One of the most powerful New Year’s resolutions and probably the easiest may be to simply drink more water. Virtually everything the body does requires water. So, if we gradually build a water deficit, normal processes can slow down or even grind to a halt. After all, next to oxygen, water is most vital to life on this planet. The website WaterCure.com lists these stats: muscles are 75% water; blood is 82% water; lungs are 90% water; the brain 76% water; and even bones are 25% water.
It is easy to understand that if we don’t have enough water in our system these easily noticed common symptoms might show up right away:
- Constipation (Taking fiber and not enough water may make matters worse.)
- Headache or increased pain from any problem (e.g. neck or back.)
- Chapped lips
But there is much more and some of it pretty darn important. In his book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, F. Batmanghelidj, MD* says that solving chronic dehydration can lead to major improvements in these health challenges:
- Premature aging
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol and other risks for heart disease
- Morning sickness
- Weight gain
Help reduce weight gain? Yes. Not only does staying hydrated help our metabolism function more normally, it also lowers appetite. (We often think we are hungry when we are actually thirsty.) I’ve heard folks say they didn’t want to drink water because they were retaining fluids. Surprising water often helps because it acts as a diuretic. Drinking more water protects our kidneys, because more concentrated sludgy urine stresses the kidneys. Water helps digestion when taken 30 min before the meal. (A lot of water with food dilutes digestive juices.)
You will hear some mainstream medical gurus say something like this: “Just drink when you are thirsty.” I think that advice is too simplistic. We can lose our sense of thirst or begin to ignore it or confuse it with hunger. The old adage is to drink 8 glasses of water a day—again, over simplified. Surely a linebacker needs more than a 90 pound granny. Plus, glasses come in all sizes. A more nuanced approach is reflected in this formula: Divide the body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water. For example, a 200 pound person would drink 100 ounces or about 3 quarts. But, that plan also needs to be modified. If a person eats a lot of juicy fruits, vegetables, and soup, they will need less water. Obviously, someone doing roofing work in Texas in August might need more. Caffeinated and sweetened beverages do not seem to help hydration and, if they have diuretic effects might worsen it. The color of our urine is a clue. It should be pale (unless you just took your B vitamins which will make urine bright yellow.)
So, what is the answer to the question “Are you drinking enough water?” Maybe = “yes” or maybe = “no”. (More often “no”.) The bottom line seems to be this: It takes time to re-hydrate so start slowly and simply see how you feel when you drink more water than you had been. It is a personal matter and all I can say is that when I stop paying attention to water I don’t feel nearly as good. When you decide what your target is, drawing a pitcher with that amount in the morning can act as a reminder. And, of course, make it pure filtered water. If you want a pitcher type, this filter pitcher is the best I’ve seen.
Too much of anything can be toxic. Drinking massive amounts of water can be lethal because it dilutes electrolytes. In importance after oxygen and water come sodium and potassium. So, be aware that as you increase water you may need to take in more salt and potassium. Be especially wary if you are on a low salt diet and do’’t eat abundant fruits and vegetables that are a source of potassium. If you have a disease, please ask your physician for advice. The article at this link by the late much revered Nick Gonzales, MD fills in interesting details and case histories.
*I was privileged to interview this ground-breaking physician on the Healthy by Nature show years ago. If you are a regular listener to the program you know that I often struggle with unusual names. You can just imagine how I did with this one. Dr. Batman it is.