Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten



The best medicine of all is on tap in your own kitchen and for a few pence you can turn your bathroom into an invigorating private health spa

Water is one of the most powerful, and easily available, of all medicines. Used by man in hot springs, cold springs, sulphur springs, as sea water, river water, mountain water, it has provided external as well as internal therapy since human life began.

Most important of all is the water we drink and few people drink enough. Kidney problems, cystitis, migraine, headaches, skin disorders, constipation, they may all have their roots in a lack of fluid intake. The problem is made even worse by the conditions in which most people now live and work. Most homes are now hermetically sealed boxes which conserve heat and eliminate draughts, causing a significant fall in humidity.

Offices are even worse, often dryer than the Sahara. Consequently at home and work the body loses moisture and you only absorb minimal amounts when breathing. It's essential to increase the water you consume as well as the amount in your environment. So at least eight large glasses a day should be the minimum target to maintain your internal fluid balance, together with plenty of green leafy plants and humidifiers to re-hydrate the atmosphere.

The cheapest way to get your water is from the tap and if you don't like the taste of chlorine, fill a large jug and leave it in the fridge over night. Though our tap water is generally free from bacteria many people worry about the build up of agricultural chemicals and the ever rising levels of hormones which are known to interfere with fertility and the development of sexual organs in animals. For this reason there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of bottled water drunk in the UK in recent years. My favourites are Evian and Badoit - one of the few naturally fizzy waters. After 300 years the spa at Evian is still used to provide treatment for patients with kidney and urinary diseases and the Romans built a spa at Badoit where the water has been used ever since for its invigorating and internal cleansing properties.

Name: Evian
Source: Evian, Lake Geneva
Calcium content (mg/l): 78
Magnesium content (mg/l): 24
Sodium content (mg/l): 5
Total mineral content : Low
Taste: Pure, very clean taste
Comments: Ideal for the whole family, and is the only water which the French government recommends for mixing baby foods. The spa at Evian has been famous since the 18th century as the place to go for the treatment of kidney stones and urinary infections. Evian water takes 15 years to filter down from the Alpine snows to the spring in the town. More than 200 laboratory checks are made each day at the bottling plant, and thousands of French men and women visit the Lakeside Spa each year, to take the cure and drink the water - all paid for by the state health service! The biggest seller of all still waters in its native France.

Name: Badoit - naturally sparkling
Source: Badoit, Saint-Galmier, France
Calcium content (mg/l): 200
Magnesium content (mg/l): 100
Sodium content (mg/l): 160
Total mineral content : Medium
Taste: slightly alkaline and very refreshing
Comments: This wonderful water was the first ever bottled in France. It emerges from a 500m fissure in the granite, slightly sparkling, with its high bicarbonate content making it the best of all sparkling waters to drink with food. It contains 1mg per litre of fluoride, enough to give the local children better teeth than in any of the surrounding villages. The Romans built a bath house here and local doctors endorsed the benefits of the water in the 17thcentury. When Louis Pasteur was working in Italy in the late 1800s, he used to order 50 bottles at a time.

Restaurant bottled waters

Some restaurant chains are making enormous profits by stocking their own in-house bottled water which is only filtered to remove the chlorine. Save your money and ask for a jug of iced water and give it a stir to get rid of the smell.


Children need at least 6-8 glasses of water daily and even more if they're rushing about or the weather is warm. Getting them to drink it isn't always easy but adding one part unsweetened fruit juice to three parts water makes it more acceptable. Sweet fizzy drinks should not be an option as they're unhealthy and damage their teeth.

Children tend to be more active and because their surface area is larger for their weight than adults, they lose more fluid through sweating. As the body can't store water it's vital that children have regular access to hygienic fresh water. Sadly this is rare in most schools and the children's charity ERIC (Enuresis Resource and Information Centre) is running a national campaign to increase awareness of the importance of water in schools.

Drinking too little during the daytime can mean that a child's bladder gets smaller and drinking during the evening increases the risks of bedwetting. Dehydration causes problems even more quickly in children than adults, particularly constipation and headaches. No child is likely to do well at school if pain and discomfort disrupt their concentration, but for many there is little access and the toilets are the only place to get a drink - hardly the most hygienic.

Make sure you send a couple of small bottles with lunch - the non-spill sports bottles are ideal and you can refill them from the tap at home and ideally from a water cooler in school. Make sure that your children are both allowed and encouraged to take water bottles to PE classes and the sports field.

Encouraging regular water drinking in the young sets up healthy habits which will stay with them for life. Better skin, less chance of kidney stones and urinary infections, and no constipation will be theirs thanks to your early intervention.


This is the time of year for a quick three day detox. Get rid of the accumulated excesses of the Christmas holidays and start thinking of spring. The large amount of water not only helps flush the system but reduces your hunger pangs during these low calorie days. The water also reduces the inevitable headaches but they only transient so keep off the pain killers and the coffee.

Take two teaspoons of the Swiss Herbal Tonic BioStrath Elixir (chemists and health stores), three times a day to keep your energy levels up. First thing each morning add 15 ml of Pure Plan (health stores or 0161 483 1235) - a wonderful mixture of dandelion, burdock, artichoke, fennel, seaweed, wild pansy and tamarind - to a litre of still mineral water. Drink the whole bottle during the day.

