Different experts and different medical professionals all seem to have different perspectives on how much water we should drink, and even on what constitutes water! Some suggest we get enough of it in our sodas, coffee and tea to live a healthy life. But Dr Fereydoon Batmanghelidj’s book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, which has sold more than 1 million copies, suggests something very different: “Caffeine is a natural diuretic, forcing more water out of the body than is contained in the caffeinated beverage”.

As someone who historically has been rubbish at drinking plain water, I have read many books and white papers on the subject and have come to the conclusion that we need between 1.5 to 2.5 litres of water a day. If you are petite and don’t exercise much then 1.5 litres might be fine, but if you are well-built or exercise a lot you might need closer to 2.5 litres. Bear in mind that we shouldn’t count water in coffee or alcohol towards our daily intake, as both, dehydrate rather than hydrate. If you find water ‘boring’ try adding a slice of lemon, lime or ginger to improve the taste. Also, if you regularly have more than half a dozen cups of coffee or tea each day, you might find that it is the warm water that you are drawn to, rather than the coffee or tea itself. Try a glass of warm water with nothing added, then try it with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or lime to see if you prefer it.

I remember a good friend of mine called Edward, who was previously in the Royal Air Force, who wouldn’t naturally expect to believe in the virtues of water, but he always preached the following message to his colleagues. If your urine is clear then it is a healthy sign that you are well hydrated. If it is a pale yellow then you are reasonably hydrated, but if the colour is dark yellow to orange then you are, dehydrated. I remember him telling me that the brain is made up of 85% water and that it was important to keep it topped up and to flush it regularly. Since then, I have read many books that say good hydration can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly even reduce its symptoms post-diagnosis.

I remember once, near Wamba in central Kenya where we were building a library in a remote village, we came across two Maasai tribesmen many miles from the nearest settlement. We pulled our Jeep over and offered them a ride. It turns out they were walking more than 80km (50 miles) to take part in a spiritual ceremony. One was carrying a really old and dirty plastic 1-litre Coke bottle, and I asked him where they refilled it en route. He explained that they didn’t, there was plenty for them to share on their 20-hour walk! It was a baking hot day and these tribesmen were not drinking at all! They went on to say that they didn’t actually drink it much as it made them sweat, and they only used the water to stop their lips from drying out.

My observation is that skipping water occasionally like these Maasai doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of performance immediately, but there is growing evidence that water might cure far more conditions than many doctors and medical advisors realise. If the Maasai can go a day without water, it means that the body is not very good at notifying us when we are dehydrated, and therefore we must not wait until we are thirsty before sipping water. I bet you’re similar to me in that there are days when you get into the late afternoon and realise you haven’t had a glass of water all day. Try to do everything you can to make consuming sufficient water part of your Primal routine.

On the cover of Dr Batmanghelidj’s book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, there is the subtitle: “You’re Not Sick; You’re Thirsty, Don’t Treat Thirst with Medication”. He goes on to say, “The simple truth is that dehydration can cause disease”. In this brilliant book, full of insightful information about how the human body uses water, he explains how dehydration can be a cause of rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, neck pain, migraines, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and much more, all backed by lots of scientific research. In fact, talking of Alzheimer’s, Dr Batmanghelidj goes on to state: “The primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease is chronic dehydration of the body”; later in the book he says, “people with Alzheimer’s disease and children with learning disabilities should not drink anything but water. Definitely no caffeine-containing beverages should be consumed”. He delivers the message with great clarity and some great analogies: “In prolonged dehydration, brain cells begin to shrink. Imagine a plum gradually turning into a prune. Unfortunately, in a dehydrated state, many functions of the brain cells begin to get lost”. If you read his book, I guarantee you will increase your daily intake of water.

When it comes to exercise, keeping hydrated is really important as dehydrated muscles are weak muscles. During a one-hour workout we can easily lose a litre of water by sweating, and when it’s hot it’s possible to lose as much as three litres in just a single hour. Ever wondered why, if you jump on a pair of scales after a workout or a game of tennis, you are lighter than you expected to be? There is an old saying that goes, ‘A pint’s a pound the whole world round’. In a litre there is close to two pints, therefore in a normal one-hour workout we are going to temporarily lose around 0.9kg (2lbs) in weight – and if it’s midsummer we could drop close to 2.7kg (6lbs) in water. By the way, if we lose around 2–3kg of water after an exercise session and don’t promptly replace the fluids, then it’s extremely dangerous!

Is All Water Equal?

Sadly not. The best water is natural mineral water supplied in glass bottles, or filtered tap water. What is least healthy is bottled plastic water and unfiltered tap water.

Tap Water

Don’t get me wrong, in the UK tap water is extremely good for us, but it should be filtered to reduce the level of chlorine. While chlorine acts as a highly efficient disinfectant – killing off harmful bacteria that grows throughout the entire water supply system, from the reservoirs to the pipe network – it can also kill off healthy bacteria in our guts. Chlorine is a necessary evil in the supply of water to our homes, as without it water could carry deadly diseases and harmful bacteria.

Of course, all governments will tell us that chlorine in water is so low in concentration that it is totally harmless. However, it’s critical that we look after the healthy gut bacteria in our microbiome and it’s therefore just common sense that, no matter how low the concentration, we should do everything possible to filter out harmful chemicals.

If you want to know how harmful chlorine is, spill some bleach on your jeans (most household bleach is normally made of chlorine) and watch the colour disappear, quickly turning white and eventually burning holes in the material. Our delicate gut lining is only one cell thick, and therefore you can easily imagine what damage even a tiny amount of chlorine could potentially do to it. Don’t fall for the ‘concentration smokescreen’ – poison is poison, regardless of its concentration.

