Do you want to know the secret behind Mona Lisa’s smile? She realised that water was the source of all life on Earth, and she drank enough of it. Leonardo da Vinci said that, “Water is the driving force of all nature,” back in the 15th century way before the advent of the microscope.
When we think about it, what a life affirming and remarkable substance it is. But what is water? How much water is in the body and where? How much water should we be drinking? What does it do for us and why is it so important? What are the benefits of water and what happens when we become dehydrated? Join us as we take an exploratory deep dive into this work of art.
What is water?
Water, along with Air, Earth and Fire is one of the four critical foundational elements or primary building blocks of Nature. Without it, the Universe and everything in it including our Blue Planet and you, would not exist.
In its most natural state, water is completely transparent, odourless, and tasteless. It’s neither acidic nor alkaline. It is the only common substance in the world that exists in a solid, liquid and gas form simultaneously. Yet, it’s so exceptionally rare that its solid state of ice floats in its liquid state. It has a comparatively high boiling point which means that it’s able to absorb a substantial amount of heat, making it excellent at regulating temperature and it’s especially good as a coolant.
H2O can technically be expressed as dihydrogen oxide. So, it’s carbon-free, is scientifically classified as inorganic and can never be sold or marketed as a ‘certified organic’ product.
Although water can’t dissolve fats, lipids or oils, it’s often referred to as the universal solvent and dissolves more substances than any other known liquid. Because of this, it carries chemical compounds, minerals and nutrients along and through everything it encounters. This can sometimes be a double-edged sword, especially when we think of all the pollutants that industry pumps into the atmosphere and why it’s so important to be mindful of the liquids we drink, slather onto our bodies or inhale.
It’s a friendly substance though, meaning that it’s adhesive, cohesive and elastic. That’s a fancy way of saying that it likes to stick together and at the same time, is compelled to look for other water molecules. This gives water its capillary action or ability to travel along and through the veinous networks found abundantly in the flora and fauna kingdom, including those in our bodies.
But did you know that water also has a memory and therefore a consciousness? During the 1990’s celebrated scientist Dr Masaru Emoto proved that water molecules change their structure at a subatomic level by absorbing and remembering the atmosphere, feelings, intentions, vibrations and words in, around and on them.
By photographing frozen water crystals, Dr Emoto proved that water is particularly responsive to the words that we use, how we say them, the way in which we say them and how we’re feeling when we say them. Water even responds to the words that are written on the containers in which they are stored.
More affirmative, happier and positive emotions and words create brighter, more harmonious and symmetrical looking water crystals while the opposite is also true. Angrier, sadder and more negative words and emotions create darker looking, more asymmetrical water crystals. This is why the words we speak over one another have the power to build or break. Choose them wisely and intentionally.
Be sure to thank your water before you drink it. It remembers every act of kindness.
How much water does the human body contain?
Two-thirds or about 60% of the average human body is made up of water. This can vary anywhere between 45-75% and depends on factors such as your age, gender, health, weight and how well you’ve been looking after yourself.
New-born babies have the most water in their bodies at around 75% to help keep them protected. That drops to about 65% after one year of age. 10% of a baby’s birthweight is carried in its head in comparison to an adult which is 2%. The brain, and the other vital organs such as the heart, kidneys and lungs contain the most water. These are proportionately much larger in a baby’s body which isn’t fully grown yet.
As we age, we tend to lose body water. That’s because lean muscle comprises the most water at around 75% while fat tissue only contains about 10%. We tend to lose muscle mass as we age.
That means people who have a higher body fat percentage and those who are overweight or who have a tendency towards obesity, have far less water in their bodies than those who are leaner and trimmer.
Women also have less water in their bodies than men. A healthy body water percentage should be between 45-60% with an average of 50% for women. For men, the healthy range is 50-65% with an average of 60%.
Want to calculate your body water percentage?
Click here to access the Total body water calculator.
Certain organs contain more water than others. It makes sense that blood is water- rich, comprising as much as 10% of your body’s total body mass. Blood comprises 50% water while blood plasma comprises 90%.
It’s blood that carries all the vital nutrients, building blocks and oxygen to every vital organ in the body. Conversely it carries it out of our bodies via the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin and digestive tract too. The amount of water in our bodies is dependent on the organ in which it is found. Every single cell in the body contains water, whether it’s alive or not. Think hair, nails and even tooth enamel which are all technically part of the ectodermal organs.
The brain and kidneys are both the wettest and thirstiest organs comprising 80-85% water each, followed by the heart and lungs at between 75-80% each, muscles, liver, and skin at between 70-75% each, bones at between 20-25%, hair between 12-15%, toenails between 11-12% and teeth between 8-10%.
|% Water Content
How does water support the vital bodily functions?
