Cholesterol and the Water Connection

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Everyone is concerned about high cholesterol levels nowadays and for good reason. If your cholesterol is high, experts say that taking steps to lower it reduces chances of having a heart attack.

Yet cholesterol is very useful as the precursor of most sex hormones, and also responsible for signalling and marking potential diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart and brain problems.

In our bodies, cholesterol and water are intricately linked. Normally water seeps into cells at a predetermined, slow and exact rate. By the same token, cells have a mechanism for expelling excess water. When the environment outside the cells is comparatively drier than inside the cells, cholesterol seals off all the pores and keeps water inside the cells.

Digestive water ways

When we eat food, water and enzymes are poured into the stomach and intestines. The enzymes break food into smaller bits – the building blocks – by allowing one molecule of water to join at each receptor bonding site of the amino acids and together they make the proteins. All this is ideally done with free water (the water that’s available after all systems have enough to perform their job), otherwise the body has less water available for transportation of the food stuffs into blood and lymph circulation.

Some of the food load is taken up by the liver and some continues to the heart. Lymph from the intestine also p[ours into blood and all the concentrated circulation continues to lungs. Water is lost as vapour through breathing. Blood gets oxygenated and returns to the heart to be pumped out first to the heart arteries, then to the brain arteries and finally to the large body artery, the aorta.

Concentrated blood will draw water through the cell membranes, leaving less water for the inside of the cells. When this concentrated blood reaches the brain, a signal goes to the conscious mind saying that there is not enough water. This translates into “thirst”.

Cholesterol as a waterproof

There is a fairly wide gap of time between when the liver receives the concentrated blood and the actual signal of thirst. This time gap concert a needless accumulation of cholesterol on the lining of the arteries and the liver; all the cells have responded to the survivorship mechanism by using cholesterol to seal off water into cells.

Not all cells form the cholesterol barrier and the ones that do not, have to borrow cholesterol from circulation and apply it to their membranes. Over time, the liver keeps producing cholesterol and as cells develop a defence mechanism against the osmotic forces of the blood, they inhibit the passage of water normally occurring in a hydrated cell and the cells ultimately suffer.

Importance of drinking water

Without enough water, organ functions, nutrient exchange, digestive processes, energy production, temperature regulation and immune function would suffer.

Staying hydrated ensures that cholesterol is not needlessly accumulated in the arteries and the liver. so while cholesterol is part of the body’s natural defences, high cholesterol levels show that the cells are exercising a defence mechanism that ultimately prevents the natural course of water to go freely  in and out of the cells.

The antidote is to regularly drink one full small glass of water a half hour before each meal. This gives enough time for the processes to be activated as hydration by the time food is ingested.

How do you know if you are properly hydrated? Take a look back in the bowl after emptying your bladder: if it is pale yellow, you are hydrated and if it is darker than that, make a point to increase your intake.

by Naomi Wolfman, BScN, NCA, GNC(C), PRCP, BCB-PMD                                 Source: Health Action Magazine, Winter 2015

Naomi Wolfman is a registered nurse specializing in continence  at Embrace Continence Solutions

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