Dying Of Thirst

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water2We are a water obsessed society.

Everywhere you turn, the health gurus, coaches and quacks profess the vital importance of drinking as much water as possible, mainly with the argument that we are flushing out the dirty toxins from our bodies and getting ourselves clean.  There are even water fasts (gallons of water drank daily that you mix with a little honey and cayenne pepper) promising to reset your clock, help you shed massive amounts of weight and cleanse you from head to toe.

Grocery stores too are stocked with expensive artisan and designer waters, water with electrolytes and water with essential oils, all promising a cure or an antidote to whatever ails you.

If there was more evidence that water was the miracle elixir many claim it to be than I would be writing a different story.

Of course, I would never say that we don’t need water or that water isn’t crucial to our health.  After all, we are made up almost wholly of water and our cells couldn’t live without it.  We need to drink water everyday to replenish what we have lost through breathing, sweating, going to the bathroom and just plain living.

My question is: how much water do we need on a daily basis, and what, exactly counts as a drink of water?

Here are the facts: your body is a great regulator of how much water you need and what needs to go out.  Your body will retain a certain amount of water to help maintain compounds in your blood, like salt.  Too much salt and other “toxins” that your body does not need (think alcohol or excessive medications)  are flushed out via your kidneys with the help of water.

However, drinking more water than your body needs does not mean that you will flush out more hidden toxins and can even lead to a syndrome called hypornatremia, a condition in which your blood becomes too diluted and there is not enough sodium. Endurance runners can suffer from this.  So can diets low sodium and high water.

Interestingly, as I was doing research for this blog post, I came upon an article in the Washington Post, titled How Much Water Do We Need?  Science Doesn’t Have A Clue.  Turns out there is no scientific backing to the “eight glasses of water” a day theory and there is no reccomended daily amount of water from any government agency.

Figuring out how much you have consumed for the day is tricky business.  Water is abundant in fruits, vegetables, juices, sodas, coffee, tea and alcohol. So what counts as water consumed then?

Here are my do’s and don’t s for how much water to drink in a day:

  • Drink water when you are thirsty and be mindful of the clues for thirst.  Are you unusually hungry?  You could be dehydrated. Drink a glass of water first and see how you feel.
  • You can count coffee or tea as water consumed, to a point.  The jury is out as to whether caffeinated drinks have that much of a diuretic effect as previously thought.  I would count coffee and tea as a half glass of water
  • Diet soda, soda and alcohol do not count!  Chemicals, processed ingredients and chemical reactions in your liver and kidneys all make these terrible choices for hydrating your body and just add more of the toxins you are trying to flush out.  Stay far away from all soda and enjoy an occasional glass of wine, but do not consider it water.
  • Fruits and vegetables should not be considered substitutes for plain old water.  Of course, eat them in abundance but drink a few glasses of water too.
  • You can filter your tap water, but you do not need to spend an excessive amount of money on designer waters, alkaline water or any other kind of water.  Your body has always been asking for just plain old water, that’s all.
  • Even though the 8 glasses of water a day rule is unknown in origin, it probably still is not a bad idea to strive close to that.

What are your thoughts on how much water you think you should be drinking?  Please let me know in the comments below and keep the discussion going!

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