Great news! The health food store down the street from you has just come out with an elixir, a potion, which they claim unlocks many of the mysteries of health.
Drink 64 ounces of our “Elixer” every day and you will think more clearly, feel more energetic, lose weight, elminate constipation, reduce urinary urgency, help your heart beat more regularly and efficiently, and reduce muscular and tendon injuries!!
With all these promises, one would pay a king’s ransom for this miracle elixir. The truth of the matter is that it is already available to us every day and is FREE. It comes out of the tap. It is H20, water. Does it really do all these things? Absolutely.
Improved cognition: Our brain cells, or neurons, depend on water to communicate with each other. When fully hydrated all connections of the brain are in sync and cognition is improved. We see patients every day who have some days when they are not on their “A-game” for unclear reasons- it often can be traced to lack of fluid intake during the previous day. Someone who is severely dehydrated can hallucinate and at the most severe stage slip into a coma and die.
One study showed that in young, healthy women even mild dehydration caused sleepiness, fatigue, low levels of vigor and alertness, increased confusion. Just imagine the effects it would have on chronically ill or elderly individuals, who already have a reduced sense of thirst and ability to gauge their own water intake, in addition to dealing with urinary symptoms that may cause them to self-restrict fluids to avoid accidents.
Weight loss: Drinking enough water each day decreases hunger and makes you feel full, hence you lose weight. Often our “hunger” is really “thirst” in disguise. If you are trying to lose weight, when you are hungry between meals, first drink 8oz of water and then listen to your body to see if you are truly still hungry.
Constipation: The colon has two primary functions, transport stool and absorption of water. Dietary and supplemental fiber is a the equivalent of a ‘dry sponge’. When it reaches the colon, if there is not enough water the sponge will absorb whatever is there, causing cramps and constipation. On the other hand an adequate intake of fluids will soften that ‘sponge’ and allow stool to move more regularly and with less straining.
Less urinary urgency: If the answer for feeling thirsty is to drink caffeinated beverages then the consequences are constantly feeling as if you have to urinate. Caffeine is an irritant to the lining of the bladder an actually shuts down the kidneys desire to reabsorb water. If the answer to feeling thirst is drinking water, the bladder will become distended and actually function more normally, often reducing the number of times you urinate daily.
Heart rhythm regularity: Dehydration is a proven etiology of irregular heartbeat from both atrial fibrillation and premature ventricular beats (PVCs). A full heart is a happy heart and is a source of energy.
Lower risk of muscle and tendon injury: If the entire body is dehydrated, the cartilage and tendons in your joints will desiccate and are much easier to tear or be injured.
THE MAGIC ELIXER, WATER, IS FREE and just might change your overall health for the better!
So where do you start? It is important to realize that our sense of thirst is a poor indicator of our hydration. We are not thirsty until we are already behind the 8-ball when it comes to being well-hydrated. So drink BEFORE you are thirsty. As we age, our sense of thirst diminishes even more, so for our elderly patients who have memory impairment it is imperative that they are reminded and encouraged to drink water throughout the day.
- Get a feeling for how much fluid (non-caffeinated) you drink daily – record for a few days to get an average intake of number of ounces/day. The ultimate goal is 8 – 8oz (64oz) glasses of non-caffeinated drinks each day, unless you have medical reasons to restrict (consult your physician). Another way to assess your hydration status is to check the color of your urine: dark yellow/tan would suggest you are dehydrated. Aim for light yellow.
- Add 2 glasses/day to your current intake– try a mug of steaming broth, decaffeinated tea or a protein shake. Soup, ice pops, lemonade and juice, and flavored sugar-free water are included. Filling a water pitcher or several water bottles to leave in the fridge in the morning, aiming to drink it by dinner is another way to remind yourself and your caregivers to encourage hydration.
- After a week of your new routine, add 1 glass/week to your intake until you reach goal.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get drinking!