There were no interstates at the time.
Back in the 1940s, Route 66 was the best way to California. My folks had just bought a new tan English Ford, with a crank handle that you stuck into the front of the engine and turned to start the vehicle. I don’t know why they wanted to drive it from New York to the hot deserts of the American Southwest.
When a lone gas station owner urged Dad not to drive across the desert without strapping four canvas water bags onto the bumper, he listened. The old man told Dad, “You know, it gets up to 140 degrees in the shade at noon. Now, if you break down, you’re gonna get real thirsty. Soon, nausea comes on and you’re feeling real sick. When you’ve lost ten percent of your body’s water, you feel sort of giddy. Then your tongue swells up like it don’t belong in your mouth. Now, you can’t close your eyelids as the corners of your eyes dry up. Your skin turns blue. Then come the hallucinations. You see, you go crazy before you die.”
Dad bought the water bags, and I suddenly became aware of how quickly life can dry up and blow away.
You don’t need to be stranded in a desert to feel the effects of dehydration. Almost all the people you see and meet on a daily basis are dehydrated. How many folks complain of a lack of energy? It’s the number one complaint in America. Insufficient energy is the first sign that the blood, tissues, and organs are not getting enough water, and your liver and brain are the least tolerant of a lack of water.
This has led some medical researchers to conclude that Alzheimer’s disease is simply the result of long-term dehydration of the brain. The same loss of brain function that causes a lost and thirsty person to eat sand believing it to be water causes your wife, husband, mother, or father not to recognize you any longer. They are not demented, only thirsty.
When you were born (depending on the drugs in your mother’s body), you were ninety percent water. As you become an adult, the hydration level begins to drop; it can drop to as low as sixty-five percent in men and fifty-two percent in women. However, if hydration levels drop just five percent more, death occurs.
Both water intake and thirst sensation decline with age, and so does mental function. When your pituitary gland begins to dry up, vasopressin, a hormone it secretes, is likewise handicapped. Vaso refers to the blood vessels, and pressin refers to constriction or pressing. Vasopressin regulates the flow of water to the cells and intracellular spaces in your body. When this hormone reaches a cell membrane, it presses water through a filtration receptor so that only water reaches and hydrates the cell. This is crucial because vital organs begin to fail without proper hydration.
Consider this: when you take a coffee break, that ingested caffeine limits the secretion of vasopressin and keeps it from circulating. Thus, even though you are getting plenty of water with the coffee, your cells are dehydrating. Alcohol has the same effect, which is why drinkers are incredibly thirsty in the morning after a bout of heavy drinking.
Bear in mind that the five quarts of blood coursing through your body are ninety percent water, and the rest of your body holds between fifty and eighty quarts of water. Your brain and nerve tissues are eighty percent water or more.
Every time you move any body part, even a finger or toe, water is required. That’s why dehydrated people have so many aches and pains. It’s also why people look so old; their dehydrated organs steal the water from their skin in order to function. Remember, under ordinary circumstances, you expel up to a gallon of water every twenty-four hours. What do you think happens when you don’t replenish that supply? Your body experiences a drought condition!
A mere two percent drop in hydration will make your short-term memory so fuzzy that you’ll be unable to remember your friends’ names, have trouble doing basic math, and forget where you put your keys. Since seventy-five percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, it’s no wonder people are losing their minds.
Yet, the solution is so simple: cool, clean water. Drink eight to ten eight-ounce glasses a day of pure distilled water, and you’ll be amazed at how many ailments disappear. Don’t worry; you’re not demented—just dehydrated!
Peter Ragnar is a natural life scientist, modern-day Taoist wizard, and self-master par excellence. A martial arts practitioner for over fifty years, he is renowned for his teachings on optimal health and longevity. He is the author of twenty books, including The Art and Science of Physical Invincibility.