Water (H2O) is an essential part of our body and makes up approximately 75% of our body weight. Essentially without it, we wouldn’t be able to survive. Every organ and every cell requires an adequate amount of water to function properly. This is especially true for spinal health. Water is essential for the nutrition of our intervertebral discs and surrounding muscles to ensure spinal integrity. What’s interesting about our discs is the “diurnal changes” it goes through throughout the day. This is the theory that, due to repetitive compressive and gravitational forces throughout the day, our overall height can change ¼ to ½ an inch from morning to evening due to the “squeezing out” of water. During our sleep cycle, especially with adequate water intake and sleep, our discs return to their normal heights. Our intervertebral discs serve as a nice cushion between each segment of the spine. To act as a proper shock absorber, the discs need an adequate amount of water to counteract the forces working against them. Consequently, if a disc is not properly hydrated, it is unable to withstand the loads we put on it throughout the day, which can lead to inflammation and pain. Persistent trauma to a malnourished disc can lead to chronic disc disease, as well as herniation or bulging.
It’s a common suggestion that we consume about eight glasses of water in a day to have “adequate” water intake. However, although this is a general understanding, it does not compensate for individualized activities. If you find that you are more active throughout the day, then you would want to consume more water than what was previously suggested. Water intake is dependent on how much water we’ve lost through the day, which includes urination, bowel movement and sweating. So with increased frequencies of each of these activities, it’s essential to include more water throughout our day. Your body is great at telling you when you need more water, so please listen to your thirst. However, even though you’re not thirsty, it doesn’t hurt to drink more water throughout the day to stay hydrated and to meet the daily recommendation. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink that H2O. Warning: there is also such a thing as “too much water”. If you are unsure about the amount of water you should be drinking, please don’t hesitate to ask a health care specialist.
Dr. Alexander Pacis, DC, is a partner at the Active Family Chiropractic & Wellness Centre. www.wellnesschiropractor.com