Water - hydration and health

Drink water often and regularly

All tissues in our body need water. The amount of water in your body affects blood pressure, muscle tension, and joint and fascia lubrication. When you haven’t drunk enough water, you become dehydrated and may experience a headache, which is your body’s way of demanding that you drink more water.

To calculate how much water to drink daily, multiply your body weight by 1/2. That number indicates how many ounces of water you should drink in a day.  For example, I weigh 130 pounds, so I should drink 65 ounces a day (130 x 0.5 = 65; close to eight 8-ounce glasses a day). Additionally, for every half an hour you exercise, you should add at least another 10 ounces. 

If you drink black tea, coffee, and/or alcohol, you need to drink even more water.  Tea, coffee, and alcohol actually dehydrate you because they interfere with your antidiuretic hormone (ADH).  

The hypothalamus (a part of your brain) detects how much water is contained in your blood. If the water content is low, the hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland (the master gland of your body, also in the brain) to release ADH into your bloodstream.  When the ADH reaches the kidneys, the hormone opens the kidneys tubules, so more water is reabsorbed into your blood (instead of urinating it out).  After the water pressure is restored, the hypothalamus detects this and tells the pituitary gland to stop producing ADH.  The ADH levels in the blood drop, and the tubules close down so more of the fluid flows out as urine.  This negative feedback loop ensures that our blood holds the perfect amount of water.

Simply put, if you drink too much water, the body will urinate out the excess but keep a healthy amount in, as long as you eat and urinate as needed. As with anything you ingest, it is possible to overdose on water, but it would be difficult to do so. If you’re curious about this, you can google hyponatremia, a condition in which the blood contains too little salt because you have either not eaten enough salt or you have drunk too much water.  I find most people are in a dehydrated state. 

When you drink fluids like tea, coffee, and alcohol instead of water, ADH production goes down. This interferes with the regulation of water in the body, causing you to urinate out too much water, leading to dehydration. Dehydration has a nasty effect on one’s health, especially over the long term.  

So, in any given day, for every ounce of alcohol and for every cup of tea or coffee you drink, you should drink at least 8 additional ounces of water.  

Because I lead an active lifestyle and drink beverages that mess with my ADH, I try to drink at least three 32-ounce containers (96 ounces) of water a day. 

Half the time, when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty.  So, if you eat three healthy meals a day and you are still hungry, try drinking more water.  If you have weight to lose, drinking more water is an easy way to get those extra pounds off.  If you are still hungry after a meal, drinking water should make you feel full. Try drinking a cup of hot water with lemon in it to see if that satisfies you.  It may save you from unnecessary caloric intake.

Remember, toxins are stored in our fat, so if you are losing fat, you are releasing these toxins into the blood. You can get sick if you are not able to flush them out.  This is why drinking water not only aids weight loss but is so important when losing weight.

Warning: Excess water can be a problem too, especially if you are drinking more than 1.5 gallons a day. Too much water can cause you to flush out your electrolytes (much needed salts), negatively impact your blood sugar levels (diabetes insipidus), resulting in imbalances in your body.  This is why it is important to have a healthcare professional help you determine your specific nutritional needs.

Stop the soda pop

If you drink soda pop, try to stop drinking it for a month.  Doing so will greatly improve your overall health.  Why?

SO many reasons. First, soda pop may "quench your thirst" but does not hydrate you. Just like when drinking coffee, tea or alcohol, compounds in soda pop causes ADH production goes down. This interferes with the regulation of water in the body, causing you to urinate out too much water, leading to dehydration.

Plus, soda pop has gross amounts of chemicals (artificial flavors, artificial coloring), sugar, and salt. These beverages need copious amount of sugar to make them taste good because they are super-acidic.  Without such massive amounts of sugar and artificial flavoring, soda pop would taste as bad is it is for you.  Once you drink it, it ruins the taste of all other food.  It also messes with your insulin levels, making you hungrier. Diet sodas are even worse because of the ill effects of artificial sweeteners.

After a month without drinking soda pop, you’ll probably drink more water (which is generally a good habit), and natural foods should taste better. 

When you eliminate soda pop, you may find yourself eating healthier, and your body should show positive signs of this.  I have had many overweight patients experience dramatic weight loss simply by no longer drinking soda and making water their beverage of choice.

I can’t tell you how many patients have expressed genuine surprise at how much better they feel by simply eliminating foods containing chemicals from their diet. I have heard countless times from patients of all sizes that avoiding processed foods and soda has given them so much more energy and stamina that they feel years younger.

In addition to the ill effects of soda pop I’ve already mentioned, research has also linked soda to osteoporosis in women (it causes the kidneys to urinate more calcium out of the blood). 

Once you feel the benefits, hopefully this enables you to avoid pop forever. It takes at least three months for something to become a habit. Pop is addicting, so it may take even longer.

Sugar and salt

Sugar and salt are not evil either.  They have a bad reputation because manufacturers of processed foods add way too much salt or sugar or both to their foods. We tend to eat more processed, prepackaged foods than we do natural foods, which compounds the problem of weight gain in this country.  We have become accustomed to a sweet and salty diet. 

Flavors are a matter of perception.  If you eat a lot of processed foods or feel you may be eating too much salt and sugar, try reducing the amount of salt and sugar you eat. After a few weeks, you should be able to taste the salt and sugar in items you never could before.  Foods you used to think tasted plain, or even bad, should start tasting better to you.

If you are very good at avoiding salt, you may need to add a pinch of sea salt to your diet.  Salt is only bad if eaten too much.  Low salt levels can also negatively impact your health.  Every cell in your body needs salt, just not too much.

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