This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
The general supposition is that when water is drunk, particularly whilst fasting from food, it is taken up quickly by the absorbents from the interior of the stomach into the blood. But, as Dr. R. Hutchison now explains, it has become incontestably established as a fact that water is not absorbed by the mucous lining membrane of the stomach at all. When water enters the stomach it begins to flow out into the intestine at the other end of the stomach, into the first intestine almost at once, the process going on in little gushes through the (pylorus) outlet until all the water has escaped. Roughly speaking, one may assume that a pint of water will have entirely issued from the stomach in the space of about three quarters of an hour. Hot water escapes from the stomach much more rapidly than cold; the heat increases strongly the movements of the stomach walls, and at the same time seems to cause its outlet (pylorus) to open, this being a powerful aid to sluggish digestion. Water is exclusively absorbed into the blood from within the intestines. The statement that a free consumption of Water at meals is apt to hinder digestion by diluting the gastric juice is not well grounded. Water is but a slight excitant of gastric digestion.
If it be impure contaminated water, it passes out again onwards before the antiseptic gastric juice has time to act on any noxious germs which it may contain; for which reason any such contaminated water is much more likely to convey disease into the system than is contaminated milk. This latter is detained in the stomach for partial digestion there, and its germs are more prone to be destroyed straightway. To boil water is the only way for rendering it reliably free from danger. If spirit, or wine, is added to the Water imbibed, this does not kill any germs contained therein, or make it any safer for drinking. In China, where the sewage of the densely populated country is carried off chiefly by the rivers, (so that the danger of contracting disease through drinking their water must be great), the universal use of cooked water in some form is a matter of history; and it is probable that instinct, or experience, has prompted the Chinaman to drink but very little water except that which has been cooked. The every-day national drink is weak tea, made in a large teapot, and kept in a wadded basket so as to retain the heat; the whole family use it, and the very poor drink plain hot water just tinged with. tea.
Dr. Dabbs has recently explained how to employ a rough but reliable extempore test in the case of suspected drinking water. "To get a perfectly clean, rounded, glass soda-water bottle and fill it with some of the questionable water; then to cork it with a new, unimpeachable cork. But before it is corked down, the addition must be made to it of as much white sifted cane sugar as would cover a two shilling piece. The bottle is then to be corked, and placed for two days in the sun. If its contents become milky or clouded, then the presence of sewage is to be suspected. "I have never known this rough test to fail," says Dr. Dabbs. "On the whole," writes Dr. Hutchison, "after an exhaustive, and impartial consideration of the subject, I am bound to admit that there is no better beverage for gouty persons than plain water; and they should be encouraged to drink freely of it, as an admirable aid to the elimination of nitrogenous waste." Again, Dr. Woods Hutchinson (Lancet, 1903) says, "The one element, whether we call it a food, or a medicine, which has been found to be of overwhelming importance and value in the treatment of gout, is Water; it acts most admirably, first by sweeping out the alimentary canal primarily, and the liver, kidneys, and skin secondarily, and next by supplying to the body cells that abundant salt water bath in which alone they can live, and discharge their functions.
Ninety-nine per cent of our body cells, we too often forget, are still aquatic organisms, and marine at that. What salts, we may choose to dissolve in the water is purely a matter of taste. The one active agent in all the mineral waters which are so much vaunted, is the water; and the wonderful effect of mineral water resorts, many in number, for helping to cure this disease (the gout) is mainly due to the one thing which they all have in common - plain water, - plus suggestion, and aided of course by the healthful air of the springs, also by the excellent hygienic rules which are enjoined as part of the cure.
By the substitution of distilled water, or rain water, instead of water drawn from the well, or pump, for daily drinking, cases of goitre, or enlarged gland in front of the neck, have been successfully treated when all the customary medicinal agents, such as iodine, iodide of potash, hydrofluoric acid, and digitalis, had signally failed. Even when the glandular tumour is of long standing, the exclusive use of distilled water as a beverage will gradually bring about diminution, and finally disappearance of the enlargement. In 1809, Dr. Lambe contended that "common water" is the chief vehicle by which cancerous disease invades the body, because of the putrescent, and inflammable matters always present more or less in such "common water." Also, said Dr. Lambe, "for the mitigation of cancer, a strictly vegetable diet must be joined to the use of water purified by distillation. Under this combined regimen life may probably be prolonged to an indefinite extent, even in certain cases of ulcerating cancer, which is of long standing.
The spread of cancerous disease into contiguous parts is completely prevented by the sole use of pure distilled water for drinking".
It is told pathetically that George Washington, the father of his country, was literally bled to death. The doctors in attendance on him, after repeated and copious venesection, resolved nevertheless to bleed him once more, and the great President died within a few minutes after the operation. With his last breath his pitiful cry was "Water! water! oh, give me water!" but this was denied him. "Plentiful water drinking," wrote Dr. King Chambers, "is to be advised for persons who labour under Bright's disease (albuminuria), where the smaller excretive blood-vessels of the kidneys are stiff, and blocked, and obstructed with thickening of their coats; hence they fail to carry on their blood into the kidneys to be purified, and thus the blood becomes fouled with the retained urea, and fails to be properly oxygenated, so that its red particles are deficient. Moreover, an exudation of the thinner - serous - part of the blood takes place into the open central chambers of the kidneys; and in order to wash these and other effete matters away, a plentiful use of aqueous drinks should be employed, which will flow out through the said organs.