It's a fresh, new year and we have a wonderful topic to get 2018 off to a healthful start: HYDRATION! Whether you're one who drinks water in abundance, or one who finds it challenging to fit even a glass of water into your day, there is something in this month's edition to serve you. Enjoy learning about the many ways that water supports your body and find new tools to add to your wellness toolkit!
You may have heard the statistics: roughly 75% of Americans aren't getting the water they need on a daily basis. With all the beverage choices in front of us, it is no wonder why. Coffee, tea, soda, juices, and sweet and fizzy drinks are a huge part of American culture. While caffeinated liquids may seem like they are adding water to your body, they do quite the opposite. And non-caffeinated beverages, while they don't pull water from the body, may not the best way to add water to the system. Whether its from lack of pure water, stress, electrolyte imbalances, or major temperature changes, when water doesn't get into the cells to do its wonderful work, dehydration results. So, what is called for in the quest for hydration? This month we share with you some of our favorite resources on hydration, as well as tips we use to help us ensure we're getting the water we need.
Given that water accounts for 50-70% of our body weight, it is critical that we have plenty of pure, fresh water throughout the day. While low water consumption is usually the culprit leading to a dehydrated body, there are other factors that can contribute to, or cause, a dehydrated state. Large temperature fluctuations, intense exercise, any form of stress (physical, emotional, mental, or environmental), and a lack of electrolytes are all common causes of a dehydrated system.
So how does one know if they are dehydrated? While it is well-known that dehydration can impact overall moods and cognitive function, there are other, more subtle clues the body gives when its dehydrated. Whether it's thirst, dry mouth, drowsiness, decreased urination, muscle weakness, fatigue, headache, or dizziness, lack of water in the cells is uncomfortable! Often, clients come in for a consultation and they know something is "off," but aren't sure what it is. Dehydration is usually an issue.
Part of the hydration puzzle, if you will, are electrolytes, which have a major role to play in healthy hydration of tissues and cells. The word electrolyte derives from the Greek lytós, meaning "able to be untied or loosened." Sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate are all electrolytes - sodium is the main electrolyte found in extracellular fluid, potassium the main intracellular electrolyte. Both are involved in fluid balance and blood pressure control - chloride is also seen as the third leg of this hydration trio. When we're dehydrated we need water, one or more electrolytes, or both (usually both).
What does a hydrated cell look like, water-wise? When we are hydrated, the water level on the interior and exterior of the cell is roughly equal. However, when we are dehydrated, there is less water (thus, more salt) on the outside of the cell. Since salt attracts water, the water on the interior of the cell moves the its exterior to reestablish balance. This movement is due to increased osmotic pressure on the cellular exterior (osmotic pressure is the pressure required to prevent movement across the cellular membrane). To recap: when one is dehydrated there is less water in the extracellular fluid, which causes the salt concentration to increase, which increases the osmotic pressure outside of the cell, which causes water to move from the inside to the outside of the cell. This is dehydration at work.
Without water, cells are unable to carry out their daily duties due to physical changes within them. The cell membrane thickens its coating of cholesterol, which is meant to help the cell to retain as much water as possible. When cellular dehydration isn't addressed, over time this now too thick cholesterol layer interrupts normal cellular communication pathways. Our goal is to remain hydrated so that cells can conduct their normal business of allowing fresh nutrients and water in, and releasing cellular waste.
While both lack of water intake and various stressors cause cellular dehydration, so can dietary habits. Alcohol, caffeine, and drying foods lead to loss of water, so reducing consumption of these can be helpful. And increasing omega 3 essential fatty acids can assist in maintaining cellular hydration; these essential fatty acids are involved in the production of hormones known as prostaglandins which have a range of functions including regulating cell hydration. (1) Another great way to ensure good cellular hydration is by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, daily. Both the high water content and lots of wonderful electrolytes in these foods keep cells running smoothly, with plenty of water to do their jobs. Well-hydrated cells can do their jobs efficiently. And a hydrated body goes a long way toward wellbeing.
