By Guest Writer Ellen Syversen, MPH, CHES, & NTP
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Even as a nutritional therapist, I find it takes extra effort to stay hydrated in the winter months. Hydration is important all year round, however, in the absence of the hot sun many of us forget to drink water and other fluids. Hydration may not make newspaper headlines, but did you know that water is the body’s most important nutrient? Were you aware that water is the most common nutritional deficiency in the American Population? Ninety-two percent of the water that we need for daily bodily functions must be ingested, it can not be stored in the body, and we can only live a few days without water. Do I have your attention now?
Water is so abundant, especially in rainy Oregon, that many of us take it for granted. At the beginning of any client appointment, I offer a nice big glass of water as many people are dehydrated as they walk into my office. I like to then educate clients about water’s numerous roles in the body including removing wastes, flushing toxins, transporting nutrients, lubricating joints, cushioning bones, and regulating body temperature. According to Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, MD, author of Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, early signs of dehydration, just a 2% drop in the body’s water content, can cause fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, irritability and depression. Isn’t it wonderful that simply drinking enough of the right fluids can improve your mood? More mature signs of dehydration include migraines, fibromyalgia, constipation, joint and back pain. Yes, for some individuals, back pain can be diminished or relieved just by achieving adequate hydration!
So how do you know how much water to drink? The “hydration formula” is your body weight divided by two equals the number of ounces of water you should drink in one day. So, for a person that is 160 pounds, they should drink 80 ounces of water per day. The catch is that you have to add an additional 1.5 ounces of water for every ounce of caffeine, sugar, or alcoholic containing beverage that you drink. Unfortunately, these diuretic beverages are dehydrating and cancel out the hydration that water provides. The truth is when you keep this in mind, most Americans end up dry according to Steve Meyerowitz, author of Water the Ultimate Cure.
Do other liquids count as water? I still remember clearly that my grandparents would never drink water. They would drink black tea, soda, and an afternoon cocktail. I can’t help wonder now if my Grandmother’s osteoporosis and my Grandfather’s digestive issues could have been prevented by adequate hydration. If I knew what I know now, I would have told them that they could also consume soup broths, vegetable juices, milk or a milk alternative, and herbal teas. I do like to caution people about fruit juices as most are too high in sugar to count, unless they are fresh squeezed or diluted. Another wonderful beverage is coconut water as it is naturally sweet and a natural electrolyte, electrolytes being minerals that help with the absorption of water in the body.
What other therapeutic benefits does water have? Dehydration renders the immune system less effective and responsive, and that is why adequate hydration is especially important during cold and flu season. For those who suffer from asthma and allergies, it is helpful to know that water is a natural anti-histamine, and that for an acute attack a few glasses of water can diminish symptoms. Adequate hydration has also been shown to prevent the formation of kidney stones, keep our skin supple and help our bones from becoming brittle. To sum it all up, Dr. Batmanghelidj states, “Chronic cellular dehydration of the body is the primary etiology of painful, degenerative diseases.”
A few key tips for water consumption:
· Start your day with ½ to 1 quart of water to flush your digestive tract and rehydrate your system from the overnight fast.
· Sipping water throughout the day will help prevent too many visits to the bathroom and will help you reap more of the benefits of adequate hydration. If you follow this advice and still have frequent urination, adding ¼ tsp. of good quality sea salt to every quart of water can provide the electrolytes to help you retain the fluids that you drink.
· In addition to the “hydration formula” listed above, note that your urine should be a neutral color and smell. Dark urine can mean that you are not drinking enough water.
· Increase water intake with increased stress and exercise.
· Illness robs your body of water as can prescription medications. Drink more when you are ill or when taking numerous medications.
· Do not wait until you are thirsty or have dry mouth to drink. These are indicators that you are already dehydrated.
· Too much water during a meal can dilute digestive enzymes. Also avoid icy cold water as it shocks the stomach making it difficult to secret enzymes.
· If you are trying to loose weight, water is a wonderful appetite suppressant.
Is water the fountain of youth? Maybe and maybe not, however, the therapeutic benefits of adequate hydration are well documented. Please feel free to contact Ellen Syversen of Pathways for Health, LLC at 541-912-8624 if you have any additional questions. A drink of water to your health! Cheers!