*Caution** If you have heart problems, high blood pressure, kidney problems, or any other condition that could be negatively affected by your hydration levels, make sure you talk to your physician before making any dramatic changes to your water intake. And as with anything, if you make changes in your water intake and feel worse, go back to what you were doing before, and talk to your doctor.
You know water is good for you, but is it that big of a deal?
More Energy: When people come to see me for fatigue issues, how much water they drink is one of the first questions I ask (along with sleep and diet and everything else). As the saying goes, “if I had a nickel for every time” – someone replied to my question with “Not enough.” I’d be a gazillionaire. We have so many beverage choices to make out there, nobody wants to drink boring water. In addition, many people are drinking a lot of coffee or other caffeinated drinks to get through their day (more on the plusses and minuses of caffeine another day), but water is really (really) a far more effective and long term energy booster than caffeine.
This doesn’t even require that you buy expensive bottled waters/energy waters/brainy waters. Plain old water is one of the cheapest and most effective energy drinks out there. Get a filtered water pitcher for your kitchen (or a filter for your faucet) if needed, and give it a try (amounts and tips for drinking water are at the end).
Reduced Joint Pain and General Achiness: Joint pain and general musculoskeletal aches and pains are often caused (or at the very least made much worse) by the buildup of waste and inflammatory products in the area of the problem. So to reduce that pain and feel better you need to flush those things out and away. Imagine two streams next to each other. One stream has very little water in it, so it has a slow, sluggish flow. The other stream has a lot of water in it, so the current is stronger. Which one of these streams is going to have a greater buildup of gunk/old leaves/sticks/algae in it? Obviously the slower, sluggish stream. The same is true in your blood vessels. You need a nice healthy flow of fluid to flush all that waste and inflammatory stuff out of the area, and boosting your water intake is adding more water to the stream so you can do that.
Make Your Immune System More Effective: Just as good water/blood flow will help to flush toxins away so they can be properly disposed of, it will also help to bring nutrients to your cells and make sure that your floating immune cells have access to all of the various nooks and crannies within your body, where things might hide out. Simply put, drinking a good amount of water will actually strengthen your immune system and help you to stay healthier.
Relieve Constipation: The same as with fatigue, when people are constipated, “How much water do you drink?” is one of the first questions I ask. Water helps keep things moving along through the colon. If you’re dehydrated, your poop is dehydrated. That is going to make it a lot harder to get it out of your body.Improving water consumption, improves bowel regularity. And a good poop is a good thing. See ‘How Often Do You Poop?’ for more on this subject.
The Downside of Drinking Water: The most common concern I get from people on the subject of water, is that if they drink more, they’ll have to pee more. This is true most of the time. I say most of the time, because sometimes when people are dehydrated for a long time, it seems that any little bit of water they drink goes right through them. This is often because the tissues in a dehydrated person’s urinary tract have become irritated, so anything touching them (ex. a little water), creates a strong urinary urge. In these folks, drinking more water hydrates the tissues of the urinary tract, they become less hypersensitive and end up peeing larger amounts, less frequently.
However for most people, yes, if you drink more water, you will have to pee more. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Urination is one of the five ways we detox our body (See “A Gentle 5 System Detox” for more on this subject) and flushing out old toxins and waste products is a great thing. Also, getting up to go to the bathroom, forces you (ideally) to get up and move your body, even if only to the bathroom. This helps to decrease the damaging effects of sitting or standing in one place for long periods of time.
Recommended Amount of Water: Your water intake should be about 1/3 – 1/2 your body weight in ounces (ex. If you weigh 150 pounds, you would drink 50-75 ounces of water). (Again, please note cautions as outlined at the beginning.) It’s generally best to front load this into the earlier parts of the day, and decrease your intake in the later afternoon/evening, so you’re not waking up all night to go to the bathroom. Don’t drink large amounts of water with a meal, because you don’t want to dilute all your digestive enzymes and such, but a full glass of water half an hour before a large meal can actually help your digestion.
A simple trick to boost your water intake is to drink one large glass of water when you first get up (ex. right before a morning shower) and a second one about 20 minutes or half an hour after. For some reason this really seems to boost the thirst reflex, and it’s what I use to help my patients who are “just not thirsty.” Of course if you have a long commute in the morning, you may want to wait until you get to where you’re going to do this.
The other trick to it is to have water available to you throughout the day. I (& many of my patients) have found that having a large container of water sitting on my desk, keeps me refilling my drinking glass, vs. having to get up and walk the fifteen feet to the water cooler every time I finish my glass. If I don’t have more water handy, I am usually so wrapped up in my work, I tend to forget or procrastinate getting refills, and I end up not drinking as much throughout the day. If you just forget to drink, you can set recurrent reminders/alarms in your phone or computer (ex. on Outlook). Some people can sip all day and get through a large amount of water, others have to treat it like medicine and drink a large amount all at once; either way works.
If you really just don’t like the taste of plain water, try herbal teas (hot, room temp or iced) that are naturally non-caffeinated, or water that is flavored with fruit essences (avoid the ones with sweeteners, either natural or artificial). If adding lemon to your water on a regular basis, keep in mind that the acid in the lemons can eat away at the enamel on your teeth and cause or worsen tooth decay. I’d say it’s fine on an occasional basis, but maybe not something you want to do constantly.
**So if you too would like to experience the benefits of this amazing and miraculous supplement called Water™, just send three easy payments of $19.99 to my office. I’ll even throw in a set of Ginsu knives!** (not really)
But seriously, just try drinking the recommended amount of water for two weeks. Even one week. You should notice the difference.