We may take water for granted, but it’s one of nature’s most precious resources.

How much water is enough?
This seems like a simplistic question but the answer is not so simple. You can skip to the bottom if you want the short version, but if you are curious about the details, read on – for the rest of the story is told by minerals.

What does water do in the body? Beyond being thirst quenching, it also maintains normal body temperature. In chemical terms, water has a very high specific heat which allows it to effectively absorb metabolic heat. It also acts as the solvent for our biochemical reactions and the transport medum for both nutrients and waste through the blood, kidneys and liver. It maintains normal blood volume, which is a very delicate balance that can be disturbed during illness, exercise, weather extremes and mild chronic dehydration. When this balance is disrupted other body functions and overall health can be compromised.

What’s the rest of the story?

Mineral salts. The most common salts contain sodium, potassium, magnesium or calcium, and these make up the bulk of certain tissues. If a body were completely decomposed to ashes, these salts and a few others are all that would remain. In natural medicine, we sometimes use mineral salts (cell salts) in diluted form to match the concentration in the body cells as a way to support tissues that are undergoing repair. In the cells, these minerals function as ions, which are tiny molecules with a negative or positive charge. Sodium and potassium ions are positively charged and can cross cell membranes and function together as the “pumping” mechanism for both water and cell energy transport.

What does the research say?

Research has shown a direct correlation between poor hydration status and heart disease, hypertension and blood clots. Constipation and chronic diseases of the kidneys and bladder, such as cancers, infections and stone formation, are other common outcomes from chronic dehydration.

The short answer.

Adults should consume one ounce of water daily for every pound of body weight. About 20% should come from food. The other 80% should be fluids, and at least half of this should be plain water. Don’t count coffee, tea, soda, wine, etc. By this formula, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need 150 ounces of fluid every day, including 120 oz in beverages and 60 oz of that in plain water.

And don’t forget the salts… daily needs for most healthy adults (needs may vary with health status)

Sodium less than 1500 mg (1.5 grams) (Less than 1 tsp!)

Magnesium 1000 mg (1 gram)

Potassium 4700 mg (4.7 grams)

All of these needs can be met through consumption of plentiful fruits and vegetables every day – great hydration helpers!

Dr. Ellen Sauter is a naturopathic physician practicing general family medicine at The Benchmark Clinic of Integrative Medicine in NW Portland. She treats patients on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and can be reached at 503-223-7067.