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The Seven Pillars of Health: The Natural Way to Better Health for Life
by Don Colbert
Learn More | Meet Don Colbert
Day 1: Water and You
My wife, Mary, and I flew into a city where I was speaking at a conference, and a local family met us at the airport. To my surprise, the husband and children hugged me, and some of the children began to cry. Never before had I received such a warm reception.
“You helped us get our mother and wife back,” they said. The mother had heard a teaching I had given from my book The Bible Cure for Headaches and followed the recommendations, one of which is to drink two to three quarts of filtered water each day.1 Within weeks, the headaches were gone. It was now six months later, and she was pain free. She was now able to care for her beautiful family.
Since her childhood, this woman had suffered from migraine headaches that left her unable to function and care for her family. The headaches were also interfering with her ability to practice as a professional psychologist. She had been to neurologists and doctors and tried dozens of medications, but they all failed to help her. Over time her headaches had grown worse, and even the strongest pain medicines available did not help to alleviate them.
This woman had been mildly dehydrated most of her life and never realized the cure for her headaches was as close as her glass of water.
I start our study of The Seven Pillars of Health with water because it is the most foundational aspect of health.
Water is the single most important nutrient for our bodies. It is involved in every function of our bodies. You can live five to seven weeks without food, but the average adult can last no more than five days without water.3
As a Florida resident, I have lived through several periods of drought, and when we don’t receive adequate amounts of rainfall, the local government rations water consumption. We can water our lawns only on certain days and during certain times on those days. Your body does a similar thing when it becomes dehydrated: it begins to ration the water.
And yet some people water their houseplants more than they do their own bodies! You are valuable; take care of yourself and properly hydrate your body.
A Miracle Cure
Many people never drink water. Some don’t like the taste of water, or they were never taught the importance of drinking it. Maybe their parents gave them juice, soft drinks, milk—anything but water. As a result, many people spend their day going from one caffeinated or sugar-based drink to another. They jumpstart their mornings with coffee. By midmorning they have a soda for another boost, then drink sweetened caffeinated iced tea for lunch. Late afternoon it’s another coffee-based or “10 percent juice” drink. Little do they know that all that caffeine and sugar are actually stealing water from their bodies, doing them more harm than good.
In my practice I see people all the time whose bodies are starved for clean, natural water. They are neglecting the most basic pillar of health, and their bodies and minds pay a terrible price. By the time I see them they often suffer from headaches, back pain, arthritis, skin problems, digestion problems, and other ailments. Often they have gone to another doctor, who might have given them medications that didn’t address the problem but only turned off the symptoms. This is similar to a red warning light blinking on your car’s dashboard, informing you to check your engine. If you simply decide to remove the fuse to turn off the warning light instead of taking your car in for service, you will eventually ruin your car’s engine. That is a simple illustration of what many individuals do by taking medications instead of addressing their body’s “warning light” that they are dehydrated and need an adequate intake of clean water.
Many Americans live in a mildly dehydrated state with various irritating symptoms and never realize it. I often tell patients that when they have a headache, they don’t have a Tylenol deficiency. When they have joint pain, they don’t have an Advil deficiency. When they have heartburn, they don’t have a Pepcid deficiency, and if they are depressed, they don’t have a Prozac deficiency. In each of these cases, their body is often crying out for water.5
Mary and I have lost count of the people who come up to us at seminars and say, “I had this or that problem, but I took your advice and started drinking water, and it went away.” People tend to lose excess weight, their arthritis problems disappear, and their high blood pressure begins to return to normal levels.
If it sounds like a miracle cure, that’s because it is! God created us to rely on water for our very lives. If you have ever read the Bible, you may have seen how water is a major theme in the Old Testament. People were always digging into the ground looking for water, and when they found it they gave their wells names and defended them with their lives. That’s how critical water was for survival back then.
Water is just as important for you and me today.
I treat every patient I see in my practice first with water. Most of my patients get better when they simply drink as much water as their body is asking for. Drinking sufficient amounts of the right kind of water will also do more to improve your health than anything else you can do!
Building Blocks to a Healthy Life
POINTS TO PONDER: Water is the single most important nutrient for our bodies and is considered a “miracle cure” for many health conditions. It is involved in every function of our bodies. Your body loses about two quarts of water a day through perspiration, urination, and exhalation. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink water, then you are most likely already dehydrated.
ACTION STEP: Instead of reaching for a soft drink or tea, drink clean, natural water.
Day 2: What Happens When You Don’t Drink Water
A patient of mine had terrible back pain every time he got up in the morning. He had been seeing another doctor and taking anti-inflammatory medicine, but it didn’t help. The pain and stiffness were worse in the morning, so he started waking up earlier and staying up since the pain would not be as intense. As he told me about his condition I could almost sense his desperation. He thought I would put him on some novel treatment or pharmaceutical regimen. But I didn’t. I prescribed for him a glass of alkaline water and told him to set it on his nightstand and drink it when he woke up in the middle of the night. He wasn’t convinced this would solve his problem. It seemed too simple, almost childish, but he tried it anyway—and it worked. The back pain went away.
