Ancient thinkers thought that existence came from four basic elements: water, earth, fire and air. Today, although we are aware of different components as well, our existence still centers around these four basic elements.
Water, an indispensable part of our lives, forms 70% of the world, 65-70% of the human body, 85% of our brain, 20% of our bones, and 5-10% of dry seeds. Nearly 40 kgs of a person weighing 65 kgs is water. Moreover, the molecular structure of water is unique, for it differs from other liquids. If we study its structure, we conclude that it is flammable or supportive of fire. In a water molecule, a a flammable gas (H+) and a gas supportive of fire (O-) are found together. Within the cradle of water, these "children of fire," have apparently "forgotten" how to burn and be burned, and so they became a source of "coolness and safety" (Qur'an 21:69).
Scientists tell us that all objects falling from a certain height accelerate toward the ground. However, a raindrop is an exception. If water acted in accordance with this principle, it would pierce everything it touched, just like a bullet. However, raindrops descend at a constant speed, as if they had parachutes. They touch the wing of a butterfly with great delicacy and land on a violet's petal without harming it. In other words, rain becomes a Divine Mercy.
Let's take a brief look at water, considering its benefits to our body and the amount we should drink.
The functions of water in our body
We cannot even count all of the benefits of water to the human body. The following are only some of its foremost functions: It controls bodily heat, helps excrete toxic substances via perspiration and urination, carries the substances in our blood, regulates the blood's acid-base balance, enables cells to absorb food by dissolving it (water is the best solvent), makes germination possible through humidity, and regulates the concentration inside the cell in order to maintain substance exchange.
How much water should we drink?
On average, people lose 2.5 liters, 10 glasses of water a day through perspiration, respiration, urination, and defecation. We lose it even when we breathe. All of this lost water has to be replaced, especially in the case of infants, who should never be deprived of water, and the elderly.
We do not meet all of our needs with water. We satisfy our need with other drinks and food as well, and yet water is the best substance with which to quench one's thirst. No drink can substitute it. For one to be healthy and the kidneys and lungs to function normally, one should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. As drinks with caffeine and alcohol increase urination and water loss, we should not choose them instead of water when we are thirsty.
Are there any exceptions? Of course there are... For example, if you have kidney stones, drinking 10 or more glasses a day is recommended. When the weather is hot, humid, or cold, one's need for water increases, just as when we are at a high altitude or engage in physical exercise. Plenty of water must be consumed in such circumstances.
What sort of water should we drink?
According to Ibrahim Hakki of Erzurum, river water is healthier than well water. In fact it is the best type of water, especially if the river runs through a clean and uncontaminated environment, and down from a spring located above it. Abundant water that runs forcefully is the best type of water. But finding clean rivers is becoming increasingly harder, due to widespread pollution. Artesian well water has a high pH degree owing to its stagnancy. Underground water has a high pH degree in general, and water in caves and wells has an even higher pH degree. On the other hand, spring water is light and delightful to drink.
When should we drink water?
Drinking water two or three hours after a meal is a good, healthy practice. According to some scholars, drinking water during a meal prompts disease. But if you have heartburn, you should drink water during and after the meal, for it increases your appetite. You should not drink water, especially cold water, when you are hungry or sweaty, after having a bath, taking laxatives, or eating fruit, for doing so will make you even thirstier. If you are patient, your thirst will fade away spontaneously. Drinking water while sitting is recommended.
Regulating the amount of water
The hypothalamus, located near the brain, regulates the amount of water in a person's body. The ADH (vasopressin) hormone secreted by the epiphysis maintains the amount of water in our body. The slightest change in pressure and volume is detected by pressure-sensitive osmotic receptors, which are located in our heart as well, and baro-receptors (pressure-sensitive receptors) located in our veins. These receptors detect any changes in water pressure and volume, and then inform the brain of this unbalance. The ADH hormone, secreted from the back part of the epiphysis causes the kidneys to reabsorb water and thus reduce excretion.
What does drinking large amounts of water indicate?
In general, there is no problem if we drink a lot of water. Excessive thirst and excessive urination may be a sign of diabetes, as well as an indication of diabetes inspidus. Diabetes metillus (common diabetes) is related to the insulin hormone. Diabetes inspidus, however, results from an ADH hormone deficiency, thereby causing an imbalance of water in our body. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult a doctor if we experience excessive thirst or urination. Being thirsty while exercising is not a good sign, for researchers say that we should supply the water that we need before engaging in exercise or hard work. Usually, the body does not need much water for the first hour. But while exercising, one should drink water once every 20 minutes.
Qur'anic verses dealing with water
As the Qur'an mentions everything that is important for humanity and to human life, it contains some verses about water. A few of these are given here:
- He will then loose the heavens upon you in torrents. (71:11)
- And brought down from the rain-clouds abundant water. (78:14)
- Have you not seen that Allah drives the clouds, then brings them together, then piles them into a heap, from which you can see rain coming? He brings mountains of hail from the sky, with which He smites whomever He pleases and diverts it from whomever He pleases. The gleam of its lightning almost blinds the eyes. (24:43)
- Or have you seen the water that you drink? Have you brought it down from the clouds or did We send it down? Had we wished, We would have made it bitter; if only you would give thanks. (56:68-70)
- Ibrahim Hakki, Marifetname (Bedir Publ.).
- R. Murray, Harper's Biochemistry.
- Senai Demirci, Dar Kapidan Gecmek.