Hello my friends! The topic I’m going to talk to you about today came about because of my concern that my daughter, Danielle, is not drinking enough water. I was sure that was really bad for her, and I started researching what and how much we should be drinking. The results were even more shocking than I thought, and not only did I share them with Danielle, I also wanted to share them with my readers as well.
Now we all know that if you’re dying of thirst while being stranded in the desert that is really bad, right? Well, the fact that really surprised me was that if you are 1 to 2% dehydrated, which would show as symptoms of mild thirst, that can cause problems like headaches, irritability, and impaired cognition. A 2% dehydration level also leads to a 10% decrease in athletic performance, so make sure you’re hydrating before you exercise. Even more concerning, according to a recent Harvard study, more than half of American children are dehydrated and 1/4 of children do not drink water on a daily basis. Boys were 75% more likely to be inadequately hydrated than girls.
If your response is, “What’s the big deal about water, anyway?”, here’s the answer for you. Our bodies are made up of approximately 65% water, which is crucial for blood circulation, metabolism, regulation of body temperature, waste removal and detoxification.
Here’s another concern, children and the elderly have an underdeveloped thirst mechanism, which makes them more vulnerable to dehydration. Also, hunger and sugar cravings could be a sign that you are dehydrated so when you feel hungry, drink a glass of water first. Other dehydration symptoms are fatigue, dizziness, mood swings, foggy thinking and poor concentration, chills, muscle cramps, back or joint ache, dull, dry skin, pronounced wrinkles, constipation, infrequent urination, dark, concentrated urine, and bad breath.
How much water should we drink a day in order to avoid the above symptoms? The Institute of Medicine recommends women drink 2.7 liters (91 ounces) a day, and men 3.7 liters (125 ounces). I don’t walk around with a device to measure how much water I’m drinking, I use the urine rule which means that if my urine is a light yellow color I’m drinking an adequate amount of water. One thing to keep in mind though, if you’re taking a supplement containing vitamin B2 (like most multivitamins) your urine will be a bright, fluorescent yellow after you take it. In that case, use the frequency rule. A healthy person urinates 7-8 times per day so if you are urinating a lot less frequently than that or if it’s just a super small amount, up your water intake.
Here’s a scary fact about dehydration that I uncovered, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychology and Behavior, dehydrated drivers made twice the amount of errors in a two hour drive compared to hydrated drivers. That is similar to the results of a driver who is under the influence of alcohol- yes, that’s what I said! Frightening!
A comforting thought though, is that all of this is 100% preventable by simply rehydrating yourself and your children. However, not all beverages are equal. If you’re drinking energy drinks or soda, they are high in caffeine which acts as a diuretic that can dehydrate you. Stay away from those. Also, sodas, sports drinks, fruit juices and other sweetened beverages contain processed fructose which is one of the primary causes of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. One soda per day adds as much as 15 pounds to your weight per year, and it also increases your risk of diabetes by 85%.
Sports drinks many people believe to be more important to drink when you’re dehydrated than water because of electrolyte replacement. However, most sports drinks contain two thirds or even more sugar than sodas, usually high fructose corn syrups. They also contain artificial colors and flavors which is also not good for your health. Fructose is metabolized by the liver and is the main cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Just like alcohol, your body turns fructose directly into fat, which cancels out the benefits of your workout.
You may be drinking sugar free sodas or sports drinks and think you’re doing something healthy for your body, but that’s absolutely incorrect. Those sugar free drinks will contain artificial sweeteners, which may be worse for you than fructose. Also, many people think they need to drink sports drinks to replenish their electrolytes (salt) lost during exercise, but they usually just use processed salt to do that.
Also, fruit juices are not a healthy option either. Fruit juices can contain more sugar than soda. For example, one 8 ounce glass of orange juice has 8 teaspoons of sugar, at least 50% of that is fructose. Many fruit juices contain high fructose corn syrup, just like soda. And many fruit juices are made by the same parent companies that make soda pop, so keep that in mind. Now, eating a whole fruit is hydrating like an orange or watermelon, but just remember to eat the fruit, not buy the juice from the grocery store, because the whole fruit contains a lot of fiber too.
Ok, so what should we be drinking, you ask? Well, of course the answer is WATER. But all water is not created equally and I want to address that as well. First of all, please please please don’t drink bottled water! Those bottles are clogging up our landfills and the plastic contains industrial chemicals like bisphenol-A, bisphenol-S (BPA/BPS) and phthalates which leach from the plastic. Also, just because you’re drinking bottled water, it doesn’t mean it’s any more pure than the tap water you’re drinking, and often times it’s more contaminated.
Tap water can have many contaminants as well, so the best choice is FILTERED tap water. And use a glass water bottle instead of a plastic one to make sure fewer contaminants get into your water. Filters are inexpensive to buy, and can be easily installed on your kitchen faucet. The best one is a reverse osmosis water filtration system because it removes almost everything bad from your water. Those systems are a bit pricier, but are definitely worth it. If you need a little flavor in your water, like Danielle does, I recommend putting an organic lemon into your water. It makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE TASTE OF THE WATER.
Also, another healthy alternative I found for my family to drink is organic coconut water. It’s very hydrating and has no sugar, or artificial colors or flavors. It’s also packaged in a paper carton so it’s more environmentally friendly and there are no chemicals to leach into your beverage. It tastes a bit like a pina colada but with no sugar. It has electrolytes too and at only 43 calories per cup, is a great bang for your nutritional buck. I think it’s a great alternative for those who need a bit more after a workout.
So that’s my wisdom for the day. Get hydrated by drinking filtered water, coconut water, or whole fruit, and avoid sports drinks, fruit juices, sodas, and energy drinks. Look for frequency of urination and urine color as signs of dehydration, and be alert for the symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, thirst, etc. If you feel hungry or have a sugar craving and you’ve just eaten, make sure you have a glass of water before reaching for the cookies or candy, it could be thirst at work. Also, urge your children or elderly family members to drink more pure water, because they may not be as aware of their dehydration as you are. Every time I grab my glass of water I remind Danielle to drink her coconut water because I realize she doesn’t get the thirst signal like she should. Drinking pure water or other healthy options is SO GOOD for you, and will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!