Water is important year-round, especially during the hotter, drier months of summer, and if we’re staying fit with exercise and sweating, we need to maintain our hydration. The more water content foods we eat (such as fruits and vegetables that contain minerals) the better hydrated we are. Let’s review the keys to healthy water balance.
1. Proper hydration with water is essential. Most of us need at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of good, clean drinking water, daily. Coffee, alcohol, sodas or other sugary beverages do not count toward our daily two quarts of liquids as they do not hydrate our tissues well and often have the opposite effect, causing dehydration. Water is the best choice for proper hydration. However, herbal teas and fresh juices do count because of their high water content; furthermore, fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet do add to our water intake. Water is second in importance to air, which we need by the minute. We can survive only about a week without water, whereas most of us can live as long as six weeks without food. Water supports our immune system and flushes toxins from the lymph system and body, which is actually composed of about 70% water – that’s about 10 to 12 gallons! In fact, brain and muscle consist of about 75% water and blood is 85% water content. Except for bone and fat tissue, most of our body is water!
2. Finding the right water balance for each of us is also important. This is based on our body size, level of physical activity, exercise and sweating, the local climate, and our diet. A diet that is dry and high in proteins and fats creates a need for even more water to flush these foods healthfully through our system. The average American drinks only 4.6 cups of water a day, or 36 ounces. That is a bit shy, especially when most of us do not consume our share of fresh fruits and veggies. Water drinking should be a habit, something we do without having to think about it. Only one third of Americans claim they drink eight glasses of water a day; 28% have three or fewer servings and nearly 10% say they don’t drink water at all. The most frequent reason given by Americans for not drinking water is lack of time, as reported by 21% in a recent survey. Like anything, preparation saves time and allows us to engage in these healthier habits. Prioritize water hydration and during hot weather, drink 2 to 3 glasses more than usual. When we have a cold, or for many illnesses and symptoms like headaches and allergies, it is helpful to hydrate the body fully with water and herbal teas. We can know this by our urinary output, generally every couple hours during the day.
3. Exercise! Unless injured or unable, it’s always important to move your body, so create a consistent and sometimes challenging program for your health. Remember that when you exercise regularly and sweat, you will need more fluid replacement. Be sure to drink cool to room temperature water and do not depend on thirst to tell you when; instead drink anyway! Take your walks, go on hikes, ride a bike and work out with weights at home or at a gym. Even try something new, like a yoga class. Stretch out your body and stay flexible and youthful. Before and during exercise, drink fluids, particularly water, to reduce body temperature, moderate cardiovascular stress and improve performance. After a strenuous workout, it’s important to replace the fluids you’ve lost. The late Jack LaLanne states: “Exercise is king, Nutrition is queen.” Put them together and you have a healthy kingdom.
4. Good, clean water is not a given. Most city waters and even wells are suspect for contamination with microbes and chemicals. It is wise to invest in an appropriate filtration system since water is such an important component of our body. The best is a reverse osmosis (RO) unit or a solid carbon block type filter. What is most effective for your home use depends on what your water concerns are and how much water you need. Many people also buy bottled water from natural springs, or water bottled after filtration, and some people are embracing alkaline water systems. Drinking water that is more alkaline or contains added bicarbonates (may include calcium and magnesium salts) may offer some balancing, healing effects, although this needs to be further researched. If you use a consistent drinking water brand, check it out by calling the company and asking for a report. Avoid over intake of water stored in plastic bottles as we have concerns about this, even though we don’t truly know its long-term effects yet.
5. Dehydration is a very common problem that nearly every one of us experiences at some time. All cells in our body requires water to function — to bring in nourishment and carry away wastes. When these functions aren’t performed fully (due to dehydration), a range of symptoms can occur. At even 1% dehydration, most people get thirsty, which is the body’s warning sign. Dehydration can cause dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, lightheadedness, headache, or impaired physical performance, as well as lapses in concentration. Headache may be a sign of increased toxicity. Other problems from more chronic dehydration include constipation and poor digestive function, dry and itchy skin, a reduction in urine output, and even an increased incidence of painful kidney stones. One of my favorite slogans is “Dilution is the solution to pollution.” So, drink your water!
