How much water should you be drinking?

Staying hydrated is one of the most basic ways you can support your health, and it’s so easy to forget to drink water. As the weather gets warmer and we lose more water via evaporation, I wanted to share a few tips on staying hydrated.

Signs of dehydration:

Frequent headaches can be a sign of dehydration. One of the first approaches I take with people who have frequent dull headaches is to have them increase their water intake. This frequently does the trick. If not, we can move on to other causes.

If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and let go, the skin should spring back into place immediately. If stays pinched up, or slides back into place more slowly, this is called ‘tenting’ and is a sign of dehydration.

Your urine is dark yellow. When properly hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow to clear. If you are taking B vitamins, at least the first couple trips to the restroom after swallowing the pill will result in bright yellow urine. This is normal, and not a sign of dehydration.

You are not urinating every couple of hours. Most people need to pee at least every 3 hours, but if you are hydrated, you should be having an urge to urinate every 1.5 to 2 hours.

How much should you be drinking?

A common guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces. This does provide a nice target that works for many people. For example, a 150 pound person would drink about 75 oz of water daily. However, I have seen this recommendation prove harmful in people with higher body fat. Up to a point, more water helps your body flush out toxins, keeps your tissues hydrated and keeps your kidneys healthy. However, excess water consumption can actually throw off the precise levels of electrolytes in the blood, put stress on the heart and circulatory system, and make your cells swell in a potentially dangerous way. Someone who is carrying more weight in the form of fat, and weighs for example 300 lbs does not need to drink 19 glasses of water per day, and in fact, this can result in ankle swelling, which in this case is a sign of stress on the heart. I would say that a safe upper limit of water intake would be about a gallon or 3.7 liters per day.

You should drink more water (perhaps a couple more glasses of water than your usual recommended intake intake) if you are exercising or sweating a lot, if you have had a lot of coffee or other substances with a diuretic effect, if you take a diuretic drug for high blood pressure, or if you have indulged in excess sweets.

Timing makes a difference also. You could cause water intoxication if you drank a gallon of water within one to two hours, but when you spread your sips out over a day, your body will have a much easier time processing it. The best approach is to sip water throughout the day to allow your body to absorb and utilize it optimally. If you chug water a few times per day, it is much more likely that your body will be unable to utilize so much water at once, and you will simply have to pee within 20 minutes or so.

A few tips:

Drink 8-16 ounces of room temperature or warm water immediately on waking, at least 20 minutes before you have breakfast. This helps to start your day off with good hydration and flushes out your digestive tract each morning.

Designate a reusable water bottle as your main water receptacle. Work out how many of those bottles of water you need to drink per day to meet your goal, and then make sure to fill up your bottle the designated number of times.

Drink out of glass, ceramic, or stainless steel receptacles. No need to expose yourself to harmful substances leeched out of plastic or aluminum containers.

Drink no more than 8 ounces of water during meals. Drink the rest of your daily water at least 20 minutes away from meals. If you are drinking water to help you swallow bites of food, then this is a sign that you are not chewing enough. Rarely, this is due to issues with inadequate salivation, and should be discussed with your doctor.

Purchase a water filter:

Using a quality water filter will make your water taste better and will also cut down on the toxins your body is exposed to daily such as chlorine, fluoride, and even heavy metals like lead found in the pipes of some houses. Over time, build up of chlorine and fluoride in your body can interfere with thyroid function.

A few good filter brands include Berkey, Multi Pure and AquaTru

Dress up your water:

Adding a squeeze of lemon to your water adds an element of liver stimulation.

If you have low blood pressure, consider adding a pinch of sea salt to your water.

If you get bored with the flavor of water, add a few slices of fruit, cucumber or fresh mint to your water bottle.

Some people are much more likely to drink carbonated water. For these people, I recommend purchasing a sodastream so that you can make your own using filtered water rather than purchasing carbonated water that has been sitting around in plastic bottles. This cuts down on plastic waste as well.

If it feels as though water passes right through you without being absorbed and you are already spreading your water consumption out during the day, try adding some salty, fatty foods to your diet. Olives are a good example, or avocado with a sprinkle of sea salt. Salt and fat are important for helping your body hold on to water.

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