Around 70% of our planet is covered in water but only 2% of that is fresh water. Water is responsible for one of the most important cycles on Earth, The Water Cycle. It’s through this cycle that air is produced and purified, that fresh water is created, that nutrients are carried to the right place for growth to happen, that Earth’s temperature is regulated and life in general is sustained. The list goes on.
Earth is a remarkable and incomparable example of recycling perfection. We only need to look to nature and understand The Water Cycle on Earth’s surface, to understand how water supports the vital bodily functions of every life-affirming cycle inside us too.
Water is a building block and performs a structural function. About two-thirds of all water is inside our cells while the rest is extracellular. What this means is that water provides the volume to keep the cell walls stable enough to stand upright, create form and take shape so that they can knit together to create the body.
The body’s primary function, believe it or not, is as a rather ingenious water recycling engine. If we weren’t able to recycle the water in it, we would need to drink about 200 litres of water a day to function. As it is, many of us battle to consume the daily recommended requirement of 2 litres of water a day. It’s the body that houses the brain and all the systems and functions it orchestrates. And believe it or not, none of those would be possible without the miracle elixir otherwise known as water.
How much water should I drink a day?
To calculate how much water, you should drink a day in litres, take your weight in kilograms and multiply that by 0.033.
65kg x 0.033 = 2.145 litres of water throughout the day.
80kg x 0.033 = 2.64 litres of water throughout the day.
95kg x 0.033 = 3.135 litres of water throughout the day.
An endocrine gland the size of a pea in the limbic system at the base of the brain called the pituitary gland helps to regulate the water balance in the body. It produces specific hormones that gives the kidneys its instructions. The kidneys are the driving force of the water recycling engine. They maintain the water balance and filter the water in the blood from minerals, hormones, by-products and toxins to keep it clean.
Water retention may often be a sign of a hormonal imbalance. But not always. Diet and exercise also play a major role. A diet rich in sodium (salt), refined carbohydrates (sugar) and starches, bad fats, fast foods, too much caffeine, alcohol, fizzy drinks and cool drinks, and not enough exercise, also forces the body to retain water. But the biggest culprit of all, is simply not drinking the appropriate amount of good quality water consistently throughout the day.
Top Tip: Suffering from water retention, swollen ankles or swollen knuckles? It might sound counterintuitive but it’s just your body’s way of saying, ‘I can’t let go of the water have so I’ll hang onto it’.
The remedy? Drink more good quality water and try to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Gradually increase your water intake to approximately 2.5 litres throughout the day and address your exercise routine and your diet. Remember that you should be urinating on average 6-9 times a day to rid your body of its toxins. Your urine should be a pale-yellow colour.
Water’s main functions in the body
Water is a humble, noble and versatile servant in the body. It would be fair to call it a ‘multi-potentialite’ because of the various functions it performs in the body.
Water is the driver of the entire digestion process. It’s the primary constituent of saliva making it possible to swallow, and in other gastric juices that break down the food that we eat.
As a solvent, it dissolves all the vital nutrients, vitamins, oxygen and trace elements we need, and makes them bioavailable and ready to use in the body.
As a transporter, it carries and circulates what’s needed to-and-from every nook, cranny and crevice as well as every vital organ. Just as importantly, it carries waste products, metabolites and toxins away and out of the body. It supports the kidneys and the liver, flushes toxins from the system, prevents constipation and maintains homeostasis, or balance, in all 100 trillion cells of the body. It’s important to drink enough water to prevent kidney stones too.
Water is also the great metaboliser or the base in and through which every chemical reaction happens in our bodies.
As a lubricant, it keeps our mucosal membranes moist including those found in the eyes, nose, mouth and throat which provides our primary defence against most germs. It allows them to cleanse, protect and expel pathogens from our bodies. This is why it’s so important to stay hydrated to stay healthy. It allows the natural defences to function optimally.
It’s also the primary lubricant in our joints, muscle tissue and in what is called synovial fluid, or joint fluid. As such, it acts as the body’s most important shock absorber. Because of this, it creates flexibility and prevents injuries. When you don’t consume enough water through your diet, water and other liquids over the long-term, you may start to experience cramping, stiff muscles, joint pain and eventually other symptoms such as arthritis and gout.
Water provides the body with temperature insulation. The enzymes in the body are very sensitive to temperature. Enzymes are responsible for almost every chemical reaction that happens inside us. To keep them within functioning range the body uses water to regulate our body temperatures. Water can absorb a lot of heat. This helps to regulate and to keep our body temperatures constant through the lungs by breathing, and through the skin by sweating.