Day 1:

An orange, half a grapefruit, a large slice of melon
A glass of unsalted vegetable juice
A cup of herb tea with honey

A plateful of raw red and yellow peppers, cucumber, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots, radishes and lots of fresh parsley. Add extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
A large glass of unsweetened fruit juice.

Evening meal:
Large mixed salad with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Lettuce, tomato, watercress, onion, garlic, beetroot, celeriac, fresh mint and any herbs you like.
A large glass of unsweetened fruit juice or unsalted vegetable juice.

Day 2:

Breakfast: a large glass of hot water, a thick slice of lemon, a dessertspoon of honey. A carton of natural low fat live yogurt

Mid morning: A large glass of vegetable juice, a handful each of raisins, dried apricots and fresh nuts.

Lunch: A salad of grated carrot, red cabbage, apple with sliced red pepper, tomato, radishes, celery, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, lemon juice and olive oil. A cup of herb or weak Indian tea with honey, no milk.

Mid-afternoon: A glass of fruit juice and a banana.

Evening meal: Any three cooked vegetables (not potatoes) with olive oil, nutmeg and lemon juice, herb tea or weak Indian tea.

During the evening: a mixture of dried fruits and unsalted nuts and as much fresh fruit as you like.

DAY 3:

Breakfast: fresh fruit salad of apple, pear, grapes, mango and pineapple, with a carton of live yoghurt and a tablespoon of unsweetened muesli. Weak tea or herb tea.

Mid-morning: 6 dried apricots. A glass of fruit or vegetable juice.

Lunch: lettuce soup - soften half a chopped onion in a large pan with a little olive oil - add half a shredded Iceberg lettuce, stir for a couple of minutes, add a pint and half of vegetable stock, lots of black pepper, simmer for 20 minutes, sprinkle with a large handful of chopped parsley. Enjoy with a chunk of crusty wholemeal bread, no butter. Herb or weak Indian tea.

Mid-afternoon: an apple and a pear.

Evening: Pasta with lettuce pesto - use the rest of the Iceberg processed with a handful of pine nuts, a little olive oil, one clove of garlic and a carton of low-fat fromage frais. Tomato, onion and yellow pepper salad. Herb or weak Indian tea.

Make sure you drink your litre of mineral water and Pure Plan each day, and at least six cups of additional water, weak Indian or herb tea.


Start by trying a cold bath. Quite the opposite to what you might expect, a cold bath is not a variation of an ancient torture, but is highly invigorating. When you apply cold water to any part of the body, there is an initial chilling effect. The next stage is the dilating of the small blood vessels in the skin. The increased blood flow suffuses the whole area with a ruddy, warming, healthy glow. Sit in a cold bath with six inches of water and give your body a good splash for one minute. Stand up, add another six inches and repeat the splashing. Keep on until the water is up to your navel, then finish with a quick lie down. It is not for the elderly, infirm, small children or those of a nervous disposition.

Hot baths are relaxing, they lower energy, stimulate sweating and increase elimination of toxins. They help tension, muscle and joint problems, skin and circulatory diseases. For backache or chest problems, add two tablespoons of Romany Bath Mustard to a hot bath. You can also add essential oils, seven drops mixed with a tablespoon of rapeseed, grapeseed or sunflower oil - rosemary for circulation, chamomile for skin and hop for tension and insomnia. A small cupful of inexpensive Epsom salts are great for arthritis or rheumatism, and seaweed or peat extracts soothe the skin. Tidmans bath sea-salt will give you the same benefits as swimming in the warm Mediterranean sea, by promoting fast healing, reducing inflammation and preventing infection. Or, if you're feeling a bit wound up, anxious or depressed, just try throwing a few herbal tea bags into the bath. Lime blossom, chamomile or valerian are best.

Wherever it is important to stimulate the circulation, use alternate hot and cold water. Varicose veins, piles, chilblains, muscle, joint or ligament injuries are most likely to improve with this treatment. Soak the affected part in hot water containing five drops of rosemary oil for three minutes, then spray or sponge with cold water for thirty seconds. Repeat five times twice a day and always finish with cold.

The whole art of Hydrotherapy, using showers, baths of different temperatures, steam and alternate hot and cold bathing, has been part of the history of healing.

From the Turkish baths of the Ottoman Empire, and the great bath houses of Rome, to the modern sophisticated spa, we've used water to bathe away our spiritual and emotional problems as well as to soothe our physical aches and pains. Make the most of it, it's on tap in your kitchen and bathroom.


Not only will you be drinking extra fluids during these three days but all the fruits, vegetables and salads contain a very high proportion of water too. When you add the juices and herbal teas, putting so much water through the body's system works just like flushing through your car radiator or central heating system for its annual clean. Parsley, celery and celeriac are included as they are very gentle and natural diuretics that increase the rate at which your body eliminates water. The overall effect is to rehydrate your body tissues from the inside, prevent constipation and moisturise your skin far more effectively than any amount of creams and lotions.

It's ideal to do your detox when you can take things fairly easily, like a long weekend, and it's fine to repeat these three days once a month. And if you're really keen use any one of the days once a week on a regular basis.

You can also extend the diet by another three days of very careful eating - have the same breakfasts as days 1, 2 and 3 but add one slice of wholemeal bread with a thin scraping of butter; have the same lunches but for the evening meals add potatoes, pasta or rice and protein in the form of eggs, fish or poultry. If you're a veggie use tofu, beans, lentils or cheese.


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