Are you staying well hydrated? Maybe you drink enough water each day… or maybe you’re chronically dehydrated and don’t know it. According to the Harvard Health Letter, “Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and prevent constipation.”(1)
Did you know the human body is about 60% water? And we lose about three liters a day through elimination (stool and urine), breathing, and sweat. Sadly, it’s estimated that 75-80% of Americans are not staying hydrated, and are actually chronically dehydrated.(2) Wow!
Now I know I was chronically dehydrated for years as a kid. Growing up in a high-altitude town and not drinking enough fluids was a bad combo. I used to pop aspirin for my chronic headaches like it was candy. Little did my mom or I know my headaches were actually due to dehydration (headache across the forehead.) And I really should have been sipping water all day instead! Luckily today I love drinking water and always have my glass mason jar handy, to know how much I still need to drink. So other than avoiding headaches, why is staying hydrated so important to your overall wellness?
Are you staying hydrated?
You might be drinking plenty of water, but not actually getting hydrated. Turns out our bodies work best if we sip water throughout the day and don’t drink a whole glass at once. We can’t absorb a large amount quickly and will likely just pee it out, and remain dehydrated. Also, it’s best to only drink about 4 oz. of water during meals to cleanse your palette if you need to. Drinking a lot of water before or during a meal can dilute your stomach acid.
Besides having symptoms like headaches or constipation, how do you know if you’re dehydrated? You can take the Skin Pinch Test to check for dehydration.
How much water is enough?
So how much water should you be drinking each day?(6) While the old adage was 8 glasses of water a day, modern science has refined that a bit. The current recommendation to determine the amount of water you need is to take your body weight and divide it by 2. Then drink that many ounces.
For example, if you weigh 130 lbs, and divide by two you get 65. So you’d need to drink 65 oz. of water a day. If you divide 65 by 8 (the number of ounces in a cup) that’s just over 8 cups of water a day. If you weigh 200 lbs and do the same math, that’s 12.5 cups of water a day. So staying hydrated is a very individual formula.
8 reasons staying hydrated is important for optimal wellness
- Did you know your blood is 92% water? When you become dehydrated one of the first things that happens is your blood starts to thicken. This can potentially lead to DVT (deep vein thrombosis), blood clots, and even stroke.(3)
- Did you know your brain and heart are composed of about 70% water, and the lungs are 83% water? Think about this: What happens to dehydrated fruits when you remove the water? Or a kitchen sponge left to dry on the counter? They shrink up, right? Did you know that chronic dehydration can actually start to shrink your heart and brain? No bueno!(4) Don’t worry, when you rehydrate, your brain will expand again… but who wants a shrunken brain? That can definitely lead to cognition issues!
- Did you know one of the first indications that the body is already dehydrated is thirst? Weird right? When you reach for a drink because you’re thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Who knew?
- Another early warning sign of dehydration is clumsiness. Trip over your feet, bump into a wall or desk, or drop something? You are very likely not staying hydrated, so stop for a drink of water. Remember how the brain shrinks? And your brain can’t process correctly when it’s dehydrated, so this can cause balance issues. Hence dehydration is one of the main reasons older people may fall easily, they generally aren’t staying hydrated.
- One of the most obvious symptoms of dehydration is constipation (defined as not passing a stool at least once a day, or passing “rabbit pellets”). Your body needs plenty of water to help with elimination, and if you become constipated and that stool sits in your colon for very long, the colon starts to re-absorb the toxins it was trying to eliminate. Definitely no bueno!
- Here’s another good reason for staying hydrated. From a study done by Emory University(5) being optimally hydrated may increase educational outcomes through improved attention, concentration, and short-term memory.
- Yet another major benefit of drinking water is that it helps to flush toxins out of the body, carrying away germs and viruses to be eliminated by the liver and kidneys. Toxins are stored in fat cells and can cause inflammation and swelling, which then cause the fat cells to store more fat. So staying well hydrated may actually help to lose excess weight too.
- Need another good reason for staying hydrated? One of the first things that can happen as you become dehydrated, is that your mucosal lining inside your nose and mouth will start to dry out. The mucosal lining in your nose acts as a protective barrier coating, catching viruses and bacteria and preventing them from entering your body. So if you’re dehydrated your mucosal lining dries up, and the inside of your nose gets tiny cracks or fissures in the skin. Once that happens, the door is wide open for viruses like COVID-19 to enter your body. Yikes!
As you can clearly see, optimal hydration promotes wellness in many ways.
Other important factors in staying hydrated
- Age: older, sedentary people may need less water than younger, more active people.
- Level of Regular Exercise: if you exercise regularly, you’ll need to drink more to replenish what you sweat out.
- Environment: if you live in the desert, like Las Vegas, or high altitude, like Denver, you’ll need to drink more water than if you live at sea level or in a damp climate, like Seattle.
- Overall Health: if your sick with fever, cold, or flu, you’ll need to drink more water to help your body fight of the virus and flush out toxins.
- Eating Lots of Produce or Soup: if you eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables (which have a high water content) or eat a lot of soups that will add to your overall water intake, so you may be able to drink less water.
- Drinking Coffee, Black or Green Tea, Caffeinated Sods or Energy Drinks, and Alcohol: all are diuretics and can be very dehydrating, so if you drink any of those regularly, you will want to increase your intake of water. A good rule of thumb for staying hydrated is to add one glass of water for every cup of coffee/caffeinated tea, soda, sports drink, or alcoholic beverage you consume.
