Today’s blog is going to be about a tasteless, colourless liquid that plays a major role in our health and well-being….water! I see so many patients in my NW Calgary Naturopathic Medicine practice that often are not drinking enough water.
Water is involved in every single metabolic process in our body, and our body is approximately 60% water. So it makes sense then that if you are dehydrated, or even not drinking an optimal amount of water, that your metabolism, and other processes, would run less efficiently and contribute to many symptoms, including fatigue.
Water is involved in many processes, including maintaining the proper viscosity of blood to aid in proper circulation, carrying waste from tissues to the organs of excretion, maintaining electrolyte balance, cushioning your joints, regulating your body temperature (by sweating to help you cool down when your core body temperature is rising).
Here are some benefits to your body of drinking water:
- decreased headaches (dehydration headaches actually come from the brain shrinking in size, and pulling away from the skull, causing pain…so scary!)
- decreased constipation (because you need adequate water to push your stool through your intestines and to soften your stool)
- decreased incidence of kidney stones (increase fluid passing through your kidneys dilutes the concentration of minerals so they are less likely to crystallize into stones)
- more saliva production to aid in digestion of food, keeping your mouth healthy, reducing bad breath and reducing dry mouth
- decreased incidence of urinary tract infections (because drinking water means you are emptying your bladder…stagnant urine in the bladder increases incidence of bacterial infection)
- reduced incidence of dry eyes
- increased energy
- weight loss (drinking water temporarily boosts your metabolism, and also helps you feel full so you eat less)
- improved skin complexion (if your skin is hydrated there is increased collagen production and your skin looks more plump)
- decreased muscle aches
- decreased muscle cramps
- decreased heart palpitations (heart palpitations can be linked to dehydration causing thicker blood…the heart has to work harder to move thick blood)
- decreased incidence of hangover after a night of indulging in alcohol (1 glass of water per alcoholic beverage will help minimize headaches and fatigue the next day)
- improved focus and concentration, because even mild dehydration has been shown to reduce memory
So how much water should you drink?
This all depends on the weather outside, your activity level, your weight, your caffeine intake (it used to be said that you need to drink 1 cup of water per cup of coffee as it has a diuretic effect), and your intake of water rich fruits and vegetables.
Herbal teas do count towards your water intake, but in my opinion, coffee and tea does not. Carbonated water also counts towards water intake. You can make your water taste better by adding slices of lemon, cucumber, mint, or fruit. It is important to spread your water intake out throughout the day rather than drinking large amounts all at once. Most people avoid drinking water for two hours before bedtime to avoid waking up during the night to use the bathroom.
Sometimes, your body confuses dehydration for hunger, so if you are trying to lose body fat, it could be helpful to drink a glass of water to see if that quenches your hunger.
My other suggestion is to avoid drinking water any closer than 30 minutes before meals, and this is because a lot of water with your meals dilutes your stomach acid, which slows down your digestion and can cause bloating. Sips of water while eating are fine, and I know if you are taking supplements then you need to drink water with your meals. Just don’t drink a lot. If you feel bloated and have slow digestion, you may be drinking too much water with your meal.
I like drinking a glass of water with lemon (hot water or room temperature water) first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This is very cleansing, and the bitterness of the lemon causes your gallbladder to release bile. If you experience abdominal discomfort when you do this, let me know at your next visit.
I am not a big fan of drinking ice cold water, as it takes your body energy to warm it up to body temperature but this is a matter of preference and I don’t consider it to be harmful.
A good test for how hydrated you are is to look at the color of your urine. A hydrated state is indicated by urine that is pale yellow or non coloured, while dark yellow urine, or infrequent urination, indicates a state of less than optimal hydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include: yellow urine, dry skin, dry mouth, dry eyes, dizziness, or rapid heart beat, although these are symptoms of much more severe dehydration.
Is there such a thing as too much water?
Yes. If you drink too much water at one time, you can throw off your body’s electrolyte balance (this is called water toxicity). This is because your kidneys cannot eliminate more than 1 litre of fluid per hour. So to be on the safe side, do not drink more than one liter of water per hour.
Guidelines for fluid intake are based on an individual basis, but I would say to aim for 2 litres per day minimum. If you are exercising, or spending time outside on a hot day and sweating, you will need more water. Again the best guideline is going based on your thirst (not always the best indicator) and the color of your urine. 4 litres of water per day is probably the maximum I would drink.
If you are drinking lots of water and are still thirsty, we can look at your blood sugar levels, your sodium intake, electrolyte balance, and more.
Its a good idea to keep some water with you all the time (not in water bottles in your hot car) and on your desk, where you watch tv, etc. If you see it, you will drink more. You can also try drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning upon waking, and as a go to when you feel tired, sluggish, achy, headachey, or having trouble concentrating, before reaching for a coffee or an energy drink or a sweet treat.
I hope this blog helps you! Not a lot of people like the taste of water, but it plays such a significant role in our health and wellbeing, and is so much more important than any vitamin or supplement or herb I could prescribe you. Find ways to make your water taste good, and start drinking!!!
Naturopathic Vitality Acupuncture and Wellness Clinic
205-5403 Crowchild Trail NW
(403) 719 – 2594