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Can Drinking Water make you healthier?

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Rather than highlight a powerhouse food this month, I wanted to take some time for perhaps the most vital part of the human diet – water. Our bodies are chock full of water – muscles are 75% water, blood is 82% water, your brain is 76% water, bones are 25% water, and lungs are 90% water! When dehydrated (even only a little bit) our bodies cannot function normally. We easily develop headaches, muscle aches, blood pressure problems, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and focusing, constipation, flushes of heat, muscle cramps, and a host of other problems.

The most common thing I tell my patients to do is to drink more water. Even when people think they are drinking plenty, they are often falling short. Take a day and really pay attention to how much you drink (not the size of the cup you carry – it doesn’t count until it’s in your belly!). The average person loses about 3-4 liters of fluid every day in sweat, urine, exhaled air and stool. That’s nearly a gallon every day. People who live in the hot, dry desert (like all of Arizona) lose even more. If you work outside, or are very active you lose even more! All of that water absolutely must be replaced if we are to lead healthy lives. The idea is to drink BEFORE you feel thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated.

When deciding how much water to drink, the basic rule of thumb has always been to drink ½ your body weight in ounces (ie. a 200 pound person should drink 100 oz/day). However, this doesn’t account for hot, dry living conditions, and exercise. For people in our climate I recommend tacking on at least another 20 oz to make up the difference. Love your coffee, tea and soda? These beverages are all diuretic in nature. That means that they actually cause you to lose more fluid than you take in! If you choose to have those things, tack on some extra ounces of water.

What counts as great water? Clean, pure water. Avoid the tap water in Arizona if you can, and opt instead for something that has been at least minimally filtered. Drinking exclusively bottled water unfortunately creates a lot of unnecessary waste in our landfills, so I recommend buying a refillable bottle, and carrying it with you everywhere, refilling it throughout the day.
If you are not used to drinking plenty of water, when you first begin this new practice, you will be running to the restroom quite a bit – stick with it, that will get better. Your goal is to have clear, odorless urine. The more yellow it becomes, or the darker it becomes, the more dehydrated you are. You will notice that the clearer your urine becomes, the better you will feel over time!
If you have known kidney, cardiac, or lung disease please consult your physician before making any drastic changes to your diet.

Flavoring Water
I personally think that clean water is the yummiest tasting thing around, but I know I’m in the minority! If you struggle with the taste (or lack thereof) of water, here are some healthy suggestions for adding flavor:

  • The old standby, a squeeze of lemon. Get crazy and make it lime or orange instead!
  • Fill a pitcher of water and add your favorite fruit or herbs and let it sit in the refrigerator – try watermelon and mint, or raspberry and blueberry, maybe sweet apple with spicy ginger. Adding these things adds flavor without adding calories or sugary sweeteners.
  • Add Emergen-C brand packets: these are flavored vitamin packets that fizzle and spritz, like Alka-Seltzer, but much tastier and much better for you.
  • Add Flavored Stevia packets: stevia is a calorie-free, 100% natural sweetener that has hit the markets in the last few years. There are flavored packets available so that you can stay away from the artificial sweeteners in things like Crystal Light.

How do you take your water? On the rocks? Chilled? With a little Lemon?

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