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Hydration for Bushwalkers

Disclosure: I am a direct retailer of Enagic© water ionizers that produce Kangen™ ionized water and as such I am unashamedly biased towards the benefits and consumption of Kangen™ water. I am not a medical practitioner nor a medical research doctor. Having said that, my chosen health promotion career and an MBA has enabled me to research, study, and critically analyse a plethora of literature and documentation on the subject.

That cumulated knowledge has been used to transform myself from an obese dysfunctional 130 odd kilograms person to 70 odd kilogram hiker and marathon runner. This statement is not meant to impress you but to impress upon you, the importance of true health and the responsibility you have as an individual to take full responsibility of your own health and wellbeing.

What’s Hydration?: This article has come from hydration.net.au neatly sums up the question.

“Hydration is a term used to describe your body’s ability to manage water. This means water management at every level down to the individual cells. Correct hydration is dependant on cellular uptake of water, not simply whole body intake of water.

If you are well hydrated your body will take the water you drink (and eat as part of your food) and distribute it correctly to all the cells in your body that need it, taking with the water all the essential nutrients of those cells. The well hydrated body is also able to use this cellular water to wash out waste products and toxins from cells and deliver them to the organs of excretion. In a poorly hydrated body these processes will be sluggish or absent and nutrients will be unavailable to the cells, and waste products will build up to toxic levels. Hydration is one of the most fundamental processes in a healthy body, yet it has received very little attention by the biomedical research community and by the population at large.”

Natural Health Supplement Guide – What is Hydration, By Jaroslav Boublik B.Sc (Hons), Ph.D. MRACI, C.Chem., Scientific Director AquaConneXions Pty. Ltd.

That pretty well sums up the term hydration in regards to human health. So why is water so important? What’s the big deal?

We now know that hydration refers to the body’s effective use of water we also know from empirical studies, the human body is made up of between 70% and 90% water. Every action, metabolic activity, electrical transmission, physical activity within the human body is regulated by or conducted in the presence of water.

Studies from sports medical institutions report that a 1% reduction in hydration causes a 5% drop in performance. That’s pretty staggering when, as Dr Boublik suggests, very little research or medical attention has been given to the importance of water and hydration in the area of human health. Not just the immediate and obvious effects of dehydration, but the long term far reaching effects of dehydration and chronic disease. All, all disease occurs in the environment of dehydration which is acidic, oxygen depleted tissue. Refer 1931 Noble Prize winner, Dr Otto Warburg.

Now here is another quote from the good Dr Boublik.

“Water has several roles in the human body. It gives structure and form to cells and tissues. It provides the medium for movement of heat from the core of the body to the surface. It is the matrix within the body which creates the biochemical reactions that together make up cellular metabolism. Water is the transport mechanism for all internal movements of all nutrients and biomolecules, exchange of nutrients between the environment and cells and clearance of waste products.

Water is the most important nutrient that the body uses. It is correctly thought of as a nutrient as it is a limiting factor in many, if not all, biochemical processes. The correct metabolism of all other nutrients depends on the availability of sufficient water for correct biochemistry to occur. The macronutrients (nutrients required in relatively large amounts on a daily basis) protein, carbohydrate and fat all require water for their correct assimilation and utilisation. All micronutrients (nutrients required in smaller amounts or less frequently) including vitamins and minerals require water for correct uptake and distribution.”

The immediate effects of massive dehydration are obvious. The symptoms cover things like weakness, vagueness, disorientation, poor vision, discoordination, pale and clammy skin, dizziness, fainting etc. Nearly all the symptoms you observe from any major ailment. The reason why? Well in severe cases, the body starts to shut down non-essential organs to the extent that those organs may become permanently damaged. If immediate rest and rehydration is not forthcoming death can quite quickly follow. That normally does not occur as the patient will usually fall unconscious as the body goes into life preserving shutdown.

The importance of water can be simply demonstrated. A person can survive without air for a few minutes, without water for a couple of days, and without food for 40 plus days. So the hierarchy of importance is; air, water and way behind, food. Its way up there with air!

During summer hydration becomes even more critical because we lose addition water as our bodies need to dissipate heat in the warmer weather. Water is lost through the normal elimination processes, through the skin, perspiration, and via our breath. The hotter the ambient temperature and the more strenuous exercise being under taken, the higher the rate of water loss necessarily becomes. Quite simply, to stave off dehydration and its potential fatal effects we must replace that water loss consistently throughout the day.

Research indicates that, when reasonably sedentary, we should consume approximately 1 litre of water for every 20 kilograms of body weight. That is, an 80 kilogram individual should consume approximately four litres of water per day. That’s a bit more than the 8 glasses a day isn’t it? Further reading, “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” Dr Batmangheldj.