When we get hot, the body generates heat which water absorbs. The body then pushes the water to the skin through sweat which evaporates, cooling the skin beneath it. Did you know that the average person loses between 2.5 to 3 litres of water in a 24-hour day through sweat alone even when they are not moving around that much?
We also lose water through our lungs. In fact, we lose about 1 cup or 250ml of water a day through breathing alone to keep our internal core temperature stable.
When we get ill, our body temperature increases to kill the invaders inside us. To regulate our body temperature and cool it down, we naturally start to sweat more and lose more water through the lungs. This is why doctors ask us to drink more when we have a fever.
Water is also the great insulator of a different kind. It sheaths the brain, the spinal cord and all the nerve cells. Water is also the primary creator and protector of our thoughts and feelings. It helps us to create and then cry tears of sadness and joy, and is used to produce hormones allowing us to have those feelings. And water allows us to grow new cells.
Quite poetically, water demonstrates all its powers and prowess from the miracle of conception, through the development of the foetus in the mother’s womb, to the spectacle of birth, life and beyond. From The Water Cycle to The Life Cycle.
What happens in the body when wou’re dehydrated?
Dehydration happens more quickly and more often than anyone cares to admit. You can become dehydrated by losing as little as 2% of your body weight in water. This happens by not replacing the water that your body has lost. It can happen in several ways such as by sweating excessively, through diarrhoea and vomiting, through certain medications and medical conditions, water-borne diseases and by lack of access to clean water.
Babies and children are most at risk of becoming dehydrated as well as the frail and elderly especially those with dementia, the mentally handicapped and particularly those who find it difficult to communicate. This is why it is so important to be vigilant about monitoring their water intake.
The first thing that starts to happen in the body when you don’t drink enough water and start to become dehydrated is that your vital organs start to become starved of nutrients and oxygen, and toxins start to accumulate. Your kidneys start to look for the water elsewhere and start borrowing it from all the places where it’s most abundant: The blood, the brain, the lungs and the heart. Your body goes into self-preservation mode. The sheaths around your brain, spinal cord and nerve cells start to shrink. The left and right hemispheres of your brain start to separate, the pH balance in your body is thrown off kilter and uric acid starts to accumulate. You start to preserve energy.
Studies show that 75% of the American population is dehydrated. The typical signs and symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration are a combination of the following:
- You become more weather intolerant and more sensitive to heat as less water is used to regulate your body temperature. You may experience facial flushing and experience fevers and/or chills.
- You become more sensitive to the food you eat, and you become more easily constipated. You have a tendency towards symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
- Your urine is darker and more cloudy in colour.
- You start to experience headaches more frequently and become more confused about the little things, like why you walked into the kitchen. You fidget more.
- Skin becomes dry and flaky, and you tend to scratch.
- Nails may become brittle and split more easily and your hair becomes dull and lifeless.
- You start to feel to your age. Bones feel squeaky and your joints ache. Old injuries might begin acting up.
- You wake up with a puffy face and you tend to retain water. You have swollen hands and/or ankles.
- You are a little more grumpy and more short-fused than usual. You start to have feelings of self-pity and remorse simultaneously.
- You’re tired all the time, fatigued almost, and tend to wake up in the middle of the night for no reason.
- Although you seem to have lost your general appetite, you get these cravings for something to eat but are not quite sure for what.
- You tend to get cramps more easily and back ache back and stiff joints, particularly down the right side of your body.
- Your allergies flare up although it is not allergy season.
- You start to experience bad breath.
The quickest way to remedy dehydration is to remember that slow and steady won the race and to look at everything holistically. Consider the following:
- Drink 2 litres of good quality filtered water consistently throughout the day.
- Drink water before you feel thirsty.
- Drink one glass of water before every cup of coffee or tea, unit of alcohol, glass of fruit juice or carbonated drink remembering that for every one of those drinks that you do drink, your kidneys remove the same plus 20ml every time.
- Remember that fruit juice is laden with sugar and may not be as healthy as you realise.
- Invest in a good quality water filter and a water bottle. Keep it nearby.
- Look at your diet. Where appropriate increase your fresh fruit and vegetable intake. The golden rule is x5 servings a day of each or 2-3 cups a day of each. X1 serving equates to around 80 grams.
- To make water taste better, flavour it with fruit such as strawberries, lemon, orange, pineapple or melon. Even a slice of cucumber. Add a herb or even a spice such as a sprig of mint, a cardamom seed or aniseed. Get creative.
- Avoid refined carbohydrates.
- Use your phone. Set the timer on the phone to help get you into the habit of reaching for the bottle.
Habits take on average 21 days to create and take practice, patience and perseverance to perfect. The good news is that mild dehydration takes far quicker to overcome.
Now you too can smile the Mona Lisa smile; the smile of what this miracle of life can do, or is doing in your body.
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