Frustrated by your dull and uneven skin tone and dark under eye circles? What about daily headaches or brain fog? Or an overall feeling of sluggishness and lack of concentration? Drink more water to look amazing and feel your best. It is time to get started because it’s the key to turning around your health!
Did you know that water is one of four macronutrients, along with protein, fat and carbs? The truth is, it’s the most important of the macronutrients. You can survive weeks without food but only a few days without water.
Most Americans live in a state of chronic dehydration. So when you want to improve your health, just starting with water is a very good idea. Let’s get started!
Because of water’s critical role in keeping you alive you notice the effects of being slightly dehydrated (1-2%) with symptoms of headaches and fatigue1.
60% of your body mass is water. Once you hit 5% dehydration, more serious issues arise with your digestion, muscles and cardiovascular and immune systems. More than 10% dehydrated? Death is inevitable!
Water moves nutrients and oxygen around your body, helps your cells talk to each other, regulates your body temperature, cushions your joints and lubricates your muscles.
Most of the volume of your cells and body fluids is water. It’s the most abundant molecule in your body.
What are the key roles of water in your body?
- Hydrate and deliver oxygen to your cells
- Moisten oxygen for easier breathing
- Maintain electrical properties of your cells
- Absorb shocks to your joints and organs
- Lubricate your joints
- Transport nutrients
- Regulate your body temperature
- Improve cell to cell communication
- Remove waste from your body
- Empower your body’s natural healing process
- Enable your digestive process and more….
And there is a connection between water and weight loss! If you are well hydrated, your body can work more efficiently. Drinking water helps suppress your appetite, makes exercising easier and more efficient, and boosts your metabolism.
Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 liter) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour2.
So if you are trying to lose weight, proper hydration is a must!
What happens to water when you drink it?
Let’s start at the beginning. Water hangs out in three places: within your cells (⅔) and in the space between your cells and in your blood (⅓).3 Muscles contain water, but fat doesn’t. The cells of your organs are largely made up of water.
Your brain – specifically your hypothalamus – is in charge of telling your body when it needs water. It’s a pretty good signal, but you’re already dehydrated when it kicks in and may not be fully hydrated when it turns off. This is why sipping water throughout the day is important.
The amount of water you absorb depends on if you’re eating while drinking. If you’re drinking on an empty stomach, you’ll absorb more. Most of your body’s water absorption happens in the small intestine. It takes water into your gut lining and bloodstream and sends it to your body’s cells.
Your blood is constantly being filtered by your kidneys. They have the job of removing waste from your blood like urea (protein waste). Excess water in your blood is also removed – this is why drinking a lot of water means more trips to the bathroom. And if you’re dehydrated, your kidneys pull more water into your blood and your urine is dark. Your body has to have the right amount of water in your blood at all times.
Your kidneys also make sure you have the right amount of electrolytes in your bloodstream. And they’re in charge of activating Vitamin D, making more red blood cells and raising blood pressure.
Removing waste from your body
The other organ in charge of waste is your large intestine (colon). Its job is to reabsorb water and electrolytes in the waste that comes from your small intestine. This mostly liquid waste includes excess nutrients, fatty acids, bacteria and insoluble fiber that can’t be used by your body. Your colon removes the water from the waste that wasn’t absorbed by your small intestine. It’s then pooped out.
What happens when too much water is taken out of your waste? Constipation. And when not enough is taken out? Diarrhea. Finding this balance comes with having good gut health.
Your thirst signals
Let’s talk more about your hypothalamus. It’s a big deal when it comes to thirst and hunger. Being slightly dehydrated triggers your hypothalamus to tell you that you’re thirsty. The urge to drink fluids is a natural instinct regulated by a negative feedback loop between the hypothalamus and other organs in the body.
Your hypothalamus detects when there is not enough water in your blood. Special sensors in the hypothalamus are constantly monitoring your blood’s concentration of sodium and other substances. It sends a message to your pituitary gland which releases ADH (antidiuretic hormone) to your kidneys so more water is reabsorbed into your blood.
Yet people sometimes lose their sense of thirst, especially as they age. If you have suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) you are more likely to have thirst messaging issues. If this is you, rehydration homeopathic drops are an option. These drops will enhance your hypothalamus and pituitary messaging system to help you. Ever noticed that if you drink water, you are running to the bathroom almost immediately? Then you are actually thirsty and need to support your hypothalamus.
There are also incidents of people drinking too much water, particularly marathon runners who drink too much n an attempt to avoid dehydration. The excess water overwhelms the kidneys, which can’t flush out the fluid fast enough. The water then rushes into cells throughout the body, swelling them like balloons. In the brain, such swelling can be disastrous, causing seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, and death.
Excessive thirst can be a sign of blood sugar issues so you should never ignore your body’s messaging systems. When something feels off, it usually is!
Confusing thirst with hunger
And oftentimes you can mistake thirst for hunger. If you have a habit of eating when you aren’t hungry, you stop being able to recognize when your body’s actually telling you to eat. Think you’re hungry? Drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. If you’re still hungry, then have something to eat. You should be able to go 3-4 hours between meals no problem. Using water as your guide will help reset your hunger signals and help you drop the unwanted weight.
Drinking water increases your brain’s temperature and gets rid of toxins and dead cells. It also keeps cells active and balances chemical processes in the brain, helping to regulate stress and anxiety.
A nutrient-dense, whole foods diet is a proven way to ensure you’re getting electrolytes and maintaining good gut health.
