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Sunday, August 3, 2008

H-2-O: Toxic Avenger

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Without enough water flowing through our systems to carry out wastes and toxins, we would literally drown in our own poisonous metabolic wastes. I don't mean to sound alarmist, but this is no exaggeration. Even slight dehydration can wear down our systems in ways that seriously compromise our overall quality of life.

Just as the liver is crucial to the digestive process, the kidneys are necessary for helping the body remove water and waste. The kidneys are a pair of small organs that are located near the spine at the small of the back. They take in about 20 percent of the body's blood each time the heart beats, cleans it of unwanted substances and then produce urine, the fluid by which these wastes are eliminated from the body. Normal-functioning kidneys also control the concentration levels of body fluids. If body fluids are too dilute, the kidneys expel excess water via urine. If body fluids are too concentrated, the kidneys excrete the excess solutes and hang on to the water. In short, the kidneys are all about balancing the fluids and electrolytes in our bodies so that our systems run smoothly.

If the kidneys don't get the water they need to perform these filtering functions, our health deteriorates rapidly.

Electrolyte is the scientific term for a type of salt made up of ions that are positively and negatively charged. These are the "sparks" that transfer electrical messages across cells, and this activity is what makes our bodies function. Our kidneys work to keep our electrolyte concentrations steady, since they must be replaced constantly. If they're not, dehydration can set in, which can lead to organ damage and seizures. How can we be sure that we're getting enough electrolytes? Do we need to buy specially formulated, sugar-enhanced sports drinks? Many sports physiologists actually recommend water -- that's right, plain water -- over the fancy sports drinks that are marketed to us. Experts have found that the difference in electrolyte content between water and sports drinks is important only to elite athletes who are competing professionally in endurance events. Since electrolytes are already plentiful in the American diet, moderate to regular exercisers don't have to worry about running out of these salty ions. Edible sea vegetables, the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, are a great source of electrolytes as well as of minerals and trace elements.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys and bladder regulate the fluids in our bodies and make up the Water Element. Our kidneys are fantastic waste removers; they get rid of the waste products from protein metabolism -- uric acid, urea, and lactic acid -- but they need lots of water to accomplish this.

Traditional Chinese Medicine reveres the kidneys because they distribute qi, or vital life energy, throughout the body. The kidneys are responsible for removing excess hormones, vitamins, minerals, and foreign toxins such as drugs, chemicals, and food additives.