When I was in Denver last week I was very busy. Attending lectures all day, trying to keep up with office stuff from a distance, staying in touch with my family. I was surprised at how hard it was to keep up with my water intake. I noticed it when I hadn’t had to go to the bathroom through an entire afternoon lecture session and thought, “oops!”
I talk about water intake often with my patients. Fatigue, constipation, body aches, skin problems and many other physical symptoms can be relieved by making an effort to drink more water.
Here is a comment that I often hear: “But I don’t LIKE water.” That one makes me want to roll my eyes and come back with “But your BODY does!” Drinking water ranks right up there with eating fiber as one of the most important and least glamorous things you can do to help your body function right.
Here are three reasons to make an effort to drink more water:
- It makes you feel better. Mild dehydration causes fatigue and body aches, “brain fog,” and lightheadedness with changing positions.
- It makes you look better. Skin texture changes quickly with mild dehydration. Skin lines and tiny wrinkles are more pronounced when the cells lose fluid. Your blood plasma is more important to your body than pretty skin, so the body will sacrifice plump healthy skin cells in order to keep blood flowing to the kidneys and brain.
- It helps you lose weight. Dehydration and thirst are often misinterpreted by the brain as hunger, leading you to eat when it’s not food your body wants. Staying well hydrated also keeps your energy up and makes it easier to exercise. Have you ever gone to the zoo or an amusement park, or just tried to exercise, on a hot day? Remember how much more quickly you got tired? Part of that was likely from dehydration.
How much water does your body need? Generally for maintenance purposes your body needs 1 ounce of water for every 2 pounds of body weight. I weigh about 150 pounds which is 75 ounces of water or 4 20-ounce water bottles daily. Children generally need more, their skin surface area is higher for their weight and they breathe faster. The body loses water in 3 ways – through urine and stool, through sweat, and as water vapor in the air we exhale.
How do you know if you’re getting enough water? Generally your kidneys will tell you. If you’re going to the bathroom to urinate every few hours (the average is 5-6 times per day) and your urine is clear to light yellow, you’re getting enough.
What about those people who don’t like to drink water? I’m kind of parental with those folks: it’s sort of like not liking to go to the gas station to fill up your car. Gotta do it anyway, right?
Here are some tips to ease into drinking more water:
- Filter it. I can’t stand tap water. Even with a typical water fountain, I can still taste the chemicals and chlorine in the water. Using a pitcher filter is the most cost-effective way to get lots of clean, great-tasting drinking water. Check your brand at the Water Quality Association website to see what contaminants it removes. Here’s the filter I use – it filters twice as much water per filter refill as other brands.
- Get a cool water bottle. I love stainless steel water bottles. When I carry a water bottle I drink more water. There are devices that help you keep track of how many bottles you’ve drunk in a day – here’s one I found. (Not an endorsement, just a mention.) For me, I try to get two bottles in before lunch, two bottles before dinner. Remember to stop about 2 hours before bedtime, otherwise you’ll be up at night, LOL!
- Flavor it. You can substitute iced tea and juice for some of your fluid intake, but juice in particular adds a lot of calories. A squirt of lemon or lime juice is a great choice. Mix-ins are available and sized for typical water bottles. Many of those have artificial ingredients. Using a little to make your water taste better is better than using a lot, and better than not drinking water at all. Gradually decrease how much you add until you’re used to drinking your water plain.
I challenge you to try a two-week commitment to drinking your recommended amount of water. See how you feel. What’s your energy like? How about bowel and bladder function? How does your skin look? I’ll bet you’ll get lots of compliments and feel fantastic.
QUESTION: Do you struggle with drinking enough water? What’s your biggest challenge?