If you are undertaking strenuous exercise on a hot day, obviously to maintain equilibrium, you would need to drink much more. Maybe as much as twice the recommended amount of two litres for every 20 kilograms of body weight. To minimise the loss of hydration it is bleedingly obvious that one should slow down, keep cool and minimise strenuous activities. As bushwalkers, there are many things we can do to delay the onset of dehydration. Simply slow down, wear appropriate clothing, utilise shade wherever possible, walk shorter distances, rest up during the high heat of the day etc. and consume adequate amounts of good drinking water. If you exert yourself over a just a few hours on a hot day without drinking water you are likely to suffer the symptoms of heat stroke etc. If you do not heed those symptoms and warnings you may suffer irreversible organ damage as parts of your body begin to shut down to preserve life itself. If you still ignore those symptoms and push on without rest and rehydration you will eventually become severely incapacitated, suffer permanent damage and may even die.

According to studies done by the Russians way back in the early 1900’s, fresh melt glacial water obtained from steams high in the mountains is the best water available, it is enriched with the correct ratios of the prerequisite minerals, clean of any other contaminants or toxins, it is alkaline and micro clustered. The three major benefits of this water are that it is a very powerful antioxidant, it is highly hydrating and is alkaline. Unfortunately, this is not much good to us unless we live high in the mountains just below a glacier, as the properties diminish relatively quickly mostly due to man’s intervention. The Japanese have been producing Kangen™ waters, from standard tap water using a water ioniser classified as medical devices that mimics fresh melt glacial waters.

The second best water available is fresh mountain stream water that has not been interfered with throughout its journey from its source. While we are walking there really are very few water sources that have not been influenced to some degree by our industrial world. Having said that, most of the water from national parks etc is potable. It’s up to the individual whether they wish to sterilise the collected water in some way using purifying tablets, powders or devices such as SteriPENs™ for example.

Good old municipal tap water is reasonable. However, it is oxidising and macro clustered meaning that although it is considered safe to drink, in the long term it’s not very healthy. Filtered municipal water using devices such as the good old Pura Tap™ is barely acceptable and a few degrees better than plain tap water.

Bottled spring water is the fourth best alternative. Its veracity is called into question due to the length of time it’s been stored, the plastic containers in which it is stored and whether it really is spring water in the first place.

Most, if not all other beverages offer little in hydration benefits as it often requires the body to consume more water to safely process the drink than the amount of water that it contains in the first place. One of the worst waters to consume is reverse osmosis water. This water is close to distilled water, pure H2O, which is unnatural and is classified in health terms as a chemical. H20 is a solvent and will leach minerals from the body. Extremely unhealthy! Beware as some bottled waters are reverse osmosis waters.

Obviously, if you need water in an emergency or over a short period of time all of the above (Maybe with the exception of soft drinks and the like.) will do in a pinch. However, the long term effects of drinking poor liquids is unquestionable.

As bushwalkers you know the basics of collecting water, identifying its source, assessing suitability, treating it as necessary etc. Whole books are written on how to obtain water in the bush so we won’t go into that topic here. What I am here to reiterate to you, is that you must drink sufficient good quality water. As previously stated, 1% dehydration equates to a 5% drop in performance. Subsequent 1% drops in hydration are not lineal. It is cumulative and logarithmic.

Let’s assume a person starts a bush walk healthy, reasonably hydrated and weighs 70 kilos. They are 75% water. That is, they are comprised of 52.5 litres of water and 7.5 kilos of other stuff. (Medical terminology) They expel 1.5 litres an hour through urination, faces, perspiration, breath and general physical activity. They are aware of hydration and drink half a litre and hour. Over eight hours they have expelled 12 litres of water and replaced 4 litres. There is a deficit of 8 litres or 11.48% drop in hydration. Multiply that by the factor of 5 and you can see their performance must diminish by at least 57%. That is all performance, physical and cognitive. And we wonder why people can’t make seemingly rash decisions at the end of the day? We need adequate rest, food and hydration.

The best solution is to start well hydrated, really well hydrated, and consume plenty of good water along the way. There are plenty of bushes and trees out there!

Water is the best defence against disease of every kind. Sixty percent or more of all chronic disease would be significantly reduced if people would simply keep themselves properly hydrated. Mr Bob McCauley author and teacher, 20 Sep 2006.

This has been a very short synopsis on the necessity and effects of hydration. If you wish further information feel free to contact the author. Keep healthy, be happy and have a fabulous festive season. See you on the trails.

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