both safe to use and essential to life.
As it constitutes the greater portion of the body, there is no reason to fear it. The hydrophobic individual who drinks fruit and vegetable juices instead of water is certainly eating between meals. He is certain to overeat and unbalance his metabolism. Substituting fruit juices for water is not altogether unlike the effort to substitute the oxygen in foods for the oxygen of the air.
It should be understood that milk is not a drink, but a food. We get milk from animals who have prepared it for the nourishment of their young. Fruit and vegetable juices are also foods, not drinks. Liquid foods should be understood as such, and should be thought of as drinks. Soups are also liquid foods. Coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate beverages, soft-drinks and similar beverages should be understood to be, not drink, but poison.
It is possible to drink too much water and it is possible to take too little. Both extremes are hurtful. We come to the habit, a cultivated one, of drinking with meals. Our rule should be never to drink with meals.
Water, fruit juices, vegetable juices, soups and other fluids taken with a meal inevitably dilute the digestive juices and alter their pH. This retards the processes of digestion. Coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate drinks and all drinks that contain toxic substances and not only dilute the digestive juices, but also add the inhibiting effects of tannic acid, caffeine, theine, theobromine, etc., to the retarding effects of liquids in general. Such substances with meals cannot be too strongly condemned.
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In some quarters, drinking immediately before meals is condemned. If this condemnation is applied to all liquids except water, Hygienists can endorse it. But water remains in the stomach such a short time after ingestion that it may be taken five to ten to fifteen minutes before a meal without interfering with the digestive process. The other liquids (which are either foods or poisons) are not so quickly expelled from the stomach. The current practice of drinking vegetable juices and fruit juices shortly before meals is ruinous to starch and protein digestion.
It is generally safe to drink an hour to an hour-and-a-half after a fruit meal. (We formerly said drink could be taken half-an-hour after a fruit meal, but in many cases fruit remains in the stomach longer than this.) Starches require a maximum of two hours to digest in the stomach, so it is usually safe to drink that long after a starch meal. Proteins require about four hours for gastric digestion. It is wisest to wait that long after a protein meal before drinking.