How do you know if you’re dehydrated?
We all suffer from mild dehydration occasionally. You probably know the symptoms of being dehydrated:
- Dry mouth
- Dark urine
- Muscle cramps
- Feelings of anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory lapses
When you’re chronically dehydrated, your symptoms are more serious:
- Joint pain
- Back pain
- GI issues
- Exercise-induced asthma
The good thing is that the solution is pretty simple. Drink water!
Skin and hydration
Do you ever think about whether your skin is hydrated? It’s your body’s largest organ and its billions of cells must stay hydrated to work correctly and look good.
Is your skin hydrated? There’s a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin. I’m going to talk about dehydrated skin. Even if you don’t have dry skin, it’s likely that you suffer from dehydrated skin from time to time.
What are the signs?
- Dull or uneven skin tone and complexion
- Darker under eye circles
- Shadows under eyes and around nose
- Lack of skin elasticity
Drinking water will help brighten your complexion and flush oil out of your skin, keeping your pores smaller. Hydration is also key to maintaining your skin’s elasticity – you want it to bounce back when you pull on it! You’ll also be less prone to scarring (acne!) and developing wrinkles and soft lines.
How much water should you be drinking?
This is a loaded question. Guidance used to be to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of clean water daily. The Institute of Medicine now recommends 91oz for women and 125oz for men. It’s great to have a target to shoot for, but it might not be right for everyone. And remember, you can get your hydration from fruit and veg too! But just know you need to drink more than you think!
There are so many factors that go into deciding how much water is enough:
- Your activity level. More activity means more water.
- How much processed food and sugar you consume. You’ll need more water if this is part of your diet because you aren’t getting enough from food.
- Feeling thirsty. Some people feel thirsty more than others. If that’s you, drink more!
- Your physical environment. Hot and dry? You’ll be drinking more than someone in a temperate, humid place. Elevation also dehydrates you, so drink more if you live above 5,000’.
- Pregnancy and lactation. You’re creating a person – millions of new cells that need water! – when pregnant. And when nursing, you won’t make milk if you aren’t drinking enough water.
- Disease. Having certain chronic conditions means you’ll need to drink more.
What kind of water should you drink?
Water should be the majority of what you drink, but you want to know that it’s safe. A good place to start is by checking your local water quality for contaminants, including heavy metals. The Environmental Working Group lets you check quality by zip code. If your budget allows, invest in a water filtration system.
I’m a huge fan of the Berkey water filtration system which removes 200+ unsafe contaminants.
What about reverse osmosis? Reverse osmosis (RO) strips the water of all minerals as well as pollutants. Again, this is a common issue I see with clients. They have been drinking reverse osmosis water for years and didn’t realize it had stripped their electrolyte balance. So if you drink RO water, add back the minerals with a pinch of unrefined salt.
If you are on well water, please get your water tested for parasites and any contaminants. I have worked with many clients whose source of their health issues was the well water they were drinking or even washing in. It can contain unwanted pathogens.
If you want to drink tap water, please get it checked. Don’t spend your hard earned money on expensive supplements and then discover that you are drinking pollutants.
A word about carbonated drinks
They’re not good for you – period! And diet soft drinks aren’t a good substitute for the real thing or water. Soft drinks contain:
- Phosphoric acid, which stops the production of HCl. Research is suggesting that it might keep your body from using calcium.
- Regular soft drinks contain high fructose corn syrup/refined sugar, which increases blood glucose and insulin levels
- Diet soft drinks contain aspartame, known as NutraSweet and Equal, and have 92 documented side effects! It changes to methanol, which converts to formaldehyde and formic acid, a corrosive. Do you want this in your body?
- Tap water is the source of the carbonated water, which can be full of pollutants.
Now’s the time to kick your soft drink habit!
Tips for healthy hydration
Start your day with water. Yep, even before your morning coffee or tea. Coffee and tea are diuretics meaning that they make you more dehydrated. So break your fast with water first! A 16oz glass of clean water breaks your overnight hydration fast. It helps your liver to do its morning metabolic work of detoxifying the body. It also helps with better digestion throughout the day.
Drink only water until your urine is light yellow or straw colored. This means you are hydrated.
Add lemon, lime, cucumber, or berries to water to create a hydrating infusion, if you find drinking plain water is not appetizing.
Drink before, during and after exercising. Muscle cramping while exercising is a sign of electrolyte imbalance because you’re sweating out salt. And remember that your muscle cells are full of water? When you’re dehydrated, your muscle cells break down muscle faster and build new muscle slower. Not a very effective workout, huh?
Drink water between your meals (or at least 30 minutes before) not during your meals. Drinking while eating dilutes enzymes needed to digest your food. It will improve hydration and make you less hungry.
Anytime you reach for a snack, have some water first because you might actually have been thirsty instead! Studies have shown that people who drink 16oz prior to meals also tend to eat less overall.
Avoid iced water! Drinking iced water with your meals lowers nutrient absorption during digestion.
And the most obvious – drink when you’re thirsty!
You’ve always known water is important, but now you know why. Having a healthy mind and body means prioritizing hydration. And the added benefits of great skin and weight loss are icing on the cake.
If hydration is already a part of your health program, but you want to take things to the next level, let’s talk!
Schedule a free health analysis call?
We’ll work together to take you to the next level on your health journey.
- Nutritional Therapy Association (2021) Hydration Function [PDF Doc] Retrieved from https://nutritionaltherapy.instructure.com.