The importance of drinking filtered water
Sadly, most tap water is full of toxins. For those not lucky enough to have access to pure, clean well water, it’s always best to use a water purifier/filter to remove toxins and bad taste. There are so many types and brands of water filters, and they all filter different elements. There are super high-end filters like Berkey filters that some health practitioners swear by. I personally use a Pur filter attached to my faucet, because it’s easy to use. If you prefer, you can get filter pitchers for your countertop or fridge. Ultimately, the best water filter is one that you can afford and will use regularly.(7)
That being said, you don’t want to filter out the minerals that are extremely beneficial to your body. If you go for an RO (reverse osmosis) water filter, you absolutely must supplement with minerals or you could be doing yourself more harm than good. This is because our bodies actually need minerals to absorb the water we drink. Think about this: we evolved to drink spring water full of minerals, not bottled purified water devoid of nutrients. So if you’re drinking bottled water or filtered water without minerals added back in, your body can actually leach minerals out of critical places like your bones and teeth to absorb the water you’re drinking. No bueno!
Just say NO to plastic water bottles
PLEASE don’t drink out of plastic water bottles. Besides the fact that most brands don’t contain any minerals at all, they all leach plastic particles into your body, even if they are BPA-free. BPA is the current “toxin du jour” in plastics, but all chemicals in plastics are toxic to our bodies. They act as xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogens) and uptake in our hormone receptors, blocking our naturally occurring hormones from being utilized.
Plus, plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, not sustainable, don’t break down, and are wreaking havoc on the planet. So opt for a clean glass water bottle or stainless water bottle instead, and fill it with your filtered water. Luckily, many public places and stores are now offering filtered water to help you stay hydrated when you’re out and about.
Don’t care for the taste of water?
I often hear my clients say they don’t care for the taste of water. This is really sad considering that water is the life force of everything in nature and used to come fresh from mountain streams and springs or lakes.
But I don’t blame them if they’re drinking tap water which may have toxins like chlorine or fluoride in it. I was fortunate to grow up drinking delicious mountain well water that was full of minerals and not toxins. Unfortunately, many urban dwellers have never even tasted pure, clean spring or well water, which historically nourished our ancestors.
Tips to naturally flavor your water
If you really don’t care for the taste of clean, filtered water, try these suggestions:
- Flavor it with fresh fruit: add a squeeze of lime, lemon, orange, or some fresh or frozen organic berries to your water. Or add a bit of mint, cucumber, and pear for a refreshing summer drink.
- Spice it up: In the winter months, I love to add a few immune-boosting, antiviral clove buds to my glass water bottle to ward off the cold and flu virus. If you like the taste of cloves, you’ll love this trick. And if you like Chai Tea, you can also try adding cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, and star anise with your clove buds for healthy, flavorful water.
- Drink herbal teas: (we’re not talking about black or green tea here, but herbal tea with no caffeine), they come in amazing natural flavors like hibiscus, blueberry, ginger-mango, lemon, orange, and more. Check out clean brands like Traditional Medicinals and Yogi Tea.
- Drink organic coconut water: It’s a great way to replenish your body with natural electrolytes.
- Add a powdered electrolyte mix, like Ultima Replenisher with lots of great natural flavors
- Note: be sure to ditch the bottled sports and electrolyte drinks, they contain loads of sugar (which can make you thirstier!) e.g.: Electrolit (3 tsp sugar) and Gatorade (9 tsp sugar). Remember the rule of thumb is a maximum of 6 tsp of added sugar per day. So one Gatorade contains 1.5 days worth of added sugar!
How your fascia helps with staying hydrated
Here’s another important factor when it comes to staying hydrated. New research shows that your fascia, a thin membrane of connective tissue encasing your muscles, plays a major role in staying hydrated.(8) In fact, your fascia controls the flow of hydration in your body. You can think of your fascia like an aqueduct transporting water throughout your body.
But here’s the thing. Do you have tight muscles and knots in your body? Even if you’re drinking plenty of water, your body might not be able to really utilize it. Those tight muscles or knots can act like dams in the aqueduct, not allowing hydration to flow through your body. Wild right? You could be drinking lots of water and peeing it all out, and still, be dehydrated. Why don’t we learn about this stuff growing up?!
Luckily, getting regular bodywork, massages, or foam rolling can break up those knots and go a long way toward keeping your fascia moving and your hydration flowing throughout your body. Yes, the dreaded foam roller can help with staying hydrated. I’m a big fan of the foam roller too. While it can hurt a little initially, over time with regular use, the pain definitely lessons. And the biggest bonus is that after each time I foam roll I end up having way more energy, plus I feel about 3” taller too!? Foam rolling is a great thing to incorporate into your daily exercise routine, your body will thank you!
I’ll drink H20 to this!
So as you’ve just learned, staying well-hydrated is crucial to staying well and helping so many processes in your body to function.
- These days, staying hydrated is especially important for fighting COVID-19, which attacks the lungs (remember your lungs are 83% water!)
- Staying hydrated helps keep your blood flowing well instead of getting thick and clotting.
- Being well-hydrated keeps your brain from shrinking, which increases your memory and cognition. Something we all want, right?.
- Good hydration also helps you maintain good balance and not stumble or fall and break a body part.
“There are few negative effects of water intake and the evidence of positive effects is quite clear from the literature.”
— Barry M. Popkin, Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina.(9)
I’ll drink H20 to that! Please leave a comment to let us know your biggest takeaway, or how you make your water more palatable. Then share this article with your friends and family to help them stay hydrated too!