It’s pretty rare that I have someone coming to me with significant dehydration due to a dislike for water. We humans are generally pretty good at keeping ourselves alive and our bodies are incredible at compensating when the conscious brain gets in the way of the body’s needs. More frequently than dehydration, I see a dislike for plain water and a subsequent replacement with sugar-sweetened beverages or diet beverages artificial sweeteners. So why even talk about water if people are getting enough fluids to keep themselves alive?
I have had client after client come through my office recently sharing their struggles with water and I want to help. This article is also coming from personal experience. I used to drink coffee all morning and afternoon and not touch water until I mixed up my night time magnesium water. The longer you do something like this the better your body gets at extracting and retaining the water you are taking in.
Here’s the thing though. There is a huge difference in existing versus thriving. People often tell me they didn’t realize they were feeling bad until they changed a habit like this and realized how much better they felt. I was hit by a car in in 2012 and have had chronic knee pain since. When I finally decided to take my own advice and up my water game I noticed my knee bothered me significantly less. Duh, the joints need fluid. I wanted to kick myself over how much time I spent in pain all because I just didn’t drink water. So friends, learn from my mistake. Try it for yourself for two weeks and see what happens. Many people find improved digestion, decreased joint pain, and fewer headaches. Read on and see how increasing your water intake may help you.
Why you need water
Our bodies are entirely made up of the food and drink we put in it and the body [should be] made up of about 60% water. As such, it’s pretty important to make sure you’re getting enough. Water helps keep our cells looking like cells instead of shriveled up raisins. When there is enough water in and outside the cell it is easier for nutrients to pass across the cell membrane. Just like our cells, our blood is primarily made up of water. When we our dehydrated our blood pressure increases which is dangerous for our whole body, especially the brain and kidneys. You also need water to lubricate joints and eyes, digest food and poop properly, maintain body temperature, moisten mucous membranes like in your nose and mouth, and protect your spinal cord and brain.
Why you don’t need artificial sweeteners and sugar sweetened beverages
Knowing how important water is and ya know, getting thirsty, is obviously going to lead you to drink something. Most of us are aware that sugar, in excess, is detrimental to overall health. This has lead to soooo many people reaching for a sugar-free bevvy like diet soda thinking it’s a better option then regular coke or juice.
But hold the train. Artificial sweeteners have been shown to negatively impact intestinal bacteria and induce glucose intolerance . Woof. Here’s the deal. Our gut bacteria plays a crucial role in protecting our overall health. About 60% of your immune system is housed within your gut so alterations of the microbiome could negatively impact immunity as well. What’s more, if these things are inducing glucose intolerance- meaning they are inhibiting your body’s ability to normally process sugar- they are actually inducing the state that long term leads to diabetes. WTF is right.
Now here’s the deal: as a Registered Dietitian working with individuals with disordered eating I feel strongly about not giving people black and white “rules” about what to eat and what not to eat. I am also a bacteria freak and I love all of the research that has been coming out about how the microbiome impacts overall health so I feel equally strongly that we can’t mess with this shit. I have seen many people try to fill up on diet soda and not eat enough during the day and wind up with horrible stomach pains, IBS, migraines, and “crashing.” Decreasing their diet soda intake, starting a probiotic, and eating more throughout the day can quite literally be life changing.
If you are a daily diet soda drinker right now that’s cool. Drinking 36 oz soda daily right now? Work on decreasing it to 12. If you drink it once per week you’re probably in a much safer zone in terms of the impact it can have on your gut buggers. I think it is important to avoid artificial sweeteners but if you do consume them don’t lose your mind, you aren’t going to fall over dead or shave 5 years off your life for one can of diet soda. Don’t make yourself feel guilty, it’s impossible to be “perfect” in anything really but especially when it comes to eating. Just do your best.
How much water do you need?
At minimum, 8 cups or 64 oz daily. One quick way to estimate needs is by taking half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weight 150 lbs you should aim for 75 oz per day.
But the truth about how much you really need- it depends! This is truly a dietitian’s favorite phrase because nutrition is just so different for everyone. Just imagine the difference in needs between a 5 foot tall female with a low activity level vs a 6 and a half foot tall male with a high activity level. Or how about someone who lives in a hot and humid climate vs cool and dry? With all this potential variability a great way to gauge needs is based on urine color. If it is orange or darker yellow like apple juice or honey you definitely need to drink more. Aim for a pale light yellow like lemonade. While transparent urine can be okay, I also must remind you that over-hydrating can cause dangerous electrolyte abnormalities, cardiac arrhythmia, and death.
How to spice it up
The biggest thing that inhibits people from getting enough water? They are bored by the taste. But friends, there are many ways to naturally enhance water for greater palatability.
Berries of any kind
Strawberries + kiwi
Cucumber + lemon
Orange + ginger
Pineapple + Lime
Basil + strawberries
Nectarines + lavender
Cucumber + melon
Orange + Lime
Strawberry + Pineapple
Peach + Mint
Apple + Cinnamon stick
Orange + Kiwi
Splash of juice
…… are you getting my point?! The possibilities are endless! And if you grow bored of this list just google “infused water recipes” and you’re find a bajillion more. I even have a few more options-
Young Living Dietary Essential Oils– My favorites to add to water are lemon, lime, tangerine, citrus, ginger, peppermint, and orange. Be cautious with essential oils. Many oils are extracted in a way which destroys the plant constituents which promote health. Additionally, most are cut with alcohols and should not be used internally. It is important to look for 100% therapeutic grade essential oils.
Carbonated/flavored waters- check the ingredients list. You should only see water + some sort of fruit flavor. Be cautious when you see ‘natural flavors.’ The company should identify what is being added to water if they have nothing to hide.
Squeezable water enhancers- the above options are preferred, but these are also better alternatives to energy drinks and other artificially flavored and sweetened drops
Water good. Drink enough. Flavor if necessary. Be well.