The One Thing That Will Make Your Whole Life Better
Your day: You wake up, quickly get in the shower, get your kids up and ready (if you have them), boot it downstairs whip up a smoothie, grab your coffee (don’t forget that coffee!) and rush out the door. Lunch time comes on quickly, so you grab the healthiest thing you can (likely a salad, you’re all about healthy choices…well done!) and continue on with your day. Before you know it you are sitting down that evening and enjoying your much deserved glass of wine and taking your first deep breath.
This day repeats and repeats and repeats itself. You are exhausted all the time. You feel stiff and inflexible and you think it’s because you need to do even more Pilates classes (which could be true ;). Your brain doesn’t work as well as it used to and you attribute that to stress (which, again, could also be true) OR because you are getting older…I mean, your skin is even starting to sag and wrinkle in ways it never did before for crying out loud!
You’ve never considered that all of this could be because every day you neglect to do one simple thing:
DRINK MORE WATER.
Proper hydration is one of the most important nutritional components affecting our entire health.
An adequate daily intake of water helps us sustain our energy levels, keeps our joints and tissue hydrated and pliable, helps us deal with stress and wards of anxiety, keeps our brain working well, and gives our skin that plumpness that diminishes as we age, leaving wrinkles in its wake.
Your body runs on water. It regulates body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to and from cells, dissolves nutrients to make them more accessible to your body, offers cushioning for your joints and flushes out toxins. Water even generates stored energy in the body as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and guanosine triphosphate (GTP). It does this by osmotic flow of water through cellular membranes, which generates hydroelectric energy. Without this type of energy, we simply could not survive.
Studies have correlated dehydration, a state of excessive water loss in the body, as a factor in many chronic illnesses, including adult-onset diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cataracts, high blood pressure, colitis, high cholesterol, lupus, migraines, multiple sclerosis and kidney stones.
Proper hydration is also the most important nutritional factor affecting your fascia (the connective tissue that links one muscle to another). As solid as we like to think our bodies are, they are actually very fluid. Proper hydration keeps our fascia springy and allows nutrients and oxygen to be carried to the tissues, as well as metabolic wastes to transport away from the tissues for elimination.
Layers of properly hydrated fascia can easily glide across each other during physical exercise, due to glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), which are proteins in connective tissue. When the GAGs are lacking water, dehydrated fascia can get “stuck” causing fascial, or soft tissue, injuries. These injuries are far more commonly occurring than true muscular injuries. So in a Pilates class, when you are trying to get one part of your body to “wake up” or work in balance to another part of your body it’s more than likely dehydrated tissue that is the cause of the muscle imbalance you are trying to correct.
How Much Water Should Your Drink?
The standard wisdom of 8 glasses (64 ounces) a day is a decent general guide, but can be refined further. Factors such as our body size, diet, activity level and climate temperature all change our water requirements. For example, vigorous exercise and a hot climate will cause more water loss through sweat, therefore increasing hydration requirements. Additionally, in times of illness where a fever, vomiting or diarrhea are present, water will be lost at a higher than normal rate and will require additional replacement.
It should be noted that tea, coffee, juice and soda pop do not replace pure water. They are, in fact, diuretics, which means that they take out more liquid from the body than they put in it.
What About Electrolytes?
You may periodically hear people talking about needing to replenish their electrolytes in conjunction with hydration, but what exactly are electrolytes? They are minerals, including magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphate and chloride. They are vital to our body because these minerals stimulate nerve impulses, including your heartbeat and other muscular contraction, as well as maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure in your body.
We lose electrolytes through sweat and urine, while replacing them through our food and drinks. In order for electrolytes to function properly in the body, they need to be in a proper ratio or balance. Dehydration can cause electrolyte imbalance, usually leading to an excess of sodium.
The best way to maintain your electrolyte balance is to stay properly hydrated, focus on a “whole foods” (i.e. unprocessed) diet and incorporate good quality sea salt into your meals daily. While this last point regarding sea salt may seem counter-intuitive, it is important to distinguish between table salt, which is stripped of all nutrition and contains approximately 97-98% sodium, versus sea salt that is high in trace minerals beyond just sodium.
Can You Drink Too Much Water?
While the answer is yes, I say this with caution, as many of us do not drink nearly enough water currently and over-hydration is very rare. In fact, surveys have shown that almost half of North Americans drink only 1 to 2 glasses of water per day!
Five Facts on Hydration:
- Just 4% dehydration in your body will decrease energy levels by up to 30%
- Only 2% dehydration will decrease your mental alertness
- Your brain is made up of 76 – 80% water
- The average adult can lose up to 2 liters of water per day through elimination of body waste perspiration and breathing
- Recognition of thirst becomes less accurate as we age
Freydoon Batmanghelidj, “Your Body’s Many Cries For Water.” 3rd ed. Global Health Solutions
Elson Haas, “Staying Healthy with Nutrition.” Celestial Arts
Michael Murray & Joseph Pizzorno, “The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,” 3rd ed. Atria Paperback
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