(1) Wellbeingwithnutrition.co.uk - Cellular Hydration: Causes and Effects - Accessed 12.12.17
You have most likely heard the advice to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. And you may have wondered where this number comes from - is it true for everyone? What about other drinks, like fruit juices, coffee, tea, soda, or beer - don't those count? They're liquid, after all. According to Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, author of Your Body's Many Cries for Water, these fluids are no substitute for pure water. They are often laden with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Or they contain caffeine, which is a diuretic. This isn't to say that there is no place for these beverages in your life; just be sure to enjoy them occasionally, and always with extra water to offset their dehydrating effects. Dr. Batmanghelidj often admonished his patients, who were often quite dehydrated, with his mantra: "you're not sick, you're thirsty!"
Let's look at the real demand of the body for water. The human brain is 85% water and the rest of body's other cells are 75% water. And these percentages must be maintained for optimal health. A good way to look at hydration is to see the body as having two distinct areas of water to maintain. Dr. Batmanghelidj had a wonderful way to think about it. He explained that "there are two oceans within the body: one inside the cells and one outside of them. When the body becomes dehydrated, the ocean outside is maintained. Water is borrowed from the cells and the ocean outside expands and from there water is injected into cells that are at the top of the priority list...brain, liver, and so on."(1)
How much water do we need then?
While 6-8 glasses a day may work for many, it would waterlog some people and dehydrate others! Everyone requires a different amount. Dr. Batmanghelidj states that one should drink half his/her body weight in ounces of water, daily. Keep in mind that individuals who are very physically active or live in hot climates may needs to drink more.
But the body needs both water and electrolytes for proper cellular hydration. Dr. Batmanghelidj taught that water alone leads to a dangerous imbalance within the body; salt is also necessary. As he stated, "It is very important you balance your sodium intake with your water consumption. Take 1/4 teaspoon of salt per quart of water - [that is] every 4-5 glasses of water. Be sure to get sea salt." So half the body weight in ounces in water, plus the correct amount of sea salt, plus plenty of potassium, allows the cells to remain hydrated and well-equipped to do their jobs. Hooray!
(1) Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCfDzPs8tvA - Accessed 12/12/17
As you may have surmised, we look to traditions from across the globe for balanced wellness. And while we often look to Traditional Chinese Medicine as a treasure of wellness wisdom, another highly-developed, ancient system offers great knowledge of life. This science of life is called Ayurveda (in Sanskrit, Ayur = life; Veda = science or knowledge) and was developed in India over 5,000 years ago. It is a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realizing their full human potential. Body and mind are viewed as one, with each influencing the other. Ayurveda has guidelines for the all processes that comprise life. And students of this ancient philosophy follow general rules for water consumption to remain hydrated and balanced.
How to Drink Water
1. Sit down to drink (just as it's best to sit down to eat).
2. Rather than chugging a glassful, take small sips of water. Pause and breathe between sips.
3. Spread water consumption throughout the day.
4. Drink at least room temperature, if not warm, water. Cold water is thought to dampen the digestive flame.
5. Watch the amount of water you drink with meals (Traditional Chinese Medicine tells us the same). Many follow this formula: fill the stomach with 50% food and 25% water, leaving the rest for the digestive process.
Tap, well, spring, filtered, purified, reverse osmosis, bottled...there are many, many types
of water to choose from. So which is most conducive to a happy, hydrated body? Let's look at a few of these types of water and what each entails.
Tap water is convenient and economical, but has come under scrutiny in recent years for its brew of chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and contaminants (organic and inorganic). While each municipality has different standards for its water treatment program, most use fluoride and chlorine. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that chlorine levels of four parts per million (or less) are safe for human consumption. And fluoride is added with the belief that it decreases dental caries. Both rationales have been placed under scrutiny, as chlorine and fluoride have been linked to health issues through a variety of studies. Rather than drinking water straight from the tap, most health experts recommend some sort of filtration system for treating tap water prior to consumption.
