One cup, two cups, ten cups? Exactly how much fluid should we be drinking in a day, where should we get it from and what signs can we look for to tell us we are dehydrated? The simple question is, how much water should I drink in a day?
Roughly 75% of the planet is made up of water, and it’s no small coincidence that the human body is composed of basically the same amount. Exuberant water usage has been an ongoing environmental problem for decades.
How Much Water Should I Drink in a Day?
However, when it comes to the internal environment of the human body, a lack of water intake is a constant issue leading to a wide variety of health concerns. The National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
About 15.5 cups (3.7 litres) of fluids for men
About 11.5 cups (2.7 litres) of fluids a day for women
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages, and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.
When you look at the importance of water intake from a functional perspective it can be quite mind-blowing. Think about this. There are roughly 37 trillion cells in the human body.
Within each cell, there is an average of 100,000 chemical reactions happening EVERY SECOND, and all take water for their proper functioning. So basically we are a very complex, big bag of water!! And it's why we need to drink water daily.
For the last 20 years, I have been helping people to live happier, healthier lives. I use a combination of both western and eastern modalities of medical philosophy. Although I see a wide variety of health concerns at my clinic, my practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine tends to center around four basic subjects. Joint/muscle pain, mental anxiety/stress/depression, digestion, and menstruation.
The sad truth of the matter is that probably 60% of the 300+ patients I treat, would not need treatments if they simply hydrated their bodies properly.
What is water’s function in the body?
Water has a multitude of functions in the body. It gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements. It keeps your overall body temperature normal. It lubricates and cushions joints. As well as protecting sensitive tissues. So for a person who is chronically dehydrated, any number of bodily functions can be compromised.
What is Hydration's effect on blood pressure?
Take for example a common health concern in today’s day and age….Hypertension. High blood pressure is common in people who are chronically dehydrated. When the body's cells lack water, the brain sends a signal to the pituitary gland to secrete vasopressin, a chemical that causes constriction of the blood vessels.
This causes blood pressure to increase which leads to hypertension. For many patients, simply being mindful of proper hydration can be the key to maintaining healthy blood pressure without the need for harmful medications.
What is Hydration’s effect on joint health?
Arthritis is another common concern that troubles people of all ages these days. Pain can be caused by dehydration because the inflammation accumulates in order to repair the damage. Because the joint synovial fluid is made of mostly water, the loss of water in the joints allows toxins to linger, leading to pain(qigong for shoulder pain) and inflammation.
The bottom line is that optimal hydration levels are key to a healthy body. I usually advise my patients to do their best to drink 2L of water (excluding all other fluids like coffee, tea, juice, milk, etc) to ensure their body maintains optimal health and function.
Overhydration, Can you Drink too much?
People will often ask; “Can I drink too much water?” The simple answer is….“Yes”. If you drink a lot of water (more than a litre of water per hour) but your kidneys can’t get rid of the excess, you could develop a condition called “hyponatremia.” Which means that the minerals in your blood are diluted, or watered down. As a result, sodium levels in the blood fall.
Your body’s water levels rise and your cells swell. It can lead to serious (even life-threatening) problems. Endurance athletes, like marathon runners, are at risk for this condition, but unless you are endlessly guzzling gallons of water down, it is unlikely to be of concern.
The simple answer is to keep an eye on your output. As long as your urine is very pale yellow, you are most likely properly hydrated. On the other hand, if it's somewhere between Corona and Orange juice, find a tap ASAP!
How does Traditional Chinese Medicine view Hydration?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, harmonious health of the body is achieved when Yin and Yang are in balance. “Yin” is the cooler, moister, darker, quieter, nourishing side of the internal and external environment, whereas “Yang” being the hotter, brighter, louder, more energetic side. Yin and Yang are not absolutes, but rather polar complements used to describe the balance needed to maintain harmony and health.
The external environment, as well as the internal body, are made up of the same constituent parts combined in a delicate balance. If things get too hot or too cold, life doesn’t flourish. If things get too wet or too dry, life doesn’t flourish. If things get too bright or too dark, life doesn’t flourish. It is the balance of the two opposites that creates the perfect environment for life to not only survive, but thrive.
The “yang” of physical activity, requires the “yin” of rest and proper hydration to maintain proper physical performance.
The “yang” of a hot summer day, requires the “yin” of some shade and proper hydration to maintain a suitable body temperature.
The “yang'' of the pressure within your blood vessels, requires the “yin” of water to fill up your blood volume to keep your blood pressure healthy.
The “yang” of spicy hot food, requires the “yin” of….. Anything cool you can get your hands on!!
But just as the right amount of yin is necessary to balance your “yang”, an excess of yin, in the way of too much water, or too much cold raw food, can put your “fire” out. An excess of yin can lead to symptoms such as edema, swelling, bloating, heavy feeling in the head, and coldness in the body. So as with so much in life, balance is key.
These are the 5 signs your body isn’t hydrated enough
1. dry mouth
2. your body stops sweating, even in hot weather
3. muscle cramps
These 5 tips will help you get the water you need daily:
1. Start your day with a glass of hot water with lemon - This will ensure you consume at very least, 500 ml of water during the day. Adding a wedge of lemon to hot water has a wonderful effect of stimulating digestion and combating acidity in the body, which leads to inflammation and illness. This can be a wonderful alternative to coffee or tea which are both diuretics that flush water out of the body instead of nourishing it.
2. Your water bottle should be your new best friend - Pick up a good water bottle that doesn’t contain toxins like PCBs or BPA. Set yourself time limits to finish it in. (e.g. from 9 am - 12 pm finish your first bottle. from 12 pm - 3 pm finish your second bottle.)
Behaviours are based on structure, so adding a little structure to your hydration can go a long way to building healthier habits. Health is a product of behaviour, so is illness.
3. Avoid drinks that lead to dehydration - Caffeinated beverages like teas, coffee, and soft drinks, possess diuretic qualities. So although you do take in some fluid in the drink, you end up purging much of it instead of it nourishing your body. Simply put, WATER is all you need!
4. Coconut water for humid days - On very humid summer days our bodies have a little more trouble regulating our body temperature. As we sweat excessively, we lose certain electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium which are responsible for proper muscle function (including your heart).
Coconut water contains the exact electrolyte balance as our blood, so it is a fantastic way to hydrate and nourish our muscles. This is especially important for those of us who exercise outside in the summer. Sugar-filled sports drinks are NOT THE ANSWER, otherwise, they would grow on palm trees!
5. Make sure you can breathe through your nose at night - Nasal congestion at bedtime is a sure-fire way to dehydrate yourself as you sleep. When your nose is plugged you breathe through your mouth. This makes the air coming in cooler and dryer and leads to waking up parched and dehydrated.
Your nose is lined with millions of little hairs that warm and moisten the air as it comes in, making it easier for the body to use it. If you are stuffed up before bed, a Neti pot of saltwater can be the solution.
Armed with this new information you will never be at a loss when you ask yourself, how much water should I drink in a day?
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