Updated: May 15
Spring is here and it's time to check in on the habits we've been building since January. Hopefully you are journaling, connecting, and moving. All good stuff that brings greater support to your overall wellbeing. It's time to ramp it up and add in something so sustaining, we would wither and die without it. Water - truly the elixir of life. The importance of water can not be underestimated. It is crucial to the survival of every living organism on this planet, including Mother Earth, secondary only to oxygen.
“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium.
There is no life without water.”
– Albert Szent-Gyorgyl, Biochemist & Nobel Prize Winner
Chemistry tells us that, give or take, our bodies are between 60 - 70% water – women a little less than men. There are many recommendations as to the amount of water one should drink – and all of them, it seems, are scientifically backed. It is hard to ‘follow the science’ when there is so much contradictory information out there. One thing we can all agree on: water is essential to our survival.
To keep things simple, drink enough water during the day to function at your optimal level without signs of dehydration.
Our proficiency in determining thirst decreases as we age for two reasons. Our brain’s overall ability to communicate the message that it needs water weakens, and secondly, our body adapts and adjusts to whatever it believes to be ‘normal’.
So how do you know if you’re drinking enough?
The best indicator is your urine. You should be urinating frequently, and it should be a pale to clear colour. If your urine is a darker yellow or has a strong smell, it is a good indication you should be drinking more water. Be aware that certain medications and supplements can change the color and odour of your urine.
Do you have daily bowel movements or are you constipated? Water softens your stool and stimulates the intestines in order to keep them regular.
Dry skin. The skin is your largest organ and therefore the biggest eliminative pathway of your body. It is 80% water and every drop is necessary to maintain hydration and produce collagen. Try testing yourself by gently pinching the skin on the back of your hand. If it remains tented or folded when you let go, it is a good indication you’re not drinking enough.
Parched mouth (not related to medication). Water is the primary component of saliva which is essential to breaking down your food – digestion actually begins in your mouth. We breathe out an estimated 1.5 cups of water a day and strangely enough, a dry mouth is often the last signal your body gives to indicate you are officially dehydrated.
Headache, fatigue, irritability, dizziness, brain fog and even mood swings can all be manifestations of lack of water or dehydration.
Muscle cramps. Water is key to keeping your muscles energized and performing well.
“Hydration is everything.
Think of this: your muscles are 70-plus percent water
– how are you not drinking water during a workout?
I get the whole, ‘Let’s challenge ourselves;
let’s do that prison, tough guy thing,’
but at the end of the day, you’re underperforming.
– Gunnar Peterson, Personal Trainer
Water is involved in pretty much every biological process your body goes through in order to maintain homeostasis:
Synthesizes hormones and neurotransmitters.
Protects and optimizes the function of our organs.
Maintains peak physical performance - hydration levels affects your strength, power and endurance.
Flushes out waste and toxins from your body which decreases stress on your kidneys and liver.
Regulates body temperature. It can cool you down by evaporating sweat through the skin as well as disperse heat throughout the body.
Lubricates and cushions joints, spinal cord and tissues.
Helps dissolve nutrients from your food.
Delivers nutrients and oxygen to cells and the rest of your body.
Helps prevent bad breath by flushing away food particles and bacteria.
Helps with weight loss. Drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water before meals leaves you feeling fuller so it reduces your food intake. Also, being adequately hydrated helps your body break down and burn fat at a faster rate.
Decreases general discomfort and even pain.
Helps brain function.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the brain here. This magnificent organ weighs in at approximately three pounds and 74% of that is water. Your brain is responsible for much of the biological processes listed above. It produces the hormones and neurotransmitters; regulates body temperature; takes the leading role in directing the breakdown and absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste products; delivers oxygenated blood; lubricates joints and much, much more. Just look at cell reproduction. The body has around 37 plus trillion cells and this amazing machine orchestrates your body to generate approximately 96 million new cells every minute! Don’t get me started on intelligence, creativity and memory. You have only one brain, one life, and staying hydrated is the easiest thing you can do for your overall health!
So just add water. If you haven't already, figure out how many glasses of water are in your best daily interest. Then make the commitment to drink that amount every day. If you feel you are not drinking enough, here are some tips to introduce more aqua into your life:
Gradually increase your daily water intake by adding a cup of water a day to prevent a sudden overload on your kidneys.
Drink water – preferably two cups – the moment you get up in the morning to help kick start your metabolism. While you sleep, metabolic processes are hard at work gathering up toxins which now wait in your intestinal tract to be excreted. Drinking water first thing makes sure this waste does not have time to be reabsorbed back into your systems. The best water is either room temperature, or slightly warm water with a slice (or juice) of lemon.
Drink water throughout the day and not all at once. Our body’s need for water is constant and can’t be replenished with a one-time overload. Set a timer with a goal to reach half your water quota by mid-day.
Drink a glass of water when hunger pangs creep up between meals. Often, we think we are hungry when we’re really thirsty. By all means, reach for a healthy snack to munch on if you are still hungry thirty minutes later.
Monitor your intake so you’re sure you’re drinking enough. Some people drink out of a one litre mason jar, while others reach for an app on their cell phone. I personally drink ten glasses of water a day and use seashells that I’ve collected over the years to keep me on track. I place a shell into a jar after each eight-ounce glass of water I drink. Each time I do, I remember walking on the beach, and it makes me smile.
Allocate a specific water goblet, beaker, bottle or jar. Measure it to know exactly how many ounces it holds and how many glasses of it you need to drink. In no time at all, you've trained your brain to take a sip whenever you see it.
Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go.
Drink from a straw or spout as it tends to increase your intake.
Set up a pattern: drink 8 oz (or more) of water upon rising, after you brush your teeth, 30 minutes before each meal or bathroom break, when taking vitamins or medications, on the drive to and from work, before going to bed etc.
“I always have water, tons of water.
It’s even in my bathroom because
I used to be so bad at drinking water,
and I want to stay hydrated.”
– Selena Gomez, Entertainer
The truth is not everybody is a fan of H2O. They find it boring and uninspiring. So, here are some suggestions if you find yourself struggling to reach your water quota:
Use water flavour enhancers.
Drink sparkling water – with or without flavours (avoid sodas).
Try coconut water (tons of electrolytes!!!)
Can't go wrong with Kombucha – my sister makes the best in the world!
Add fresh fruit like strawberries, veggies like cucumbers, or herbs like peppermint and ginger.
Herbal teas and coffee count! Just remember moderation.
Eat foods with a higher concentration of water like watermelon, oranges, cucumbers, celery and broths.
In the summer make any number of the amazing popsicle possibilities – fun for the whole family (hold the refined sugar).
Make ice cubes by combining water with lemon or lime slices, or colourful pieces of fruit.
Mix water with pure fruit juice.
Smoothies never disappoint.
Adding the daily habit of drinking water is not just encouraged, it is essential. The more research I do, the more I come to realize that one size does not fit all. Everyone is different when it comes to water intake – it depends on your body size and weight, your activity level, where you live i.e., tropical or colder climates, underlying medical diagnoses and more. We are all on our own personal path in determining what health practices are best for us. Our bodies have an innate ability (and desire) to heal itself. When it comes to water, as in all things, listen to what your body is telling you. Then drink up as there is nothing more nourishing and revitalizing than water.