Kevin Smith was driving home after a long day at work one evening when he was pulled over by a traffic officer. As the officer approached the driver’s side window, Kevin leaned out and asked, “Officer, was I speeding?”
“Periodically, yes,” replied the officer. “But I wonder, sir, have you been drinking alcohol today?”
“Why certainly not!” replied Kevin, a Seventh-day Adventist Church member in good standing and a committed advocate of healthful living. “Why do you ask?” he continued.
“Well, sir,” stated the officer in a serious tone, “I noticed that your car was drifting across lane markers. At that last stop sign you failed to come to a complete stop. You also made a turn into a busy stream of traffic and narrowly missed being hit by another vehicle. At times your speed exceeded the posted limit, and I also noticed that you tended to trail too close to the vehicle ahead of you as you drove along. And now, sir, would you please step out of your car and we will administer the sobriety test.” It was a surprise to the officer, but not to Kevin, that the sobriety test indicated Kevin was not intoxicated. So the puzzling question was this: What caused Kevin to exhibit symptoms similar to driving while under the influence of alcohol?
DID YOU KNOW . . .
People who drive while dehydrated make many of the same mistakes in judgment and are largely at the same risk of accident and injury as are individuals who drive drunk. Why is this?
1. We are water containers.
• Up to 60% of our body weight is made of water.
• The heart is approximately 73% water.
• The lungs are about 83% water.
• The skin is 64% water.
• Muscles and kidneys are 79% water.
• Even the bones are watery at 31%.
2. Water keeps our machinery working.
From our head to our feet, water plays a vital role in the overall function and health of the body. Here are a few facts concerning the importance of drinking enough water.
Saliva in our mouths begins the process of digestion, which carries food to the stomach and into the intestines. Without adequate hydration, the entire digestive system may be poorly lubricated, causing food to move through sluggishly and slowly. This results in problems along the way, including abdominal discomfort and the dreaded constipation. Inadequate moisture in the intestines can also hinder the body’s ability to digest and effectively absorb water-soluble vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Water also aids in the elimination of toxins and wastes through the kidneys and liver. A reliable sign of adequate hydration in a healthy person is urine output that is slightly yellow to clear in color, as opposed to dark yellow. Keeping well hydrated can decrease the probability of gallbladder problems and the formation of kidney stones, as well as the occurrence of urinary tract infections.
With adequate hydration, blood can flow easily throughout the body, providing much-needed oxygen and nutrition. In a state of dehydration, the blood becomes thick and moves about more slowly. The heart has to pump harder in order to keep the circulation going. In time, the serious results can include a rise in blood pressure, risk of stroke, and diabetic complications. This harmful sluggishness of the circulatory system can precipitate the onset of heart disease in those who do not routinely hydrate themselves sufficiently.
Some other functions of water within the body:
• Lubricating the joints
• Regulating the body’s temperature
• Acting as a shock absorber to the brain and spinal cord
• Keeping the skin (including the lips) moist and healthy
• Helping in the development of strong muscles
• Improving mental and physical performance
WATER YOUR BRAIN
The intricate process of neuron communication within the brain—which makes up our thoughts, memory, decision-making, and reasoning ability—depends heavily on a liquid lubricant in order to successfully function. As the brain is about 83 percent water, the liquid needed is simply water. Without good hydration, thought processes can be slower. The brain has no way to store water, and dehydration results if all the water lost in a day is not replaced.
In a dehydrated state, it’s harder to stay focused. Short-term memory can be compromised. Good judgment can be impaired, and reaction time becomes slower. Decision-making can be more challenging and learning ability dulled. An underhydrated brain can result in headaches, tiredness, irritability, and even depressed moods.
Is it any wonder, then, that a motor function such as driving, which relies on good judgment and alertness for skill and safety, can be adversely affected when one’s brain is in a state of dehydration? Muscle function is also affected when the body is lacking sufficient water, resulting in slower response and weakness.
It is an unwritten law of road trips to use the restroom before leaving and then to drink very little along the way so frequent rest stops will not be necessary. As far as convenience goes, this can work well, but at what great risk?
By the same token, busy workdays make multiple demands on our time, and drinking enough water can be low on the priority list. Thus, in the case of Kevin Smith, even the drive from office to home can be seriously compromised due to dehydration.
We do our bodies a great favor by drinking enough water daily. Fruit juices, milk, coffee, tea, artificially sweetened flavored drinks, and soda, some of which can act as diuretics, are not adequate substitutes for plain, pure water.
Do you have trouble remembering to drink enough? These tips might help:
1. Set a goal for the day and commit to it. If you are basically inside a building all day, aim for 8 to 10 glasses. If you live or work at high altitude or in heat, increase your intake accordingly. If you have questions about the amount of water you need, consult your physician.
2. Drink two full glasses of water first thing in the morning to start off right.
3. Invest in a water bottle. Mark it to remind you when and how much to drink.
4. Use a free app such as Waterlogged or Daily Water to help track, store, and analyze your water consumption.
5. Infuse your water with herbs or a refreshing combination such as cucumber slices and lemons to add to your water’s taste and appeal.
6. Get friends, family, or coworkers to join you. For example, make it a goal to drink at least five glasses during the workday. Then set up shared calendar reminders to make sure you’re all on track. Celebrate the success.
7. Use a straw, and you’ll drink more and faster.
8. Set an alarm or a reminder on your computer or phone.
9. Don’t wait until you are thirsty, as this is an indication the body is already dehydrated.
10. When driving a distance, hydrate well before leaving, and then drink water along the way. Sure, you will have to stop more often, but your body will benefit from the movement and stretching.
Just as we shouldn’t neglect our body’s need of water, so we must not neglect our daily need of Living Water. “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life’” (John 4:13, 14, CEB).