The Importance of Water to Life

Whole Systems Healthcare

Water Permits Life

Water is structurally and functionally fundamental to all of life. Structurally, the human body is comprised of 75% water in infancy, reducing to 55% in old age. (1) Functionally, it is the most essential and versatile molecule yet known in the entire cosmos (why we get so excited when we find it on other planets or moons). It allows the processes of life to occur. We cannot usually live without water for more than about 100 hours, whereas other nutrients may be neglected for weeks or months. Other than oxygen, no other nutrient is as essential or needed as consistently. No enzymes work in the absence of water molecules. No other liquid can replace water.

Our requirements for water are individual and depend on our physical activity, diet, alcohol intake, health conditions, environment, and age. We get water from spring/well/carbonated/distilled water-based beverages along with a relatively small amount through metabolic oxidation of macronutrients as a product (called metabolic water). For instance, for every gram of glucose or protein (albumin) we process in our bodies, the average person produces approximately 0.6 and  0.37 milliliters water, respectively. (3)

However interestingly, there are major gaps in knowledge related to how to study the total fluid intake of people, hydration status at the population level. In fact, there have been no published random-controlled longer-term trials assessing water intake guidelines for any population.

There is also no acceptable test (biomarker) that can be tested to definitively claim adequate hydration in a person. Hydration status has been assessed using blood osmolality  which looks at the balance of water to electrolytes. However, because our body regulates this balances so tightly, it is in general a poor indicator of hydration status. (2) Water is often forgotten in recommendations from health professionals and nutritionists, mainly due to confusion on how much should be recommended and how to assess if patients are adequately hydrated. (3)

But Why is Water Significant?

Water is directly or indirectly the most studied material on Earth, however, the conclusions derived from these investigations of the actual nature of water are ambiguous, poorly understood or flat out ignored as anomalous folly. Water is taken for granted, a rather uninteresting substance in terms of its simplicity and ubiquity.

Its simplicity is seemingly out of proportion to its extraordinary properties— simultaneously a chemical solvent, solute, reactant, catalyst, thermoregulator with its extraordinary heat capacity, tissue shock absorber from our movements, carrier of nutrients and wastes, protein scaffolding and structuring, and so on.

Do You Drink Enough Water?

A problem with assessing water intake is that many of the popular beverages available today are far different from pure water. Energy drinks, soda, juices, milk based products all create potentially variable metabolic process that have not been studied well enough to draw any reliable conclusions. (4) Not to mention the potential negative effects of high sugar, fructose predominant beverages and their effect on our metabolism (diabetes, fat accumulation, etc), creating other significant problems beyond dehydration. (5-8)

How Much Water Do We Need?

Water is involved in a multitude of physiologic processes in the body and is meticulously regulated by our system to maintain balance. Therefore, an estimate for daily water requirements has been established based on these activities. (3) On average, a sedentary adult should drink 1.5 liters of water per day, as water is the only liquid nutrient that is really essential for body hydration and is vital for the body to function properly.

Dehydration can contribute to many symptoms you may experience, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Skin eruptions
  • Mental Fog
  • Sugar Cravings

The recommendation from traditional doctors as a rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces of pure water. For instance, if your weight is 200 lbs, then half of that would be 100 ounces. But at the beginning this kind be quite a challenge so we recommend a minimum consumption of 1.5 liters (approximately 50 ounces) for the average person. 

General Water Intake Recommendations:

Keep your water bottle (Stainless Steel or glass) or a jar of water in your night table.  Water consumption in the morning has great benefits for digestion and metabolism.

Have 2 water bottles: 1 for the car and 1 for the house. Sometimes due to our busy agendas, long commutes– drinking water can be an afterthought. Having a bottle near you at all times serves as a reminder and means to drink more water!   This small change in habit can save you a few dollars every day and increase your water consumption. 

Know the measurement of our water bottle: 32 ounces is one liter, if your bottle is 20 Oz then drinking 2 at least two full bottles could be a starting goal.

1-to-1 challenge. If you’re not used to drinking pure water, it can be challenging to incorporate a new habit. Whatever you are used to drinking daily, match it with an equivalent amount of water. Continue this, trying to make pure water a more consistent primary beverage of choice.  For example, if in the morning you only drink one cup of coffee or a glass of juice, also drink a cup of water.

Add a half a lemon, cucumber or orange slices to the water. There are some people that find it difficult to drink more water because of the taste. Try adding some lemon, cucumber or orange slices to the water to alter the flavor. Please avoid adding sweeteners or products with colored dyes.

You can add some chlorophyll powder to your water. This can help support some of the detoxification pathways in the body which can contribute to your overall health.

*If someone in your medical team has warned you against the additional consumption of water due to a personal health condition their advice supersedes what it is included in this message. Always follow the advice of your doctor.


  1. Nicolaidis S. Physiology of thirst. In: Arnaud MJ, editor. Hydration Throughout Life. Montrouge: John Libbey Eurotext; 1998. p. 247. 
  2. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439–458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
  3. Jequier E, Constant F. Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2010) 64, 115–123; doi:10.1038/ejcn.2009.111; published online 2 September 2009
  4. Malik V, Popkin B, Bray G, Depres J-P, Willett W, Hu F, editors. Dept of Nutrition. Harvard SPH; Boston: 2009. Sugar Sweetened Beverages and Cardiometabolic Risk: A Meta-analysis.
  5. Teff KL, Grudziak J, Townsend RR, et al. Endocrine and Metabolic Effects of Consuming Fructose- and Glucose-Sweetened Beverages with Meals in Obese Men and Women: Influence of Insulin Resistance on Plasma Triglyceride Responses. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009;94:1562–1569.
  6. Stanhope KL. Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. J Clin Investigat. 2009;119:1322–1334.
  7. Stanhope KL, Havel PJ. Endocrine and metabolic effects of consuming beverages sweetened with fructose, glucose, sucrose, or high-fructose corn syrup. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;88:1733S–1737.
  8. Stanhope KL, Griffen SC, Bair BR, Swarbrick MM, Keim NL, Havel PJ. Twenty-four-hour endocrine and metabolic profiles following consumption of high-fructose corn syrup-, sucrose-, fructose-, and glucose-sweetened beverages with meals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87:1194–1203.