Water is Life

Why can’t we live without water?

Your body is made from matter which consists of the different chemical elements (e.g. hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), carbon (C) and nitrogen (N)).  Most of the chemicals in your body are made from some of these elements being joined to each other in a specific order to form specific molecules (like carbohydrates, fats, proteins and DNA).  However, the most abundant molecule in your body, the one that makes up three-fifths of it by weight, is water (H2O). 

Your body is made up of trillions of cells each of which is surrounded by a membrane containing within it water with chemicals in solution (e.g. sodium, potassium and proteins).  Floating within this cellular fluid are the organelles that perform the functions of life (e.g. nucleus, golgi apparatus, endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria).  About two-thirds of your body’s water is located inside its trillions of cells and the remaining one-third is located outside of its cells.  About four-fifths of this “outside the cell” water is located between and surrounding the cells, and the remaining one-fifth makes up the fluid part of your blood.  So, the water in your body is located in just one of three places: either inside your cells, or between and surrounding your cells, or within your circulatory system.   

To feed your cells what they need to live, the heart pumps blood through the arterial system into microscopic blood vessels, called capillaries.  This is where the exchange of water and other chemicals takes place (in both directions) between the cells and the circulation.  Like your cells, your capillaries are surrounded by a membrane that, by the laws of nature, allows water to pass through them.  This means that water can move back-and-forth from the circulation (capillaries) into the fluid between and surrounding your cells and from there into your cells.  In other words, the fluid that is between and surrounding your cells acts as a bridge for water (and other chemicals) to move between your cells and your circulation.  When your body loses water your cells send some over to the circulation to restore its losses.  This is why you don’t have to drink water as often as you have to breathe in air because, unlike oxygen, which the body can’t store, it can store water within its cells and pass it on to the circulation when needed.  But how much water does your body need and how much loss can it withstand?

Just as tires without enough air makes a car malfunction and die, so too, if your cells don’t have enough water they malfunction and die.  And just as not having enough water within the pipes in your home makes it impossible to take a good shower, so too, not having enough water within your circulation makes it impossible for your body to feed its organs what they need and it malfunctions and dies.  Life is a dynamic process whereby you are constantly losing water, by breathing out water vapor, evaporating water from your skin (especially when you perspire), and, from the gastrointestinal system and the kidneys which make urine.  Anyone who’s ever worked or played hard in the heat and humidity knows what it’s like to have lost about 5% of their water content because they felt very tired afterward.  Medical scientists know that if this water loss progresses to 10%, then headache, sluggishness and weakness occurs.  Let it drop to 15%, and fluttering of the heart, dizziness and problems with concentration take place.  And with a 20% loss of water, the body experiences confusion and severe lethargy which usually leads to coma and death at 25% water loss.  So, now you know why you can’t live without water. 

Three Questions for Mr. Darwin

      1. How did the cell, with its surrounding membrane, cellular fluid (with its chemicals in solution) and organelles (that perform the functions of life) come into being?

      2. Where did the information come from that told my body to have two-thirds of its water inside of its cells so they can each function properly?

      3. Where did the information come from that told my body to have one-third of its water outside of its cells so there would be enough blood within the circulation to feed its cells?

Also see Dr. Glicksman's Series on

"Beyond Irreducible Complexity"

"Exercise Your Wonder"

Howard Glicksman M. D. graduated from the University of Toronto in 1978. He practiced primary care medicine for almost 25 yrs in Oakville, Ontario and Spring Hill, Florida. He now practices palliative medicine for a Hospice organization in his community. He has a special interest in how the ethos of our culture has been influenced by modern science’s understanding and promotion of what it means to be a human being.

Comments and questions are welcome.

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