His body was mildly dehydrated and acidic and was, in effect, “stealing” water from his facet joints, disks, muscles, and connective tissues of the back in order to “water” his important organs. This may be a very simple explanation for the complex pathophysiology that is beyond the scope of this book. However, I have decided to keep it simple so that I do not bog you down, dear reader, with medical terminology.
A recognized physician, F. Batmanghelidj, MD, in his book titled Water for Health, for Healing, for Life, points out some of the benefits of maintaining your body properly hydrated:2
- Water is the main lubricant in the joint spaces and helps prevent arthritis and back pain.
- Water increases the efficiency of the immune system.
- Water prevents clogging of arteries in the heart and brain, and thus helps reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Water is directly connected to brain function—it is needed for the efficient manufacture of neurotransmitters, including serotonin; it is needed for the production of hormones made by the brain, such as melatonin; it can prevent attention deficit disorder (ADD); and it improves our attention span.
- Water helps prevent memory loss as we age, reducing the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Water affects our appearance, making our skin smoother and giving it sparkling luster; it also reduces the effects of aging.
When your body lacks the water it needs, it goes into a sort of rationing mode, as I described in Day 1. Think of a sprinkler system whose pressure is turned too low to reach all the grass on your lawn. Some parts stay green, but other parts begin to turn brown and die. When you live in a drought condition, your body smartly manages the water you give it, keeping the vital organs well watered with nutrients.3 I call these vital organs “the starting five,” like the starting five of a basketball team. They are the:
The body keeps these organs well hydrated with water, lest you suffer serious consequences. But as a result, nonvital organs may suffer. In the body’s ranking system, body parts like the skin, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and joints are less important, and so symptoms of dehydration usually show up there first.
Health Conditions Complicated by Dehydration
Your body can’t send you an e-mail message or access your voice mail, so when it gets dehydrated, it lets you know in the only way it knows how: through unpleasant symptoms. Here are some major signs you are suffering from dehydration.
Joint pains and arthritis
Joint cartilage provides the smooth surface so that joints can glide easily during movement. Cartilage is about five times slicker than ice, and that cartilage is made up of 80 percent water. If the cartilage is robbed of fluid, the joints will eventually creak, crack, and pop, like a door on a rusty hinge. The increased friction causes them to degenerate quicker, eventually leading to arthritis.
As people approach the age of fifty, back pain often becomes a real problem. And no wonder: three-quarters of the weight of the body is supported by the fluid inside the disks. When the disks in your spine lack water, they begin to degenerate and herniate more quickly. It’s similar to driving a car on underinflated tires. The tires will either wear out faster or eventually blow out.
High blood pressure
When the body is mildly dehydrated, it may restrict the flow of blood to nonvital areas and concentrate it instead on the vital organs. The immediate result: your blood pressure may rise. Picture a garden hose. Constrict the water flow with your thumb, and it increases the water pressure inside.
But drink enough water, and constricted blood vessels usually begin to open up, lowering blood pressure. Sure, you could take a blood pressure medication, but why, when the safer, cheaper solution is usually to drink enough water? I’ve had many patients lower their blood pressure to normal with an adequate intake of water. Of course, weight loss, stress reduction, and a sensible diet are also important for lowering blood pressure.
Are you a Pepcid-popper? Do you always have a roll of Tums at your desk or in your purse? Water is the hero of the gastrointestinal tract. It is the basis of every fluid your body needs for digestion, including saliva, bile, stomach acid, pancreatic juices, and even the mucus that lines our GI tract. Without adequate water, the whole digestive system goes into emergency mode, and you may get heartburn, indigestion, constipation, hemorrhoids, and even ulcers.
The mucous layer in your stomach is 98 percent water. It protects against stomach acid, and it contains bicarbonate, which neutralizes stomach acid. When your body has adequate water, the mucous layer is thick, preventing the acid from burning the stomach lining. Without a thick mucous layer, you may experience chronic burning whenever you eat.
Ulcer medications may do more harm than good; they treat the symptoms, so you feel better. But over time they reduce your stomach acid, leaving plenty of room for Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori, the primary ulcer-causing bacteria, to run rampant.
But water keeps the digestive juices supplied and helps your body create all the acid it needs. That acid is your friend in this case, because it kills the bacteria H. pylori that cause ulcers, and it also improves digestion.
Asthmatics usually have high histamine levels. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that causes the muscles in the bronchial tubes to constrict, restricting the flow of air. Your bronchial tubes need adequate hydration to prevent constriction. Animal studies have shown that histamine production goes down as water intake goes up.5 The same goes for allergies, which are also usually associated with elevated histamine levels.
People with asthma should slightly increase their salt intake, provided they don’t have high blood pressure or heart disease. Dr. Batmanghelidj explains the reason why salt is important to asthmatics:
- In the first stages of asthma, mucus is secreted to protect the tissues [but] there comes a time [when] that mucus . . . stays put, preventing normal passage of air through the airways. Sodium is a natural “mucus breaker,” and it is normally secreted to make mucus “disposable.” That is why phlegm is salty when it comes in contact with the tongue. Salt is needed to break up the mucus in the lungs and render it watery for its expulsion from the airways.6
If you are an asthmatic or tend to have allergies, water may improve your symptoms more than the latest round of inhalers or pills from pharmaceutical companies. Besides, water is cheaper, too. As I say, “Health is cheap; disease is expensive.”
