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Health Tip: Hydrate for Better Health


Growing up in Hong Kong, I drank a lot of water as that area is often very hot. When I came to the United States, it was quite a surprise to see that people here did not drink water as we did in Asia. Fortunately, this bad habit is changing and it's now a common sight to see people carrying and drinking from water bottles.

The only way the human body eliminates toxins and wastes is through urination, and this requires adequate water intake. First, the liver detoxifies the wastes and allows them to be excreted by the kidneys. The kidneys work like a filter and good hydration keeps the filter from becoming clogged; the kidneys can then dump the wastes efficiently. Insufficient water consumption is one reason people have constipation, and can also contribute to the bladder infections often experienced by women.

The human kidney starts to deteriorate after age 30. It does not regenerate itself and can only go downhill. The liver can regenerate and continue to grow, but the kidneys can only shrink. The kidneys dump out the junk in the blood, and when there is not enough hydration, some kidney cells die. About the only simple way to minimize kidney damage is to push more water through and flush things out.

Hydration is often the simplest and most effective health habit for people to adopt. A normal person should drink as much water as she or he can tolerate, or which conditions allow—improved hydration requires easy access to restroom facilities and, at work, time for restroom breaks.

In 2003, I took a study trip abroad and a classmate told me he hadn't needed to urinate for a few hours. He appeared proud of his ability and I felt terribly sad when I heard his words. To me it was the same as telling me he was proud of constipation. All the waste products in the body get out by urine, and it is not an achievement to keep them inside.

I tell patients that if there is any color in the urine, they need to drink more water. Urine should look almost like water—colorless. The brain keeps track of the amount of water in the body. The amount is critical and needs to be in delicate balance.

A good tip is to gauge the amount of water you normally drink; then start drinking double that amount. The body dumps out the excess and keeps all it needs.

—Dr. Chan


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