Invariably in those situations when someone would like some quick advice for looking and feeling their best, I smile and answer, "Drink more water!"
Most people smile and nod, and some even laugh out loud. Too easy, they must be thinking. There must be some complex and expensive combination of herbs or vitamins that will decrease my heartburn symptoms or help me lose weight. It cannot be as simple as drinking more water. And so I am sure that most of the people I give this advice to shelve it away as not important. But in reality, there is no single thing anyone anywhere could possibly do that is more important for their health.
We all know that our bodies are mostly made of water, and of course that we require water to live. We also know that we should be drinking at least 64oz per day, and that we want to avoid contaminants in our drinking water. But how many of us are actually drinking that much? Most people don't bother to drink water unless they are really thirsty, and often reach for coffee, soda or juice instead of plain water.
Unfortunately, by the time you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Your body has a very simple system for dealing with a lack of water. It begins shutting down the functions and organs which are less vital than your heart or lungs. Dehydration will cause your body to stop sending fluids to your digestive tract first, basically shutting it down, then moves on to organs like your liver, kidneys and finally your brain which requires more water than any other organ or system. If you have ever gotten a headache or felt lightheaded from dehydration, you were very severely dehydrated and your body systems were suffering far more than you know.
So why don't I feel thirsty first, before I get dehydrated, you ask. The answer is evolution. As creatures evolved to live out of the water, we slowly developed longer and longer periods that we could go without drinking, which reduced the sense of thirst and our ability to recognize dehydration. In a sense, we de-evolved our thirst mechanism as we evolved our species.
There is a long list of ailments and disease that are aggravated and caused by dehydration. Here are a few of the most well documented:
Constipation / Colitis
Headaches / Migraines
Lower back pain
Depression / Anxiety
Water repairs DNA damage and prevents the body from producing abnormal DNA. Proper hydration increases immunity by supporting bone marrow health, which is the root of our immune system. Drinking plenty of water each day even helps increase your body's defenses against cancer!
There is no doubt that staying properly hydrated is crucial for your overall health and well being, and in many cases can reduce symptoms and even cure disease. Here are some simple tips for helping you to increase your daily water intake:
- Take a water bottle with you EVERYWHERE! Stainless steel reusable bottles are the best. Avoid overpaying for "pure" bottled water which is probably just filtered tap water and comes in a plastic bottle that leaches toxic chemicals into the water, making it even less pure.
- To determine your ideal water intake each day, take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. This is the number of ounces of water you should drink per day.
- For each cup of coffee or drink containing caffeine or alcohol or for each hour spent on an airplane, drink an additional glass of water.
- To flavor your water, try adding a slice of lemon or cucumber, or drink a warm herbal tea. You can also infuse water with fruit flavor by adding very ripe berries or other fruit and refrigerating.
- Drink two glasses of water first thing in the morning and drink water before exercising and eating, and especially an hour or two after a meal to help aid the digestive process.