Today we covered the adverse conditions that dehydration can have on your body. Tomorrow I will share with you a simple antiaging secret.
Building Blocks to a Healthy Life
POINTS TO PONDER: Dehydration robs from certain areas of the body to keep the brain, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys well hydrated. Many symptoms of disease are the first sign of the body needing adequate amounts of water. Some of the symptoms of inadequate water intake may include headaches, back pain, joint aches, dry skin, allergies, heartburn, constipation, and memory loss.
ACTION STEP: If you are suffering from any of the health conditions listed above, identify which ones, gradually increase the amount of water you drink each day, and eventually these symptoms may start to subside.
Day 3: The Fountain of Youth
Located in St. Augustine, Florida, is a historical landmark known as “the Fountain of Youth,” a legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. One of the most persistent myths is that Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he traveled to present-day Florida in 1513. Each year many people visit the historical site and superstitiously drink from its water in hopes of reversing the aging process and looking forever young. The irony is that the myth is partially true: water does rejuvenate your skin, which can make you look years younger.
A few years ago I saw singer Tina Turner in a television interview, and even though she was well into her sixties, her skin looked fabulous. She said it was because she drank at least two quarts of water every day.
When you don’t drink enough clean water you may lose your good looks. I believe that water is the single best beauty treatment on the planet. It keeps your skin supple, your eyes bright, and your body spry. Consider this: Remove water from plums, and you get prunes. Remove water from your skin, and you get wrinkles. In a dehydrated state your skin becomes dry, flaky, and wrinkled. The skin is designed to hold in moisture, to be elastic. When you deprive it of water, the skin sags and loses its elasticity. Not even a jar of wrinkle prevention cream can cure that!
Lose Weight, Feel Great
Proper hydration has other benefits for reversing the aging process. Water will also help you to manage your weight. When you are dehydrated, your body secretes aldosterone, a hormone that causes water retention. As you drink more water, your body releases the water it was storing for “survival mode.” During the first few days of drinking more water than your body is accustomed to, you are running to the bathroom constantly. This can be very discouraging, and it can certainly interfere with an otherwise normal daily routine. Take heart; it’s really your body’s way of getting rid of excess water and toxins. You are “flushing” out your system.
New research also shows that being dehydrated may cause your body’s fat deposits to increase. Dehydration can contribute to an inefficient metabolism by affecting body temperature. When you are dehydrated, your body temperature drops slightly and causes your body to store fat as a way to help raise or maintain the temperature.1 Also, as some savvy dieters know, drinking water reduces your appetite by giving you a full feeling.
Improve Your Memory
Have you ever felt as if you were experiencing a “senior moment”? You don’t have to be resigned to the idea of losing your memory anymore. For some time, it was common knowledge that nothing could be done about memory loss. It was accepted as a part of growing old. That is, until experts discovered that humans can grow new brain cells. PET (positron emission tomography) and SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans can map brain activity and measure both the destruction and growth of new brain cells. This completely changed the way we viewed memory loss. Thanks to these marvelous advances, today we know that even damaged brains can grow new cells.3 If we know what areas of the brain can grow new cells, then we may be able to improve memory.
One way to improve your memory is to drink a lot of water. Your brain loves water. The human brain is roughly one-fiftieth of the total body weight, and brain cells are said to be approximately 85 percent water. The brain is the only part of the body that is constantly active.4 So to remain active, it must have water. Without adequate hydration, these processes can slow down. I believe that long-term dehydration may even contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, and I believe further studies will bear this out. For further information on the use of water to prevent and treat all kinds of diseases, I strongly recommend the book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj.
Water revives cells
Cellular dehydration affects how our cells function. The first sign of failing health is a shift of fluid from the inside of the cell to the outside of the cell. About two-thirds of the body’s fluid is inside the cells, and the rest is outside the cells. But cells die when they don’t have enough energy to maintain the membrane pumps, which maintain the balance of water inside and out.
When there is more water outside the cells than there should be, it compresses blood vessels and reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients delivered to the cells. Cells suffer. Something as simple as water can bring health back to our cells by maintaining water balance in our bodies. This is increasingly important as we age, because cells lose water as we age. Believe it or not, newborn infants are about 80 percent water, whereas older people are usually less than 50 percent water.5
So the next time you are tempted to try the latest expensive skin cream or pop a pill, try drinking enough water. It will keep your skin hydrated, elastic, attractive, and healthy. It will help you manage your appetite, and it will improve your memory. By giving your body the water it needs, you will maintain your youth and smarts longer.
Building Blocks to a Healthy Life
POINTS TO PONDER: Water is a powerful nutrient to slow the aging process and to maintain your brain and memory. Your brain cells are mainly water—about 85 percent—and your brain is constantly active, even during sleep. Therefore, your brain needs to be well hydrated.
ACTION STEP: Increase your intake of salads, vegetables, and fruits since they all contain a high percentage of water.
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