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  • Debi Stafford

People don’t drink water in East Tennessee

When I was a kid my Granny Stewart, an LPN, was constantly worried about me because I was always thirsty. I wanted water 24/7. When I started working fast food as a teen I started drinking Diet Coke at the fountain instead of drinking water. From then on, I’ve struggled to meet my daily water needs.

Some people believe as long as they drink anything they’re fine. Not all liquids are created equally. Lots of drinks are dehydrating, which means the ingredients in the non-water beverages make us urinate more than we should. Caffeine is one of the most well-known dehydrating ingredients. If you’re drinking coffee or soft drinks with caffeine, you need even more water to offset the peeing you’re going to do from caffeine.

Let’s talk about kidney function. Kidneys are located in the middle of the torso, just below our ribs in the back. There is a renal artery (pushes oxygenated blood away from the heart and pushes blood into the kidneys), filters wastes from the blood that becomes urine in our ureters, and a renal vein (sends filtered blood from the kidneys back to the heart to get some oxygen) that make the kidneys function. When your blood pressure is higher than it should be, it damages the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, so the kidneys cannot filter as well. When you have diabetes that isn’t well-controlled, the glucose damages the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys. When we don’t have enough water to dilute the waste in our blood, the waste damages our tiny blood vessels. Over time, diabetes, high blood pressure, or chronic dehydration leads to kidney failure. If the blood cannot flow well, such as being severely overweight, being inactive, or bed-bound, the blood flow slows and the kidneys can become damaged or fail. I’m of the opinion the 3 best things we can do for our kidneys are keep healthy blood pressure, drink tons of water, and exercise.

I am amazed when my patients tell me they don’t like or drink water. With some of the controversies of water cleanliness from local utility companies, I get it. Some of the additives in our water supply may be dangerous and some of the things not cleaned from our water supply are of understandable concern. Certain chemicals in flavored drinks also reduce our cravings for water and actually increases harm to kidneys.

Water with no-calorie flavorings isn't necessarily helpful. Read the ingredients. If all they say are “natural flavorings'' it could literally be anything under the sun. Artificial colors and artificial ingredients don’t help our kidneys, and in fact, may put a strain on our kidneys from having to filter those same chemicals back out of our bodies.

Next week I’ll cover how much water is enough water.

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