"Water . . . One of Heaven's Choicest Blessings"

RECENTLY questions have been raised 1 and exaggerated claims have been made 2 regarding the effects of drinking various types of water. Some conscientious, health-minded, Seventh-day Adventists are being misled by claims based on misconceptions. The purpose of this article is to examine some problems relating to water and its effects upon the body. . .

-dean of the college, Andrews University at the time this article was written

RECENTLY questions have been raised 1 and exaggerated claims have been made 2 regarding the effects of drinking various types of water. Some conscientious, health-minded, Seventh-day Adventists are being misled by claims based on misconceptions. The purpose of this article is to examine some problems relating to water and its effects upon the body.

Water is the medium required for the chemical reactions comprising our life processes to occur. The importance of water to these complex reactions can be illustrated by the example of the freeze drying of bacteria. When the water is carefully removed from these simple living forms, their life processes go into a state of suspended animation. These dried bacteria show no signs of life. They can be stored almost indefinitely and can be shipped around the country. When a bacteriologist wants to perform experiments with this type of bacteria all he has to do is add water back and then provide them with nutrients and with optimum conditions for growth. Under these conditions, rapid bacterial growth and multiplication occur. It's almost like bringing the bacteria back from the dead by providing the water necessary for the support of their metabolic processes.

Approximately 50 to 70 percent of the body weight of a human is due to water. The percentage is closer to 50 percent in the obese and to 70 percent in the lean. 4 Inside the individual living cells the mixture called protoplasm consists of about 70 to 85 percent water. If the human cells are to function normally they must be protected daily from excessive water losses.

The daily water losses from the body of a typical man are shown in Table A.

It should be noted that the figures given are variable, depending on conditions such as the temperature and the strenuousness of activity. For example, it has been estimated s that a water loss of 10.5 cups per day occurs at 68 ; whereas under conditions of hot weather, water loss was rated at 14.4 cups per day, and under prolonged heavy exercise at more than 28 cups per day.

Normally, the daily water losses are compensated for in three ways (see Table B).

The above illustrates the water balance of gain and loss for a typical man living under typical conditions. It is obvious that if the water losses are greater than normal, the water intake should also be increased to avoid dehydration.

Long before ecologists began urging the importance of recycling of materials, the Creator designed and produced a most efficient system of recycling water. The importance of this system can readily be seen by reflecting on two examples.

The kidneys daily remove from the blood approximately 47.6 gallons 7 of water containing waste material. Imagine the problems humans would have if they produced 47.6 gallons of urine a day and had to drink a corresponding amount of water daily to replace it. Fortunately, the kidneys return more than 47 gallons of the water to the bloodstream in purified form, and the concentrated waste is eliminated in the form of urine.

Another example of recycling of water by the human body is found in the digestive system. The daily production of digestive juices is estimated to amount to more than two gallons. 8 The water used as a solvent for the enzymes in these juices comes from the blood stream. After the digestive juices have completed their work, the water is reabsorbed through the intestinal wall into the blood stream. This avoids the problem of replacement of this large volume of water, to say nothing of avoiding the problem of continuous diarrhea.

What Kind of Water Should We Drink?

What kind of water should a person drink? Ellen G. White has made some interesting comments regarding this point. "In health and in sickness, pure water is one of Heaven's choicest blessings. Its proper use promotes health. . . . bathe frequently, and drink freely of pure, soft wafer. . . . Thou sands have died for want of pure water and pure air, who might have lived." 9

Pure wafer means different things to different people. To a chemist today it may mean dis tilled water or deionized water. To most ecologists it means water free from pollution due to chemical or bacteriological agents. To the average person of 1905 it simply meant water that was pleasant and safe to drink because of its freedom from disease-causing organisms and dissolved or suspended material that gave an objectionable odor, taste, or appearance.

Soft water referred to water which, because of its low mineral content (calcium, magnesium, iron), would allow the formation from ordinary soap of a good lather that did not break down readily to form a scum or ring in the bathtub. Since commercial softening processes were not in widespread use in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the source of soft water was from nature. In certain localities the wells produced relatively soft water. In other places reservoirs or lakes served as the source of soft water. It was a common practice to catch rain water in a cistern and later enjoy its cleansing action because of its softness. Commercially softened water today is generally produced by exchange of sodium ions for the calcium and magnesium ions, which are the ones primarily responsible for the hardness of water. Such soft water is comparable to naturally soft water for its cleansing action, but not equivalent when it comes to drinking water. We normally get more salt than we need in our food as it is served. Therefore, the habitual drinking of commercially softened water is not recommended, even though we might not note any symptoms from its use. A person with high blood pressure, how ever, who is placed on a low-salt diet may find the salt in his softened water a considerable obstacle to his well-being.

Advantage of Low Calcium- and Magnesium-Ion Content

It is easy to observe the advantages of soft water over hard water in its cleansing action, but it is not so obvious why low calcium- and magnesium-ion content of the water is advantageous when the water is used internally.

When the oral intake of water is high, then it is not necessary for the kidneys to concentrate the urine as much; so the urine is relatively dilute. When there is a low water intake, however, the kidneys try to help the body avoid dehydration by conserving water. They do this by concentrating the urine more than usual. When this happens, the level of calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate in the urine may reach the point of saturation and may cause crystallization of these waste materials. This may result in the formation of kidney stones or bladder stones. If the water that was drunk was soft (low in calcium and magnesium ions), then the level of these ions in the urine would tend to be lower and the likelihood of stone formation would be less. Conversely, the higher the degree of hardness, the higher the probability of kidney- and bladder-stone formation. It is believed by authorities that many of the stones are formed at the time of a urinary infection. 10, 11

Whenever a person has a high fever, producing rapid water loss by perspiration, the kidneys will tend to concentrate the urine more than normal, thus increasing the tendency for stone formation unless the person makes a conscious effort to drink extra water.

