We are water-based creatures.
The human body is comprised of about 75% water at birth, and approximately 60% as we become adults and age. Water is the basis of the magic river of blood (Plasma is 92% water by volume) that flows through our bodies to deliver nutrients and oxygen to all the cells in our body and remove all the toxins and waste products created at the cellular level. You must be sure there is plenty of water to provide a large flow to deliver and remove all essential parts of cell life, whether the cells are developing or breaking down.
When you think of it, adequate hydration is the cornerstone of cleansing. It is easy to think of these phenomena in terms of any body of water. Consider a body of water that is backed up without any flow, the water is toxic, dirty, contaminated, and certainly not healthy in appearance. On the other hand, think of a stream with great flow and movement, it will be clean and clear. It is healthy looking and draws you to it for its benefits.
We must add sufficient quantities of water to our system to create a high flowing stream inside of our bodies to support the bloodstream in its delivery of nutrients and oxygen and removal of the toxic waste products.
What does this have to do with my spine?
How can dehydration cause chronic back and neck pain? One thing is clear; blood is comprised of two components, blood cells (45%) and plasma (55%). The blood cells are the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The plasma is the fluid that transports the cells and nutrients around and is 92% water! The fact is that dehydration will change the thickness (viscosity) of the blood. The thickness of the blood is like any
fluid you can imagine, the thicker it is, the slower it pours or flows and the less likely it can deliver oxygen and nutrients to the smallest of vessels that supply the muscles, ligaments and joints.
Blood pressure will be maintained at all costs, so if the dehydration is severe enough or chronic enough, then water will start to be pulled from nonessential sources, like synovial fluid (from joints) that is 70-85% water! The movement of water out of the facet joints or discs in your back or neck may contribute to joint or disc pain.
Water is the common thread that connects all the cells, tissues (e.g. muscle, tendon, ligament, blood vessels, bone and nerves)and systems (digestive, respiratory, nervous, cardiovascular, and skeletal) of the body. Water is the interface that most things entering or exiting our body must pass through to be usable to us, such as food, minerals, salts, and air. Once something is water soluble (able to mix with water), it becomes useful to the body and can be used or discarded. Water is the way things are transported to and from the cells that form your body.
Begin to think about what you are putting into your body or what goes in without your thinking, whether it is food, drink or the air you breathe. The purity of the food, water, and air that you ingest is critical to your long-term health, as is the level of toxins that you ingest along the way. You probably don’t think much about this, but you can start now.
How pure is the food, water, and air that I am ingesting? Think of your body as a large glass of water in which many chemical reactions are occurring continuously, especially reactions that relate to pain (inflammation) and healing. These chemical reactions occur better in some environments than others. There are a number of factors that influence these chemical reactions and the most obvious is the purity of the water that you drink.
Although the water you get from the tap looks clear, there is usually 300-500 ppm (parts per million) of contaminants in the water. These contaminants can be pesticides, industrial chemicals, or metals such as lead or mercury. Remember that the water authorities will add chlorine to kill bacteria and sometimes aluminum as a settling agent.
Don’t think that provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act aren’t violated on occasion.
Such violations can include arsenic, bacteria, and tetrachloroethylene. Bottled water is often not much better, which is often tap water filtered with charcoal to give a better taste but without removing pollutants such as disinfectants, carcinogens, and toluene to mention a few. Of course the small amounts of these contaminants will not make you obviously ill, but there may be some accumulation over time.
Probably more importantly, the body has to deal with this additional source of toxins in addition to what is normally being created as a result of cellular waste products. These toxins might also interfere or bind with proteins that are normally used to regulate inflammation or anti-oxidation.
Your Body and pH Balance
Another big part of the chemical environment provided by the water is the balance between acids and bases or pH (power of hydrogen) balance. There are things around the house that demonstrate the difference between acids and bases like vinegar (acid) and ammonia (base). They have a totally different feel between your fingers and different ways they smell. The difference between acids and bases is characterized by how easily a substance will give up a hydrogen atom, giving up a hydrogen atom easily makes it more acidic.
The pH range is from 0-14 and the lower the number, the more acidic it is. The number 7 pH is neutral and is not acidic or basic. Your blood only operates successfully in a certain pH range,which is 7.35-7.45 that is slightly alkaline. If the pH gets out of his range, then body functions begin to go awry and serious health problems can occur. This pH (acid/base) balance is best reflected in the blood, but can easily be measured in the urine or saliva. The following pH values are considered optimal, urine 6.8 (range is 4.6-8.0) and saliva close to 7.3 (above 6.5). We have a body which operates only in a narrow pH range and yet we put things into our body like carbonated soft drinks that have an acid pH of 2.5 (pH range is from 0-14 and the lower the number, the more acidic it is. The number 7 is neutral) and a high sugar content (weight gain).
So what does your body have to do when you start drinking carbonated sodas with a pH of 2.5? We know that the blood has to be in the range of 7.35-7.45, so something has to happen to reconcile this difference. In short term, this difference is reconciled with the process of buffering, which uses the respiratory system, but long- term acidity may use the bone as a buffer and take sodium, potassium and calcium from the bone in exchange for the hydrogen ion (acid). The point is that when you start to eat, drink, or breathe something too acidic or alkaline, your body must do some extra work and use some its (energy or healing) resources to correct this situation and bring this pH back into balance.
