The body is 75% water, so it makes sense that this essential fluid must be continually replenished. We can go for a month without food, but we can live only two or three days without water. Water is crucial to our survival. Many people are confused by how much water they should be drinking; they are always told to drink more. What is more? What is the correct quantity of water for your body? Some experts recommend eight glasses a day, but this raises the question, how big is one glass? Eight ounces? More? Less?
The answer must come from your own experience. Much will depend on your size. A smaller person will need proportionately less water than a bigger person. It also depends on your level of physical activity, the climate in which you live, and your diet.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, drinking more water increases yin, making the body light and airy and expanding energy through the whole system. If you are too yang – too tight or contracted, suffering from stress, headaches, and bodily tension – you may want to try increasing your water intake to balance these symptoms. In addition, cravings for sweet (yin) foods may actually be signs of dehydration. Drinking water may reduce or eliminate these cravings.
We can go for a month without food, but we can live only two or three days without water. Water is crucial to our survival.
The late Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, an Iranian-born physician, gained international attention with his claim that regularly drinking water can treat a vast array of illnesses. “You are not sick, you are thirsty,” he asserted in his best-selling 1992 book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, which attributes most pain and sickness to chronic dehydration. Through years of reading and research, Dr. Batmanghelidj concluded that ordinary water prevents and cures depression, asthma, arthritis, back pain, migraines, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and many other illnesses. He also opposed the use of costly drugs for treating illnesses, saying that you “don’t treat thirst with medication.”
Dr. Batmanghelidj was jailed as a political prisoner in Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Because he was a medical doctor, other prisoners came to him with medical problems. Having no access to medicine or drugs, in desperation he told an ulcer patient with severe abdominal pains to try drinking two glasses of water. To his surprise, the patient’s pain receded within minutes. During three years in prison, he treated more than 3,000 fellow prisoners who suffered from peptic ulcers, viewing the prison environment as an “ideal stress laboratory.” After his release in 1982, he came to the United States and continued to explore the role of water metabolism in the human body until he passed in 2004.
A large majority of people are dehydrated, which contributes significantly to a poor state of health. Regularly flushing out the kidneys and bladder with water ensures that waste products can be expelled before reaching toxic levels. Maintaining hydration can prevent premature aging, reduce pain, and headaches, lessen hypertension, and promote weight loss. Some people say they can’t drink water because they don’t like the taste. I advise them to add a squeeze of lemon, a slice of cucumber, or anything that creates an appealing flavor.
People always ask me what kind of water I recommend. This issue has become increasingly complex. In the past few decades, bottled water has become one of the most popular beverages in the world. Global bottled water consumption is big business, and worldwide consumption reached almost 75 billion gallons in 20141. That’s a lot of plastic!
It’s fascinating to me that people, including holistically minded ones, drink water flown in from Fiji, Holland, and other parts of the world. Many times, the cost of the water is for the brand, and the water is not much different from what comes out of your tap. Federal standards for tap water in the United States are actually higher than those for bottled water.2 Plastic water bottles are also a huge strain on the environment. The amount of fuel, not to mention plastic, used in these bottles is tremendous. I’m not saying everyone should drink only tap water, but drinking solely bottled water is simply not sustainable for our planet. When you’re out and about, sometimes drinking bottled water is the only option. I recommend you try different kinds – look for options in glass bottles and even eco-friendly boxes.
Most tap water does contain chlorine, fluoride, and sometimes lead. So if you are going to drink tap water, I recommend getting some kind of filter system. A wide variety of filters are on the market, and they vary in price as well as quality. Most people are familiar with the pitcher filters or faucet filters, such as Brita, which are relatively inexpensive. You can also try a carbon water filter or a reverse osmosis filter, both of which are more expensive but are known for eliminating a higher amount of toxins. You can research the different kinds of filters online to find one suited to your needs and your budget. If after researching water filters you decide to invest in one, be sure to change the filter regularly.
Timing is also important to water intake. After waking up in the morning, it’s good to drink one or two glasses of water to hydrate the body. Many people realize late in the day that they didn’t get enough water, so they drink a lot right before bed. Good sleep is integral to health, and you don’t want to disrupt it by waking up to go to the bathroom. Complete regeneration occurs only when we sleep deeply. If you notice that you are waking up at night to go to the bathroom, I suggest drinking most of your water in the morning and early afternoon.
Many health experts say water is the only liquid that can hydrate the body and that juice and tea don’t count. As far as I’m concerned, caffeinated drinks, like coffee, soda, and black tea, don’t count because they are dehydrating. Herbal tea, soup, and juice all help hydrate the body, although not as much as pure water.
Others recommend drinking warm water with lemon first thing in the morning, claiming it’s good for cleansing the liver. If you try this, notice how your body reacts. It may bother your stomach or have a diuretic effect on some people. Experiment to find out what really works for your body.
The same thing applies to ice water and hot water. A lot of people refuse ice in their water, thinking it’s unhealthy because the water used poor quality or the coldness disrupts digestion. These people may think nothing of drinking pints of hot tea, creating an overheated condition. The body, through its natural wisdom of seeking balance, will often comp;ensate by craving something cooling, such as ice cream. Ice water can often help restore the imbalance caused by excessively drinking hot liquids without the side effects of sugar.
Considering the proven impact of water on human health, it amazes me that people remain so unaware and uneducated about this subject. They spend most of their lives dehydrated, needlessly suffering from low energy, cravings, and symptoms, not realizing they could feel much better by merely drinking more water. Also, most of the added sugar in our diet comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, so a simple switch to water can have huge health benefits for those who are looking to reduce their sugar intake.
Reprinted with kind permission of Integrative Nutrition LLC. Integrative Nutrition: A Whole-Life Approach to Health and Happiness (2018), p. 192-195.