Drink Up: Hydrate for health
by Michael Braunstein
Our planet, our Spaceship Earth, is made up of three-quarters water, H2O. By some amazing coincidence of creation, the human body reflects that quota. We are also 75 percent water. Replenishing what is lost through perspiration and respiration during a hot summer day is essential. And for eons, there was little choice but what Nature provided: H2O. But times have changed and commercialization of natural resources has evolved to offer any number of water substitutes. But are any of them worth a spit? With the glut of sports drinks, vitamin waters, smart waters and just plain bottled water, which should you choose? One thing is certain, you must drink something.
Water you’re waiting for. Despite all the water on our planet, over 99 percent of it is seawater. And we can’t drink that. But we’ve polluted our freshwater streams, rivers and lakes so much that they are virtually toxic. Over half the rivers or lakes in the U.S. are not even fit to swim or wade in, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, the water we drink must be treated before it’s safe.
Tap water. For 6000 years, we’ve used various means to purify water. Testing equipment way back when was simple: If water looked bad, smelled bad or tasted bad, it was. Testing is now more complex but we have worse pollutants in our drinking water, even after it reaches the tap. Water utilities strive to meet federal standards but meeting federal standards and providing pure drinking water are two different things. There are many potentially hazardous chemicals and pollutants that are in typical tap water. The Environmental Working Group listed 100 cities’ water. Omaha ranked near the bottom at 94. (ewg.org/tapwater/index.php). Still, rehydrating with tap water is better than not.
Store-bought bottled It’s been said that the biggest shock for a time-traveler whisked from the 1960s to today would be that we actually bottle and sell water. Estimates are that bottled water costs 1900 times more than tap and often for the same liquid or sometimes worse. Water in plastic bottles is a horrible idea. In a recent year, Americans bought 28 billion plastic bottles of water. Though they are recyclable, 86 percent of those bottles still end up in landfills. 17 million barrels of oil were needed to make the plastic and the carbon footprint is enormous. Plus the plastic bottle leaches bad chemicals you don’t need for rehydration. These are some of the reasons cities and college campuses are banning plastic water bottle sales.
Enhanced bottled waters Some enhanced waters contain vitamins, herbs, minerals, even chocolate. Mostly they are at a fairly low level compared to what can be replaced by food. Noted health expert Andrew Weil, M.D. calls them “gimmicky and overpriced. Let water be water.”
Bottle your own If you want an option to tap water or bottled, a home purification system might suit. There are many types: simple filters, compound carbon filters, reverse osmosis and combined systems. With RO, tap water is sent through carbon filters. After most of the dissolved solids are removed, the water is forced through a membrane that allows only the water molecules and a small amount of other components through. The result is a very pure form of water that is considered better for drinking or cooking. An RO unit can cost as little as $22 dollars a month to rent. Fill your own glass carry-bottle and save a ton of money over the plastic bottle kind.
Sports drinks The typical ingredients of a sports drink include carbohydrates and electrolytes. The idea is to replenish what may be lost in vigorous exercise. But what exact chemicals are in it? What makes it that weird neon green color? How about the sugar content? One original formula actually had cyclamate in it, a banned chemical now. It’s debatable if a sports drink is the best choice for casual or even moderate exercise rehydration. Interestingly, some research in the UK showed that beer rehydrates after vigorous exercise in a way similar to sports drinks. In the long run though, beer will dehydrate.
Make your own energy drink: switchel Gatorade didn’t invent the rehydration drink to replenish electrolytes and carbs. A drink variously called “switchel,” Haymaker’s Punch or ginger water dates as far back as the 1600s in the Western Hemisphere and likely similar drinks go back even further. Starting with water, you add some vinegar, spice it with ginger and sweeten with honey, maple syrup or molasses. Some historians note that lemon was a favorite additive, also.
In the heat of harvesting hay, switchel was a popular drink for farmers in the 1930s. It hydrated and nourished them. The components contain natural elements that hydrate and refresh. Don’t sweat it. Drink it.
Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.