I mention this, because I found it amazing that there are many different pH readings for different sources of water, many of them acidic. The pH (power of hydrogen) varies significantly from city to city or from one manufacturer of bottled water to another.
The point is to think about the pH of the water that you drink and have it be as close to the normal pH of your body as possible or maybe slightly more alkaline since we have to deal with a lot of acids in modern day life. There is a lot of controversy about the benefits or quackery of drinking alkaline ionized water, but there is some interesting research that has been done in Japan that talks about micro-clustering of water molecules and the effect that pH and ionization has on the size of these clusters.
Apparently in typical drinking water, the water (H2O) molecules cluster in groups of 12-14 molecules. In a more alkaline environment (around 9) with anegative redox potential, the cluster sizes are 6-7, which is half the size. Half the size of the cluster means less thickness and viscosity of the plasma, and better flow to tissues supplied by the very small vessels. The tissues fed by the small vessels are typically the ones that can cause neck and back pain, such as the nerves, ligaments, tendons and intervertebral discs.
Other Health Benefits of Hydration
Weight Loss – As you begin to fill yourself with more water, your hunger will begin to lessen and you will naturally begin to lose weight as you eat less – with no effort! Fill yourself up with calorie free water and watch your desire for food and soft drinks diminish.
Fewer Kidney Stones – Kidney stones may be less common with adequate hydration.
Fewer Headaches and body aches.
More Energy and Less Fatigue.
Arch Enemies of Hydration
Alcohol – dehydrating.
Coffee – dehydrating.
These two wonderful drinks act in different ways to dehydrate you. Notice the dehydrating effects of alcohol and coffee by noting the darker color or stronger odor of your urine.
You may begin to drink more water in anticipation of coffee or alcohol or just diminish your intake.
It’s a process, so relax and just start drinking your water.
Know the amount of water you must consume each day.
The first thing to do is to know how much water you need on a daily basis. This is determined by your body weight. So take your body weight (pounds) and divide by 40, and that is the number of liters or quarts (32 ounces) you need per day.
Example: 200 lbs. / 40 lbs. = 5 liters/ quarts per day.
This is the amount of water you should be drinking each day. This amount does not include coffee, soft drinks or juices.
Find a glass, pitcher or water bottle that you know the volume of. I suggest getting a water bottle that is readily available from a health food store, like GNC. The important features of the water bottle are that
- The volume is marked
- It needs to seal well so it won’t leak
- Buying a bottle with a metal wire shaker-ball can have an advantage (I will tell you why later).
If you don’t like drinking out of plastic, there are metal containers like the brand Sigg. Another way is to start with a 1-gallon container first thing in the morning and just pour from there.
I recommend having the same containers at home as at work.
Choose which water to drink.
Oddly enough, most city water from the tap or bottled water sold in stores is slightly acidic.
This fact can be verified by using a pH strip obtained at a health food store. There are two obvious water choices and I will start at the most available, the tap.
The pH and taste of tap water will vary considerably depending on location. City water is often more acidic than I thought. The taste might be improved with a Britta filter or the like, but this will not affect the ph or toxins. Toxins are best managed by a filtration system plumbed into your under sink water line.
There is a lot of variety here in terms of type, cost and ability to influence the chemistry. The least expensive and most basic is a good reverse osmosis system with multiple filters in it. Beyond this are units that not only filter, but change the pH and change the redox potential (electrical charge) of the water. The pH can be changed with drops like Alkamax (Trimedica.com) added to the water or capsules that can be taken by mouth.
Commercially available bottled water also has a variable pH that you might be interested in checking with some pH strips if you are interested, but most are acidic. There are some waters prepared at water stores that can be quite alkaline (9-10) and negatively charged to enhance the micro-clustering into smaller clusters if you believe in this phenomena. There is a lot of variety here in terms of type, cost and ability to influence the chemistry.
Bottom line, the more pure the water the better. The closer the pH is to 7.0 or maybe higher, the better.
I hate drinking plain water.
This is easily overcome by adding a flavored natural sweetener like Raw Stevia (not bleached) to the water. This is a powder from a plant leaf that is 30-40X sweeter than sugar and doesn’t change your blood sugar much if at all. It comes in a packet that can be added to the water and stirred in or shaken with the wire shaker ball. Stevia makes flavored drops too. These flavors include lemon, berry, orange, strawberry, pomegranate, toffee and vanilla. A few drops of lemon or lime juice can also be added to give some pleasant taste. Or your water can be mixed with freshly sliced lemons and cucumbers (Spa-water) that is delicious and refreshing.
Make a schedule to drink the water.
Best to start the day with 16 ounces/ 1 pint as soon as you wake up (not that dehydrating cup of coffee). Then plan to drink half of your daily requirement by lunchtime. Figure out a schedule and make it a habit based on your daily activities.
Best to sip your water throughout the day, rather than just gulping it down.
What we are talking about in this manual is a lifestyle change, a new set of habits that will take time to integrate into your life. You and those around you may have to adjust a little. Some days will be easier than others to begin these changes, but you will feel better. When you start to feel better, these habits will stick and not drinking an adequate amount of water will seem odd.
In the next session we will talk about the benefits of a cleanse.
Congratulations on the first step to reducing chronic neck and back pain!