The Fountain of Youth, Health and Everything Else
“We turn to water for healing (and feelings) in all dimensions of our lives—from hot tubs to hydrotherapy, from bathing to baptism—and the mere sight of water, a mountain lake or ocean tide, can ease the pain of psychological wounds” (Staying Healthy with Nutrition).
Water is a pretty exceptional thing when you think about. It is literally life-giving —we can last roughly 8 weeks without food but only days without water. It is essential in removing waste, flushing toxins, regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients and SO much more! Despite how important water is, so many of us are not giving our bodies the amount we need. Water is actually the most common nutritional deficiency in the American population. Why? It might be busyness (the reason for many poor nutritional choices), lack of education (that's why I'm here!) or the myriad of alternative beverage options. Not only do many of these alternatives have no nutritional value, they have ingredients that cause some serious health issues - but that's another post for another time. Let's focus on water right now, shall we?
Here’s a good place to start: Take your body weight (in pounds) and divide it by two. This represents the minimum number of ounces you should be drinking each day*. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, you should be drinking 75 ounces of pure water a day. I know that may seem like a startling number for a lot of us, but that shows you just how dehydrated you’ve been all this time! Work your way up to this number - it won’t be an easy, overnight change but it WILL make a huge impact even as you take baby steps! While this is a good guideline, you have to remember that we are all bio-individual. There will be people who may need more or less, especially taking their physical activity level and environment into account. Listen to your body! *If you weigh over 200 lbs, the amount of water you drink should not exceed 100 ounces each day.
An important thing to consider: if you are consuming diuretics, which is essentially something that increases and encourages urine production (soda, coffee, juice, some teas...), you need to replace the amount of water you're losing. Diuretics slow the reabsorption of water by the kidneys — water that should be moving back into the bloodstream is now being excreted, increasing the flow of urine (and in turn, dehydrating you). If you like to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, make sure you add 12-16 ounces of pure water for every 8 ounces of the diuretic beverage. Did you catch that? You need even MORE water when you consume a diuretic.
Be careful not to guzzle water (or any liquid) right before, during, or right after meals. This literally dampens the digestive fire and dilutes the acidity of your stomach acid which in turn, compromises your ability to properly digest your food which causes lots of problems. Feel free to sip water throughout your meal — just try not to down a whole glass around your mealtime. If you're that thirsty during your meal, take that as a little sign that you need to do better at hydrating yourself throughout the day! The same goes for any other beverage around mealtime.
Now that we know how much water to drink and when to drink it, the next important thing to address is what type of water to drink. While it may seem overkill to some (like those pesky tap water drinkers!), the quality of our drinking water is so incredibly important, especially when it is so essential for sustaining life. Let's break it down together:
Tap Water - Contaminated with substances like chlorine, fluoride, arsenic, lead and more. It's just not a good idea to be consuming this even in small quantities. The Environmental Working Group allows you to type in your zip-code to see what contaminants have been found in the water in your area.
Reverse Osmosis Water - This form of filtering water not only wastes a lot of water but it also strips it bare of it's minerals. Unless you plan on adding a pinch of Celtic sea salt to each glassful for it's beneficial minerals, I would steer away from this option.
Alkaline Water - This is very trendy but like many fads, there’s little knowledge behind it. On the pH scale of 0-14, 7 is neutral and 14 is totally alkaline. The ideal pH of our stomach should be between 1.5 and 3 (very acidic!) in order to properly digest our food. Otherwise, proteins putrefy, fats rancidify and carbohydrates ferment inside our stomachs. If someone is consuming an abundance of alkaline water, they are hindering their stomach's ability to break down their food and throwing their body off balance. It’s gaining more attention now, but the idea that acid reflux (and other digestive issues) is because of too much stomach acid is completely misguided and dangerous. It’s almost always the other way around!
Carbon Filters - Pitcher filters like Brita, ZeroWater, PUR, etc. are definitely better than no filter at all. For the most part, they are affordable and effective but there are of course drawbacks. The carbon filters can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold if not changed frequently enough and they lack the ability to filter out things like fluoride or heavy metals.
Spring Water - The holy grail. Spring water has been filtered through the earth itself. If you don't have access to spring water, then you'll need a filter.
Big Berkey - My personal favorite option and the one we use at home. From their website: "This system entirely removes pathogenic bacteria, viruses, parasites and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes. It also reduces nitrates, nitrites and heavy metals such as lead and mercury. This system is so powerful it can remove food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs."
If your only option is bottled water (while you’re traveling, for example), look for bottled mineral water because these have not been treated or spring water in a BPA free bottle (it’ll say it!) or glass. Plastic water bottles leech BPA into the water you're drinking (especially after sitting in a hot car) and is only adding to the amount of waste our world already has to deal with.