Water With Meals

Among the Ellen G. White statements regarding water are several that give additional instruction as to the temperature of the water and when to drink it for maximum benefit.

"Many make a mistake in drinking cold water with their meals. . . . Ice water or ice lemonade, drunk with meals, will arrest digestion until the system has imparted sufficient warmth to the stomach to enable it to take up its work again. . . . No drink is needed with meals. ... If any thing is needed to quench thirst, pure water, drunk some little time before or after the meal, is all that nature requires." 12

Biochemists have substantiated these statements even though they were made at a time when very little information was available regarding enzymes and their characteristic. Today it is known that the enzymes involved in the digestive process function optimally at body temperature; any temperature above or below this would result in a reduced rate of digestion. It is also known that excessive dilution of digestive juices will prolong the time required for digestion.

Some people envision the stomach as a vessel with a valve at each end, with the valve at the lower end remaining closed until all food is digested and then the valve opening to permit the con tents of the stomach to flow into the small intestine. This picture is only partially correct.

The pyloric valve at the lower end of the stomach is not really a valve at all, but, rather, a constriction that is completely closed only during a small part of each con traction, even when there is food in the stomach. The more watery the contents, the more rapidly they leave the stomach. Thus, if a person floods the stomach with water during a meal, he may cause some of the soupy mixture of food, enzymes, and water to overflow into the intestine before the action of the gastric juices is complete. Since the stomach enzymes carry on digestion rapidly only in an acid medium, their activity gradually ceases after entering the small intestine where alkaline conditions prevail. Thus, in effect, if a person drinks large amounts of water with his meal it may be that he causes some of the food to largely miss one of the steps in digestion. This problem is in addition to a possible over-all slowing of the emptying of the stomach be cause there is a greater amount in it.

Hot Drinks

In addition to the admonition to avoid the use of cold water with meals, counsel has been given also regarding hot beverages.

1. "Water can be used in many ways to relieve suffering. Drafts of clear, hot water taken before eating (half quart, more or less) will never do any harm, but will rather be productive of good." 13

2. "Hot drinks are debilitating; and besides, those who indulge in their use become- slaves to the habit." 14

3. "Hot drinks are not required, except as a medicine. The stomach is greatly injured by a large quantity of hot food and hot drink. Thus the throat and digestive organs, and through them the organs of the body, are enfeebled." 15

At first glance these three statements seem to conflict. The first statement indicates that "hot water taken before meals . . . will never do any harm," whereas the latter two statements describe the harm that is done by excessive use of hot water.

It seems that the resolution of this apparent conflict lies in the interpretation of statement No. 1 according to the following guide lines:

Statement No. 1 recommends drinking hot water for the relief of suffering. This is in agreement -with statement No. 3 which indicates that "hot drinks are not required except as a medicine." Excessive continued use of hot drinks may have detrimental effects as outlined in statements No. 2 and No. 3. Use of hot water for relief of suffering, however, is superior to use of drugs, which may produce more serious detrimental side effects.

In planning wisely for the in take of water, one should consider how to supply his need without interfering with the efficiency of the digestive process. This can best be accomplished by drinking it some little time before each meal. When there is no food in the stomach, the water may be passed on to the small intestine without delay, where it is absorbed rapidly into the blood stream, producing maximum dilution of the blood in about one half hour and maximum rate of urine production one-half hour later. 16

Summarizing this study on the proper use of water, we conclude that:

  • You should drink plenty of

water to supply your body's need.

  • The best time to drink most of

the needed water is a short time before meals or a considerable time after meals.

  • Water of low mineral content

is advisable, but one need not use distilled or deionized water for drinking unless a specific medical problem dictates doing so.

  • It is best to avoid drinking

water, especially cold water, with meals.

  • Hot drinks should be used

cautiously, and primarily as medicines.


1. A. R. Magie, "Is Soft Water Harmful?" Life and Health, June, 1973, pp. 12-14.

2. A. E. Banik, The Choice Is Clear (Lincoln, Nebraska: Aqua National Sales, 1971).

3. C. H. Bell, J. N. Davidson, H. Scarborough, Physiology and Biochemistry (Baltimore: The Williams and Wilkins Company, 1968), p. 9.

4. L. S. Goodman, A. Oilman, The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 4th edition (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970), p. 773.

5. A. C. Guyton, Textbook of Medical Physiology, 3d edition (Philadelphia and London: VV. B. Saunders, 1966), p. 499.

6. Bell, op. c/f.

7. Ibid., p. 721.

8. Ibid., p. 742.

9. Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 419. (Italics supplied.)

10. William Boyd, Textbook of Pathology, 7th edition (Philadelphia, Lea and Febiger, 1961), p. 865.

11. I. Davidson, J. B. Henry, Todd-Sandford Clinical Diagnosis, 14th edition (Philadelphia and London: William B. Saunders Co., 1969), p. 94.

12. White, op. cif., p. 420.

13. Ibid., p. 419. (Italics supplied.)

14. Ibid., p. 420.

15. Ibid., p. 432.

16. Bell, op. c/f., p. 722.

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-dean of the college, Andrews University at the time this article was written

April 1974

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