What do headaches, low blood pressure, dizziness, dry mouth, dry skin and scalp, fatigue, brain fog, constipation, urinary tract infections, and joint pain (etc.) have in common? They can all be caused by dehydration!
One of the most fundamental things that one can do to promote health is to drink enough water, yet when I ask my patients how much water they drink I get the honest response "not enough" far too often.
What makes water so great?
As I'm sure you've heard, our bodies are about 60-78% water (this depends on age, gender, and amount of fatty tissue), so clearly water should be a vital substance for us to consume on the daily. We can get this from our food, but the average adults needs to consume an extra ~2L of water/day for our body's needs.
Water is needed to hydrate our skin and all our muscles and organs, including our brain. It is needed to carry vitamins, minerals, and gases through our body, and transport metabolites out of our body via urine/feces/breath/sweat. Sweating also helps us maintain our body temperature. It is maintains our blood volume, and thus blood pressure. It forms our stomach acid and our saliva, it lubricates everything from our joints to our stool. All the enzymatic reactions happening in our body constantly are taking place in water. Each and every cell within us stays plump and healthy due to water.
So I hope you will agree that water is pretty darn essential!
As a visual, I like to think of the body as a river. When we're eating well and drinking enough water and moving our bodies, the river gets cleaned, it's flowing, and healthy. When we start to add chemicals and junk to the river, not drink enough water, and are sedentary, the river becomes stagnant and sludgy, there's buildup and the river can't flow and function properly. I find this a powerful image to help me drink up (and be healthy in general)!
But water is so boring...
I get it, I really do. I'm lucky that I enjoy drinking water, but I definitely understand when my patients feel like it's a chore. It has barely any flavour, and when you're not outright thirsty it's hard to motivate yourself to drink it. So, what can we to improve that?
Why, Water 5 Ways!
1. Drink your fruits and vegetables
Okay, the only vegetable I can think of is cucumber (but it's such a delicious and refreshing one that it's worth noting on its own!), so mostly fruits.
Try infusing your favourite fruits into a jug of water, and consume through the day. Organic strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pear, pineapple, orange, grapefruit, or of course, good ol' lemon water. The possibilities are endless! If you're soaking rinds, I would recommend buying organic to lower the pesticides infusing in your water.
3. Spice up your life!
Herbs and spices can also be grand additions to water. Fresh basil goes amazing with a lot of the fruit additions (strawberry, grapefruit, etc.). The classic mint infused water is undeniably refreshing. Thyme and grapefruit are also lovely together. Try this sweet and refreshing mojito recipe!
If you muddle the herbs, you'll get more flavour out of them, but soaking for a while will also infuse the water over time. Spices are hardier, and thus best used with hot water to extract the essential oils (think chai). When using boiling water, it's best to cover the steeping infusion for 10-15 minutes to prevent those beautiful essential oils from escaping.
3. Make it sparkle
I love sparkling mineral water, and find it very refreshing and more interesting than "still" water. It really pumps up that water... literally, with gas...
SodaStream and other similar brands can give you a constant supply of carbonated water.
4. Getting warmer...
Aforementioned lemon water is great with warm water, but also all herbal teas count as water intake! Caffeine may cause dehydration, so avoid caffeinated beverages or you'll have to drink even more water to compensate for the diuretic action. Coffee is clearly caffeinated but people get a little confused when it comes to tea. Caffeinated tea includes all the Camellia sinensis leaves, so that's green tea, black tea, white tea (and then all the specific names for these, so oolong, pu'er, ceylon, sencha, etc.).
Rooibos is safe, as it's not technically tea. All herbs are safe (chamomile, mint, fennel, lemon balm, licorice root, etc.). You can also ice the teas if that more so suits your fancy.
5. Therapeutic water
Water is therapeutic on its own, but when you add herbs, vitamins, mineral etc that your body is in search of, you really kick it up a notch. There are magnesium powders that are super tasty additions to water, there are countless greens and antioxidant powders, protein powders, herbal powders, etc.
Just a couple notes: Make sure there aren't a tonne of additives in the powders like sugar/chemicals/colours etc, and of course see a Naturopathic Doctor before self-prescribing any therapeutic water additives!
I don't know if it's just me... but when there's a straw involved I somehow drink remarkably more than without. Investing in metal straws was one of the greatest purchases I have ever made. And it was not a large investment! They were about $1 each, and came with a straw cleaner, and they changed my life! No plastic waste, and I double my water intake, win-win.
Often when we think we're hungry we're actually thirsty, so first try a glass of water and see if that helps. If it doesn't, at least you've knocked one more glass of water down!
Having a bottle you like actually makes a big difference. Steer clear of plastic bottles, but glass/metal are great options. Even mason jars (so hip) and VOSS bottles are great options. Also, if you know how much your water bottle contains, you know how many bottles you need to drink per day. If you have a hard time keeping track, you can put rubber bands on your bottle and move them down as you finish each bottle. For example, you need 2L per day and your bottle is 500ml- so you would put 4 bands on your bottle, and as you finish each bottle you pull one band down the bottle, until you've drank 4 x 500ml.
If whatever you add to your water isn't quite sweet enough (especially the herbs/spices), stevia is an amazing, all-natural sugar-free addition to your water. I would recommend the green powdered form, as well as the stevia in a water extract, as both of those options should be pure.
In Western society we are extremely blessed to have potable water from our taps (for the most part). I have travelled extensively in countries without such a luxury, and let me tell you, it really makes you treasure that free-flowing fluid. You can get filters of all sorts (that's a whole other blog) and, of course, that would be beneficial. Our tap water is definitely far from perfect and it could certainly use some help from filters, but it's still drinkable water. If filters are not in the budget, heating the water or keeping the jug of water on the table overnight can at least help the chlorine evaporate (depending which form your municipality uses in its water). If that's not in the time budget, just drink the water. It doesn't need to be complicated.
Lastly, the temperature of water can make a difference. Your body more easily assimilates warm water, and your body has to work harder to bring cold water to body temperature. Some people are picky with their water temperature and in that case I again return to: just drink the water. Get it in ya, hot/cold/lukewarm: the intake is more important than the temperature. But if you want my opinion, I would recommend warm water when possible. (I realize that makes the photo for this post ironic, but that was a really, really hot day!)
So if your water intake was uninspired, I hope that this helps you increase your consumption! It's amazing the impact that such a simple change- getting sufficient water each day- can make on your health. If your symptoms of dehydration do not improve with improved water intake, there may be other factors at play too, so that would be a good time to seek a Naturopathic Doctor. Let me know if you have any questions about water, or if you have any other ideas about how to spice it up!