6. Add some nutrients to your water as it may make it healthier and more palatable for you. Some folks do not like to drink plain water; they just have distaste for it. If so, try various bottled waters to see if there is one you like. Add some lemon, lime, or a tea bag to give it some flavoring. Water can also be flavored with a little orange or apple juice, or some nutrient powders like Power-Paks, Emergen-C or other vitamin-mineral combination available at your store. I add trace mineral ionic concentrates to my water drink in the morning and for exercise; my family starts each day with nutrient-rich water with a bit of juice. Warm drinks include herbal and green teas, lemon water, chai, and vegetable broth. Starting the day with a cup of hot water can awaken you and your digestion; some people like a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar. Hot water sipped throughout the day is a popular therapy for illness in Asia.
7. The best time to drink water is first thing in the morning, ideally two or three glasses. I also encourage people to drink between meals rather than too much while eating, as increased fluids dilute the strength of our digestive juices and lower the efficiency of digestion and assimilation. For those working to lose weight, drinking a couple glasses of water about 30 minutes before meals will hydrate the tissues, curb the appetite, and likely lower the amount of food consumed. Water is also so important for healthy skin, good circulation and staying young and healthy. To summarize, the ideal times to drink water are:
- First thing in the morning when you wake up
- Mid-morning & mid-afternoon
- About 30-60 minutes before meals
8. Water and weight loss is an important topic, so here is some more information. Focus mainly on vegetables and other wholesome foods and stay away from processed and sweetened high-calorie foods and snacks. Definitely switch to pure water from the caloric, sugary beverages. Drink several glasses of water when arising and 30-60 minutes before planned meals. Make this fun, tasty and a priority. Review tip numbers 6 and 7 above for further ideas, plus number 3 for your exercise motivation. Carry water with you so it's readily available. Also, be sure to eat a couple fruits daily, plus try to make and consume homemade vegetable soups.
9. Kids need water too. Children do not handle heat and dehydration as well as adults, and the younger they are, the greater the concern. Diarrhea and subsequent dehydration and malnourishment may be the number one cause of death in kids throughout the world. Elders need water too. They are very sensitive to dehydration and the effects of hot weather. Heating and cooling of the body can be accomplished with warm or cool foods and beverages. This is a natural inclination, yet it may need to be developed in this world where kids (as well as all of us) are exposed to relentless advertising. Drinking warm/hot water and teas is a good habit for those living in the colder climates. Adding splashes of juice is helpful in getting kids to drink water instead of sugary beverages. Also, adding a nutrient powder, many of which are nicely flavored, provides a good start to a child’s day, or as replenishment after a busy or active time. For children who are overweight or who are fixated on sodas and sugary drinks, it will be a great lifetime health benefit to switch them to water and lighter drinks, such as juice and carbonated water combinations. Set a good example for your adolescents by drinking your water too!
10. Other General Ideas on Water:
- Water your flowers and plants. Use aromatherapy and flowered sprays to mist the air and your body, and like plants, you can hydrate yourself.
- When it comes to airplane travel, it is easy to experience dehydration, so drink your water and avoid salted foods and alcohol beverages.
- Many medications, such as diuretics, can cause dryness, while others can cause water retention and bloating. Learn about any medicines you take, even the natural ones. Mainly, when we take meds or eat too much junk, we usually need to drink lots of water.
- I mentioned above about concerns regarding plastic containers. Harder plastics like polycarbonate may be safer than polyethylene material, which emits plastic into the water more readily. For sure avoid all plastic containers for lemon water or the Master Cleanser, because the acids in lemons leach out even more toxins.
- Bathe your body regularly. Soak in water for the relaxation and healing it generates. Sweating, as in saunas, physical work, sweat lodges, hiking, or eating chili peppers may help us to live long and healthy!
- Swimming is a great recreation and exercise. Find a pool, lake, river or ocean and have some great fun during the warmer weather.
© 2015 by Elson Haas, MD