Glass Bottled Water

A few years back, I was sitting in a hotel room in the Maldives, enjoying the glorious views of the turquoise Indian Ocean as I talked to my children about how fortunate we were to be enjoying our holiday. I explained that, due to global warming, sea levels are predicted to keep rising and that, sadly, 50 years from now these beautiful islands are predicted to be lost forever. I picked up a lovely shaped glass bottle and begin to sip the cool water. It tasted great. On it, there was a label that read, “Four Seasons Resorts Maldives support sustainability. This water has undergone a unique seven-stage purification process. The bottle is reusable, saving the resort from disposing of around 140,000 plastic bottles every year”.

A few years prior to this, my family and I had sailed across the Atlantic in a small boat and were distraught at the amount of plastic debris we witnessed floating on the surface of the water. A few months after arriving home, my brother and I discussed the state of the oceans and how some companies such as the Four Seasons were doing their bit to help the planet but wondered what else could be done. So we funded the wildlife and environmental charity Earthwatch to conduct a study to discover the effect humans were having on our oceans. The findings were shocking. There is so much plastic floating around, that if you gathered it all together, turned it into dust and covered the entire land mass of our planet – including the two currently frozen Poles – the dust would almost be up to our knees! That’s more than 300 billion pounds in weight. Across all of the oceans, there is an average of 46,000 pieces of man-made plastics per square mile, and it will take between 500 to 1000 years for each piece to degrade. The effect of all of this is that we are unnecessarily killing millions and millions of fish and birds each month!

In the UK, it is estimated that every day we use more than 35 million plastic bottles, and more than half don’t get recycled. That means they either end up in landfill sites – where it takes the Earth up to 1,000 years to decompose – or, even worse, in our oceans. That’s right, what we drink in minutes, only use once and then throw away, required millions of barrels of oil to produce and takes up to 1,000 years to then get rid of! And the situation is getting worse. On 2nd October 2017 the Guardian’s website revealed, “Coca-Cola increased its production of plastic bottles by a billion last year, says Greenpeace”.

Plastic bottles are not just harmful as waste, as the cost to the environment of their creation and transportation is equally as damaging. All in all, water in one-time use plastic bottles is just damn stupid. But this book is not primarily about saving the environment – it’s about saving you! So let me stop my rant about plastic and its effect on our planet, and tell you why drinking water out of plastic bottles is bad for our health.

Drinking from one-time use plastic bottles is not as healthy as you might think. Some of the toxins from the plastic can leech into the water and potentially harm our body. The main culprit is a compound called BPA (bisphenol A), which the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) have already banned from being used in polycarbonate infant feeding bottles, but as yet neither the UK’s Food Standards Agency nor the EFSA have banned it from being used in other products. Why not? I am sure you can guess by now. Could it be that preventing the death of babies before they can become tax payers is bad news, but slowly and silently poisoning the rest of us, so that the effect is not felt until after we retire, is commercially and financially very efficient? If I am going a bit far with this let me apologise, but could BPA really be the industry’s secret acronym for ‘Bottles to Poison Adults’?!

I am sure in the coming years the government will have no choice
but to ban the use of BPAs, which I am convinced leech poison into the water and cause damage to our gut’s friendly bacteria. Studies have also shown that BPAs can mimic the hormone oestrogen, which is used in the female body to develop breasts, regulate periods and maintain pregnancies. Researcher Dr Jianying Hu of Peking University in Beijing says, “In recent years, BPA was shown to have [oestrogenic] activity, linking BPA to endocrine diseases and to an increased incidence of endocrine-related cancers”.

Some plastic bottles are now being produced that are free of BPAs,
but often these contain other chemicals such as fluorene-9-bisphenol (BHPF). It now appears that these can mess up oestrogen in a different way to BPAs, and in tests carried out on mice they caused them to have smaller wombs and smaller babies. Of course, none of this should shock us, because plastic bottles only came into mass production during the 1960s and, as we have already learnt, most things that have been invented for our consumption during the past few centuries are almost guaranteed to be something that we were never designed to consume.

Stop for a moment and think about how much of a nonsense this
is! Something that is dressed up as a health product, often costing more than petrol, is anything but healthy due to it leeching BPA. Costing up to 10,000 times more than tap water, some of the biggest brands actually contain very much that – glorified tap water! In fact in 2004 the BBC revealed, “Soft drink giant Coca-Cola has admitted it is selling purified tap water in a bottle. It says the source for its new Dasani bottled water is the mains supply at its factory in Kent”. Branded bottled water is one of the cleverest marketing campaigns ever invented and one of the most successful bluffs ever!

One last thought. To prove that British tap water tastes s good as branded water, we conducted a blind water taste test with the teams in our TV studios, warehouse and call centre – not once but twice. The first time we took five leading branded bottled water’s and chilled them to the same temperature as the filtered tap water in our office. We served them in the same glasses as the tap water and simply asked our team members to say which one they preferred. We added the results and were completely blown away by the findings. The tap water came out joint first, scoring as much as 11 times more preferences as one of the brands. The next week we repeated the experiment, but without telling the participants we served the tap water at a slightly lower temperature than the bottled water. This time the tap water triumphed massively – 77% of all participants preferred the filtered tap water over five of the top water brands on sale in the UK.

The conclusion? Filtered tap water is not only 10,000 times cheaper than leading brands of bottled water, and it not only helps protect the environment for our children’s children, but it tastes better too! Don’t fall victim to bottled water advertising, further lining the pockets of corporations whose motives are driven by shareholder value and not our health.

Steve Bennett

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