By Elizabeth Phinney
Hydration! It makes sense: Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. Within it there are many other body parts that are even more saturated; the brain is about 80% water, the lungs 86%, the heart 75%, the kidneys 83%, and the muscles 70%. What do you suppose happens after years of not drinking enough water? The body has no choice but to compromise certain organs in order to survive.
The first compromise shows in our skin. Let’s face it, when looking at the body as a survival machine, we don’t really need the skin to survive. Plus, since it is our largest organ, it can easily be sapped of water and all you notice is some dry skin and wrinkles, never really fully grasping the message your body is sending to you. After the skin has been depleted, the next system that is compromised because it, too, is not necessary for survival is the muscle system. Picture in your mind the image of a flank steak. That is what your muscle tissue looks like. Now, dry that steak out a little and that is the same as your tissue, which is not so supple any longer– it gets tough. That is what happens to our muscles when there is not enough water consumed – they become drier, which causes stiffness.
I read, years ago, that if 100% of the people with lower back pain simply drank more water, 80% of them would not have lower back pain any more! In other words, muscle pain, in general, can often be cured by simply hydrating each and every day! So, how to hydrate and how much?
There are lots of ways to get more water into our bodies. The easiest is to drink more water – pure water. Pure water is ingested as soon as it hits your tongue and mouth. Water with flavoring, carbonated water with flavoring, coffee or tea – because of their flavoring, all must, pretty much, go through digestion in the stomach before they are processed throughout the body’s systems. The biggest digestion triggers are juices, alcohol, and soda pop. Because all those drinks are sugar, or turn into that, they require complete digestion before moving into the intestines and beyond.
When drinking any caffeinated beverage, be aware that caffeine is a dehydrator, which means that you will need to use the rest room more frequently when drinking these types of beverages. And, any kind of alcohol will also de-‐hydrate you; not in more frequent urination, but from the inside out, alcohol robs your vital organs of their water. (That’s what hangovers are really telling you -‐ your body is desperate for hydration).
Mild dehydration will slow down the body’s metabolism. For those trying to lose weight, this is not a good thing! It is the speed of your body’s metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories) that determines how much weight you will lose and at what speed you will do it. Just a 2% dip in your overall hydration can make you sleepy, making it difficult to concentrate and hinder your short-‐term memory.
Twenty-two percent of your bone tissue, believe it or not, is made up of water. Most of us, as we age, have to deal with brittle bones the older we get. Hydration is one great way to support healthy bone tissue.
If you know that you have not really been as hydrated as you should be over the years, you are inviting chronic conditions into your life and body. Maybe you already have some of these:
Sleepiness/fatigue High cholesterol
Headaches Bladder/kidney problems
Sensation of being cold High Blood Pressure Foggy brain/short term memory loss
Asthma/Allergies Muscle cramping Skin disorders
Constipation Joint pain
If water is truly a solution, then how do you drink more water and, more importantly, remember to do it? Some other questions I am asked are:
- “How do you enhance your hydration without having to go to the bathroom every ten minutes?”
- “Does it have to be pure water?”
- “What about eating more fruit – isn’t there a lot of water in fruit?”
The answer to being well hydrated is truly not as difficult as you may think. It does require attention, diligence and discipline – at least to get started. Start by writing down how much you drink each day and include ALL beverages. When done, look at the list and for every caffeinated drink and every cocktail, add a glass of water. Now, add all the water together and that is your starting point.
How much should you be drinking? You should take your suggested weight for your height and be drinking half of that in water. For example, if you are 5’8” tall, you should weigh about 140 – 160 lbs. and, therefore, drink approximately 70 ounces of water each day. If you are not at the right daily water consumption for optimal hydration, add eight ounces of water per day for one week at a time until you get to your perfect number.
How to drink all that water can be difficult to control. A good rule of thumb is this:
- Drink ½ your water for the day by lunchtime. (Hint: Do not drink water within ½ hour before or after eating as it dilutes your digestive juices).
- Then, drink the remaining amount by 6:00 p.m.
- Try filling your bottles for the day, place them on the counter, and keep one with you ALWAYS.
In spite of whatever number of ounces you should be drinking, the best way to evaluate if you are doing your body good and getting the right amount of hydration, is to look at the color of your urine each time you go. If it is not virtually clear with a pale yellow tint, you are under-hydrated, so drink up!
Are there more restroom visits in your future? ABSOLUTELY!!! But the trade off is everything else that will go away: tiredness, muscle cramps, constipation, headaches, etc. And, the very best part is that you are giving back to your body something that it vitality needs in order to perform as well as it can FOR YOU. There is something to be said for that!