As many of us know, our body is made up of more than 70% water. Water supports our immune system, digestion, boosts metabolism, helps the brain and kidneys function, and supports muscle function. If we don't drink enough water, our body goes into a dehydrated state.
Once dehydrated, we may experience a number of different side effects depending on how much water we are needing. Most commonly is thirst - yes, when we are thirsty we are already dehydrated! Others common signs of dehydration are dry mouth, tongue, lips or skin, and mild headache. Severe dehydration signs are being lethargic, dizziness, dark-colored urine or not creating any at all, confusion and chest pain.
When to Drink Up
Drinking water all day long is vital. Waiting until we are thirsty means we are too late so it is crucial to stay hydrated all day long. Keep a water bottle with you all day, bring it wherever you go and drinks from it often to make hydration a habit. We often find ourselves drinking when we eat, mostly because water is available at the table. However, we shouldn't consume all of our water when we are eating, as too much water while eating can dilute digestive juices in our stomach.
One of the most important times to drink is when you wake up in the morning. First, your body has (usually) gone all night without water and is ready for you to replenish. Drinking water immediately after waking up can have amazing therapeutic effects for a multitude of health problems ranging from pain to cancer. This water therapy originates from Ayurvedic medicine, in Sanskrit the name of this practice is Usha Paana Chikitsa or ‘early morning water treatment’. Drinking water on an empty stomach purifies the colon so that nutrients are easier absorbed. It also increases the production of new blood and muscle cells.
How Much Water is Right for You
The question remains, how much water should I drink? I believe there isn't one right answer. There are so many factors to consider, as our physical bodies and daily activities are all different. Many studies will give you an average amount to drink, the two most common are 8 cups (2 liters or half gallon) or ½ to 1 ounce for every pound you weigh. This can be a great place to start.
If it's summer and you sweat more, you'll need more water. If you practice hot yoga or other athletic activities you’ll also need more water, of course. Start with this recommendation, then drink a little more and notice how you feel, drink a little less, maybe take notes, and take notice any signs of thirst or any differences.
Another important factor in our water consumption is what else are we drinking and how much of it. Coffee, tea, soda and alcohol will make a difference in our hydration. Small consumption of caffeine or alcohol (low to moderate caffeine consumption per day us under 250 milligrams) will not put your body into dehydration. If you drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol, or both, you will definitely need to increase your water intake.
Surprise! Pass the Salt
The last thing to consider when consuming an adequate amount of water is how much salt we have in our diet. Drinking water without enough salt and potassium will not correct dehydration. Just water itself will temporarily hydrate, but it's the balance of both salt and water that keeps us hydrated and healthy. It seems as if we’ve all heard and understood that salt is something to stay away from. In fact this isn't true - not all salt is bad for us. Unrefined natural salt is a vital element for living things and we are no exception.
So go ahead, add the salt, grab your water, and drink up!