The overarching key to health is balance.
Applying this to the drinking of water the key is to drink the right amount of the right stuff at the right time in the right manner.
‘More is better’ is a popular formula but it will only work for those who are not drinking enough. Increasing water intake will actually be detrimental to those who are already drinking enough or even too much.
There are many things which *profoundly* affect the body’s need for drinking water, including:
– age, health status, genetics, constitution
– lifestyle, exercise, stress levels
– climate and season
– diet (eg. If you drink alcohol, eat meat, eat dried/processed/baked foods, eat salty foods, and have acidity in your body then you will need to drink more.)
The ‘right stuff’ to drink is usually water. Don’t believe industry-funded junk science – energy drinks, coffee, tea, alcohol and soft drinks (soda pop) are all harmful to your health.
Herbal teas, however, can be medicinal. Or use a squeeze of lemon or lime juice in water, or a bit of fresh mint can add a refreshing touch.
By all means have other drinks for fun occasionally, but not as an everyday habit or will likely experience a negative health consequence at some point. This might be as simple as bad moods or low energy levels, or as as serious as organic disease or even death. (Obesity, diabetic and alcohol related health problems and deaths are epidemic in the West).
The ‘right stuff’ to drink usually means room temperature water, although warm/hot water can be very good too. Chilled water can cause a strain on the stomach and kidneys, so is best taken sparingly – eg. to lower your core temperature on a very hot day, and then only sipped, not gulped.
Try to get as much of your fluid intake in through cooked foods and soups which have a balance of minerals and water content and are more easily dealt with by the water than guzzling large amounts of plain water.
Water quality is also very important. Depending on your water supply it may need to be filtered. Avoid water which comes in plastic bottles, and don’t store your water in plastic if you can help it. Also, chlorinated water is harmful – either filter it or let the chlorine evaporate before you drink it.
Drinking with meals is almost universally understood to be detrimental to health. The exception would be if food is very salty or dried.
So your ‘right time’ will probably be away from meals.
Mostly, however, the ‘right time’ to drink is when you are thirsty. More on that below.
The ‘right manner’ is your attitude when you drink.
Don’t just drink mindlessly – feel your thirst, you anticipation beforehand. Feel your pleasure, your relief as you drink, feel what you feel like afterwards. Actually live your life, actually experience what it’s like to be in a human body today. You won’t get this moment back again, so don’t waste it by being distracted.
Be grateful for having safe, clean water to drink. It’s a gift from life to life. There are a billion people in the world who don’t have access to it. By having the humility to be grateful for what you drink you will gain joy, happiness and a greater sense of connection with life.
The ‘right amount’ is what most people think about on the topic of drinking water and this is the aspect I will finish with today.
We hear a lot about the problem of under-hydration, so I will not spend too much time discussing this, although of course dehydration is not good for your kidneys. Dehydration also reduces your cognitive functioning and mental clarity.
Over-hydration is just as damaging as under-hydration.
There are a number of problems caused by drinking too much – kidney strain and even kidney damage being an important one, mineral loss being another, dilution of digestive juices making causing poor food breakdown and absorption being a third. If there is too much fluid in the bowel it will not absorb minerals very well.
How do you know what is the ‘right amount’?
Drink when you are thirsty is the main thing. Your body is the product of many millions of years of evolution. It has far more sophisticated methods of determining when it is thirsty than your conscious mind’s clumsy belief in how much you ‘should’ be drinking. Everyone is different with health – one size does *not* fit all.
Learn to recognise your body’s own signs that it is thirsty. We have become so disconnected from ourselves we often miss these signs, eg. fuzzy headedness, tight in the head, dry mouth. Have a small amount – not a huge drink – and see if these signs of discomfort improve. That is your body telling you that you are doing the right thing.
Over time you will learn and can calibrate how much you really need to drink – it might be far more or far less that you think, and it will vary from one time to another.
Using your head to over-ride your body’s own signals is a recipe for damaging yourself. The solution is the other way around – learn to listen to your body more.
Nature will show you the way.