While filtering tap water improves its quality, not all filters are comparable in regard to what they remove. Carbon filters are some of the most popular (and economical). This type of filter excels at chlorine removal, volatile organic compound (VOC) removal, and removes disagreeable tastes and odors from the water. They can remove a number of chemicals, but not
all; fluoride, lead, asbestos, nitrates, and more are not removed by carbon filters. There are companies that offer competitively-priced filtration systems, with the option to add fluoride filters should you so wish. It is very important that carbon filters are replaced regularly and in a timely manner. An old, congested filter can breed bacteria. Along with added bacteria to your water, it definitely won't be able to do its best work for you.
While these filters remove an impressive number of contaminants, leaving the water void of bacteria, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, fluoride, and more, they also remove the minerals from the water. Consuming RO water regularly can leech existing minerals in the body, creating an even greater mineral deficit. Luckily, adding a few drops of Liquid Ionic Minerals or ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops to a glass of reverse osmosis water revives the water with minerals, making it supportive of the body. Given the incomplete filtration of many carbon filters, RO water (with added minerals) is a very good option.
Many people are on the go and find it convenient to purchase bottled water for their
drinking needs. While convenient, the regular use of single-use bottles poses several issues. The first (in no order of importance) is the environmental threat as countless plastic bottles make their way into landfills and the ocean (not to mention the manufacture of all those petroleum-based bottles). The second is the issue of
contamination, as the plastic itself releases into the water chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and Phthalates. While these realities exist, sometimes bottled water is convenient and necessary. For those times, we especially enjoy brands such as Crystal Geyser, Dasani, and Ethos.
In a nutshell, your choices for hydration are many, and it is not always an easy decision to make. Know that armed with the information you've just read, as well as your continued research, you will make the best decision for you!
Water, water everywhere! There are many books to consult in your quest for knowledge on hydration. Here are a few of our favorites.
F. Batmanghelidj, Your Body's Many Cries for Water
In this classic book, Dr. Batmanghelidj outlines the fundamentals of proper hydration, including the many disorders that can arise from chronic dehydration. This is a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about the mechanisms of hydration and how the life-giving element of water can transform one's health and wellness.
F. Batmanghelidj, ABC of Asthma, Allergies, and Lupus
Here Dr. Batmanghelidj looks at the root cause of disorders such as asthma, allergies, and lupus, proposing the simple solution of water and sea salt for balance and relief.
Masaru Emoto, The Hidden Messages in Water
This New York Times bestseller introduces the revolutionary work of renowned Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto who has discovered that molecules of water are affected by our thoughts, words, and feelings. This book will change your relationship with water forever!
Elson M. Haas, M.D., Staying Healthy with the Seasons
While this wonderful text is not about water, per se, it supports what we've learned about hydration this month. Haas masterfully weaves together contemporary allopathic medical knowledge with the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine for an excellent overview of the changing needs of our bodies each season. As the reader will see, some seasons are more prone to dryness, and others, to moisture. As you may have guessed, winter is a season of dryness.
January brings the promise of a fresh start, and there is no better way to honor this new opportunity for wellness than with a deeply nourishing, hydrating, and warming soup. We hope you'll enjoy this month's offering!
Lentil Soup with Barley and Dulse
1 tablespoon safflower oil (sesame, coconut, or avocado oil can be used instead)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 cup barley (millet, whole oat groats, or brown rice can also be used)
12 cups water (filtered or bottled)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 cups lentils (red, brown, or black)
1 strip kombu seaweed (for delicious minerals!)
shredded dulse (to taste)
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté in oil the onion, celery, and carrots, until onion is limp and transparent. Add the grain, water, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Then add lentils and kombu, and simmer for another 30 minutes. Discard kombu and bay leaves. Garnish with shredded dulse (a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals) and enjoy!
From Elson M. Haas, M.D. (with Eleonara Manzolini), A Cookbook for All Seasons, 2000.