by: Parvez Dara; Physician, ATP, MCFI, CFII, AGI, MEI. Gold Seal (and SAFE board treasurer)
Why do you need to carry a bottle of water in flight, or on a commercial flight travel and ask for, “May I have more water please!”
70% of the body weight is water based. 87% of that is inside the cell (intracellular). The “functional water” is required for oxygen enrichment and for maintaining the pH balance.
Water is vital for digestive juices, blood, sweat and tears. Any discrepancy will lead to complications with delivery of these “humors,” including oxygen to the body cells creating relative (stagnation) hypoxia. Thus optimal health needs good hydrated balance. This coolness of Scientific judgment helps dampen the randomness of confusion and chaos within the brain. The brain, we all agree, needs an uninterrupted supply of nourishment.
Not having enough water leads to the following complaints: Nausea, thirst, exhaustion, muscle and joint aches, angina (chest) pain, migraine (headache), restlessness and most importantly Central Nervous System symptoms like confusion (imagine that communicating with the ATC), paranoia and anxiety (irrational fears).
Did you get that? DID YOU GET THAT? Oops, sorry for yelling.
Dehydration can occur as a result of high altitude, excessive exercise, sweating and fluid deprivation. This hidden prism of self deception is the main element of weakening the pilot’s learned arts; decision making skill and the prodigiously sophisticated illusion of control.
The balance to maintain optimal body water level is coordinated by the kidneys mostly by concentrating urine. If the water is restricted or lost through vomiting, sweating or diarrhea, the osmotic pressure increases in the blood vessels, which draws the water from the cells into the blood vessels. The dehydrated cells become less functional. Similarly at altitude where the air pressure is low as is the water vapor content, the compensatory hyperventilation (increased rate of breathing) is a norm thus there is excess water loss through breathing – the exchange of dry air (incoming) for moist breath (outgoing). The shriveled cells slow down their activity in the muscle (fatigue), heart (heart rhythm), brain (decisions), kidney (filtration) etc. The most damaging effect is in the brain! Adding alcohol at any quantity in that circumstance accentuates this effect, as does smoking (imagine that during Spring-break, but then, very little brain function is acquired or required during that volatile period). A pilot can ill afford such psychological trauma, especially with the need for advanced decision making needed in the cockpit. Beware of this enchantress that woos the confused mind and sends it hurtling down to the ground prematurely.
Did I mention that oil flows slower than water? Similarly a thicker blood (dehydrated/concentrated) flows slowly. This congested flow limits transport of life’s nourishing goods into cells and transfer of life saving oxygen within.
Good hydration encourages the following: Increased energy, Reverse cellular damage, Normalization of the pH, Balance blood sugar, Fortify immune system, Better sleep, Clearer mind and Better memory.
So drink plenty of water before, during and after flight and enough water daily to keep your urine light yellow and less concentrated for optimal health.
And here is the additional kicker: Drinking 2-3 glasses of water reduces sugar, salt, cholesterol intake as well.
As Spock (Star Trek) would say, “Live Long and Prosper!”