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Water is medicine for many ailments

On the East Coast, water, in the form of relentless rainfall and sweeping ocean surges, has been in the news a lot in the past week.

On the West Coast, water is on all our minds as we consider how much is necessary and required to put out raging forest fires.

The power of water has never been more obvious.

But what about our personal relationship with water? What about the healing power of water?

Have you heard the story about a physician imprisoned in a Middle Eastern country who was constantly approached by fellow prisoners needing medical attention? He had no medications to prescribe, but he did have — for some reason I never quite understood — ready access to copious amounts of water.

He used water to address the various kinds of health-related issues his fellow prisoners brought to him. And it was incredibly effective. In fact, water was so impactful in dealing with a vast array of medical conditions in that prison that this doctor refused to leave the prison when he was allowed to do so because he wanted to finish his “experiments” on the healing power of water.

I have never known whether that story is completely factual, but this I do know, our bodies are 60 percent water and “it is the main ingredient in our blood which keeps our brain, heart and kidneys functioning.” And if I did not know that, I was reminded of it when reading a graphically illustrated article in the latest issue of Consumer Reports titled “The New War on Obesity.”

Think about the possibilities. Water can help cure a headache (dehydration often triggers headaches) as well as curb an appetite (drinking a large glass of water before a meal helps you feel full so you are less likely to eat so much). Water can help fight a fever and flush out your digestive tract. Water refreshes us in hot weather and, reportedly, “research supports that people who are well hydrated tend to be in better moods.”

According to the Consumer Reports article, “good hydration increases the amount of blood in your arteries, which means fewer heartbeats to transfer blood around your body so it is less taxing on the heart muscle itself." That statement alone just made me put down my coffee cup, rinse it out and fill it with water. Older adults who are disinclined to drink enough water but who always consume a lot of coffee might think about putting water in a favorite cup as an incentive to better hydration.

The real swap to make is substituting water for sugary sodas. Every time I see a portly person of any age, but particularly an older adult, with a soft drink in hand, I tend to cringe a little.

If you drink a 20-ounce cola every day for a year you will consume 119 cups of sugar and 87,600 calories. If you substituted water for that cola, you would eliminate 119 cups of sugar in your diet and could lose 14 pounds of weight in a year.

Let’s all drink to that. Cheers!

— Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.