Dilution is the solution to pollution. I’ve never really liked this old saying … and don’t really buy into it (because after all, isn’t NOT polluting really the solution to pollution?). However, this adage applies to our health in that, while it may not be the solution to all our problems, it can be a big step in the right direction. I’m talking about increasing water consumption. We’ve heard that getting enough water every day is important and that many of us don’t. Increasing water consumption to recommended amounts can result in noticeable improvements to your health – relief from constipation and better skin tone, for example. But beyond that, there are so many other ways that water supports the way your body is designed to function. You may not make the connection – but your organs will thank you for providing them with what they need to do their jobs efficiently & effectively. In fact, it is probably the simplest change we can make in our routine that results in the biggest benefits – just add more water to your diet.
Where is it going?
You are mostly water – on average, up to 60% overall in adults and proportionately more in children usgs.gov The Water in You. We lose water through our body’s normal functions:
- Respiration – as part of the process of breathing in and out, the air we take in is warmed to body temperature and humidified. We lose that humified air when we exhale for a net loss in water.
- Perspiration – Sweating is your body’s way of regulating temperature – the sweat glands release water & salts on the surface of the skin where it evaporates to cool the body.
- Urination – Our kidneys are amazing little filtration powerhouses. After our blood does its job of delivering nutrients and oxygen and carrying away metabolic waste, the kidneys are tasked with, among other things, removing waste and excess water from the blood in the form of urine. This is where that old adage about dilution comes into play. By being fully hydrated, your kidneys don’t have to work quite as hard. When you’re not hydrated, your kidneys will work to keep water in your bloodstream and will make more concentrated urine. If your urine is anything but clear or light yellow, you most likely should be taking in more water to put less stress on your kidneys.
- Defecation – Water keeps your bowels moving and your stools soft enough to pass out of the body. We lose some of our water through the process of having a bowel movement. If you are having issues with constipation (which can be exacerbated by many medications), consider drinking more water daily to see if it alleviates the problem. Also, be especially aware of the need to drink plenty of water if you have any bouts of diarrhea to maintain that fluid balance.
Each of these processes is vital to our well-being so we want enough water in our system to support these functions. To keep our organs running in tip-top shape we need to keep replacing the water we lose. When it comes to blood and kidney function, having enough water in our system makes it easier for our overall metabolism.
Of special note is how critical adequate hydration is if you are starting a new regime of cleaner eating and removing toxins from your diet. You want all of your organs functioning in top form to remove and carry away the toxins that you are trying to eliminate from your system.
How do you know if you are getting enough?
One easy gauge that you can use to determine if you are getting enough water is the color of your urine. If your urine is anything but clear or pale yellow, you should consider increasing your water intake. If you are taking any supplements that contain vitamin B2 – aka riboflavin – your urine may turn an unnaturally bright yellow color as excess of this water-soluble vitamin passes into your urine. In that case, notice how frequently you are urinating and use that as your gauge. Expect to go a reasonable amount every few hours – 7 or 8 times a day. Dr. Mercola Drinking Enough Water Don’t confuse frequency with urgency – an urge to go without production is something to discuss with your physician. Keep in mind that when you feel thirsty your body is already lacking water, so ideally you should maintain your hydration so your never feel thirsty … stay ahead of your thirst. Your day to day consumption needs will vary with your activity level and environmental conditions so be prepared to adjust accordingly.
Start first thing in the morning – and plan for the rest of the day!
So, I just said that it’s a good idea to stay ahead of your thirst to be optimally hydrated at all times. What’s my strategy? For me, one thing I do to kick the day off is to fill a 12 oz glass of water before I go to bed and leave it covered by the sink in the bathroom. When I get up in the morning to take the dogs out, I drink the glass of water while I get my clothes on & comb my hair. I feel like that sets the tone for the day – and helps me wake up. I suggest keeping that first glass of water handy, so you replenish what you lose overnight and start the day right. Bonus points for adding some fresh lemon to the water. You can even drink it warm with lemon if there is a chill in the house. Through the rest of the day, I try to make sure I have a glass of fresh water (or portable glass or stainless-steel container of water if I’m on the go) handy. I keep a glass pitcher of either homemade flavored water, or cold brewed green or herbal tea in the fridge and drink that at home or on the go. It’s so easy to flavor water – even with things that you typically might be tossing out like peels from washed citrus, cucumbers or apples & stems from herbs – it all adds interesting flavor. When we have company, I like to offer a pitcher of flavored water to guests as well – but I’ll make it prettier by leaving sliced fruit, ginger & herbs in the pitcher.
If you are trying to maintain a healthy body weight or even in the process of losing weight, having a glass of water 30 minutes before you eat can help keep you from over-eating and staying hydrated helps keep you from eating something when you are actually thirsty. I admit I am guilty of reaching for food when I am thirsty. Refer back to the post about Crowding Out – the strategy of adding good things to your diet so you can’t help but consume fewer “bad” calories Crowding Out – A Change in Mindset & Strategy. It’s good to pause before you reach for a snack and ask yourself “Am I really thirsty?” or “When was the last time I drank something?”. While eating does provide you with some of the moisture you need in the day, it comes at a caloric price. The best way to hydrate is with water and if that’s what you really need, drink that first and wait a bit before you assess if you really need that snack.
What NOT to Drink
A gentle word on caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is a diuretic – it encourages urination. While coffee, tea and any other caffeinated beverages will act as a diuretic, they will still be hydrating…. just not AS effective something that doesn’t cause you to pee more. We’ll talk more about caffeine in a future post but suffice it to say that it’s not a good idea to reach for too many caffeinated beverages during the day (and it’s a great idea to quit caffeine for a bit and see how you feel, just to understand how it works in YOUR body). I have a morning black tea habit that is my way of easing into the day. As much as I like to think it is about the ritual and quiet time, I also know that I might be relying on that caffeine to get me “in gear” for the rest of my day. I try to break my routine once a week or so to make sure I’m not depending on caffeine to get me going and I work to avoid caffeinated beverages after the morning.
A lessgentle word on soda – diet or otherwise. Step away from sweet beverages! Hopefully you have already stopped drinking sugar sweetened beverages and are working on curbing your sweet tooth. For helpful tips on how to get started, check out our blog post Face Your Sugar Addiction Head On. There is a ridiculous amount to sugar in sodas – typically the equivalent of 9 – 11 teaspoons in a 12 oz can of soda – adding horrific calories devoid of true nutritive value and messing with our metabolic function & gut flora. How naïve we were to embrace soda into our culture! And of course, in the U.S., where we suffer from a “more is better” mentality, we “Super-Size” it!!! It might surprise you that diet sodas really aren’t a much better alternative. In general, I always start by being wary of anything that must call itself artificial. Right off the bat that means that it will be foreign to our bodies, so we weren’t designed to consume it. While artificial sweeteners may be a way to wean ourselves off sugar, please don’t rely on them long-term and make them a staple in your diet. We’ll cover some of the skinny on sweeteners in an upcoming post.
Getting enough water in your system on a regular & ongoing basis is probably one of the easiest things you can do to improve your overall health.
Plan ahead so that you are always only an arm’s length from water and you’ll be more likely to consume what you need.
Remember your body will thank you on a cellular level for providing it with the hydration it needs. Do yourself a simple yet important favor and stay ahead of your thirst – Stay Hydrated My Friend