Being well hydrated boosts your immunity, decreases your perception of pain and improves mood. Here’s what you should know in order to safely increase your water intake.
How does it work?
Over 60% of your body is made of water and nearly all your organ systems depend on water to perform. Water helps transport nutrients, digest food, absorb nutrients, regulate body fluids, eliminate waste and prevent constipation.
Increasing water consumption can help reduce perception of pain (2) as well as help with a variety of health goals, including weight-loss. Foods high in water content are absorbed slowly which can help you feel more full.
Increasing water intake is also preventative of kidney stones. The kidneys need water to help eliminate urea nitrogen. If you are getting enough water your urine flows freely, and is light in color and odor.
One study of New Yorkers found on average over 75% to be chronically dehydrated(1). While Americans consume fluids, researchers suspect they remain dehydrated because many of these fluids are high in caffeine, a diuretic that increases loss of water. Caffeine is commonly found in coffee and tea. If you regularly consume caffeine, you may want to off-set caffeinated beverages with an extra glass of water.
How do I do it?
Record your average intake of water and work to systematically increase it. Some tips for increasing water intake are:
- Use a water bottle throughout the day to monitor your water consumption
- Keep track of whether you have consumed your target amount in a journal
- Make target goals for yourself to increase your average intake by a glass per week for a month and take note of how it affects how you feel through out the day
- Set an alarm as a reminder of when to drink more water
- Add lemon, lime, strawberries or your favorite fruit to your water to make it interesting and flavorful
- Alternate with coconut water, and added electrolytes (example product Emergen-C) to your water to replenish electrolytes
- In the winter, try hot water with lemon and honey, mint leaves, ginger or fennel depending on what herbs suit your constitution. Consult a Naturopathic Doctor to customize herbal teas to your constitution
- Buy fun straws. Studies have shown that we tend to consume more water when drinking through a straw. Skip the plastic and opt for a metal, bamboo or silicone straw
- Monitor the color of your urine, and keep a target of “light yellow color.” Although certain foods (ex: beets) and supplements (ex: B-vitamins) can change the color of your urine, in general anything darker than light yellow, is an indicator to increase hydration, while colorless urine can indicate an excess of water or a problem with the kidneys.
Over-hydration can be deadly if the balance of water and sodium is thrown off. Too much water can lead to low levels of sodium in blood which can interfere with your nervous system and many other processes. This can occur if you drink more water than your kidneys can eliminate from urine. Over-hydration is a possibility for everyone but especially if you have liver disease, kidney problems, congestive heart failure or syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone. Over-hydration can lead to muscle weakness, seizures and unconsciousness. Avoid drinking more than one liter of fluid per hour to prevent over hydration.
- Survey of 3003 Americans, Nutrition Information Center, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center (April 14, 1998).
- Yuichi O. et al. Dehydration Enhances Pain-Evoked Activation in the Human Brain Compared with Rehydration. Anesthesia & Analgesia: June 2014 – Volume 118 – Issue 6 – p 1317-1325