Water can be considered a necessary nutrient and many people may be deficient. You may know that your body is about 60% water, so that fact alone makes it important. Many people have heard that they should try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. That’s equal to 64 ounces a day, or half a gallon. We’re talking water here – not soda, coffee, tea, or juice. But, if you’re exercising and out and about in the hot summer sun, you’ll need to drink even more. The rule to follow is to drink until your urine is clear and colorless, though more isn’t necessarily better. So if you’re drinking the “recommended” 8 glasses a day and you’re urinating dark yellow 2-3 times a day, you need to drink more.
Many people are not properly hydrated. This can obviously be because you don’t drink enough water, but it can also be because you’ll lose more water than what you normally should during a given day due to proper electrolyte status. If your adrenal gland function is low, then usually the hormone aldosterone is low too. This hormone helps you hang onto sodium, which in turn helps you retain water. So, low adrenal function means low aldosterone, which means low sodium and that equals dehydration. The solution here is to focus on treating the adrenals. This is especially true if you’re always running to the bathroom and the liquid seems to go right through you unabsorbed.
Low Sodium and Hydration
Low sodium diets can actually make you less hydrated and therefore are a reason why some people are dehydrated. This is actually pretty common. The RDA for sodium is 2 grams a day, which is equal to 1 teaspoon. This is actually a lot of sodium (salt), and hard for many to achieve if they’re not eating fast food, processed food, or canned food. These are, of course, all things you should not be eating (though canned food is okay in moderation), so using sea salt throughout the day is a very good idea – not just because it is an essential trace mineral, but it will help keep you from becoming dehydrated.
Water Quality and Health Benefits
Water quality is most important. Don’t drink your city water. My old elementary school eventually learned after many years that they had high levels of lead in their water. For high levels to suddenly show up, you can assume that there were “safe levels of lead” before that. You’ve got to protect yourself. Chlorinated and fluoridated water is just plain unhealthy. Most know the dangers of chlorine affecting the thyroid and the immune system. Fluoride is only a very trace essential nutrient no matter what some dentists want you to think. Most people get the natural fluoride they need for cavity protection every day in foods such as seafood, chicken, tea, and most natural drinking water sources. Fluoride has been shown to increase bone loss, impair thyroid function, and alter pancreatic/digestive enzymes.
Use either a bottled water company that you know is clean, or if you are looking for something more convenient and economic, use a reverse osmosis (RO) system. A RO system will clean up your city water and make it more pure than most bottled water. A typical RO system today goes for $200-$300. The carbon filters that you put over your faucet or fill and put in your refrigerator are the bare bones minimum. Yes, they’re better than nothing, but not by much. Houses with acidic water and copper piping will pull that copper into the water and consuming this mineral over time can cause health problems. A RO system will get take care of this for you, and most everything else except for radon and perhaps some infectious substances such as certain parasites.
If you’re on a well, have the water analyzed. You may actually be lucky enough to not need anything except for a sediment filter. Buy the correct filters or filtration systems based off what is in your water, not what your neighbor has. Most wells need a softener due to hard water and iron and manganese content. If your softener uses a lot of salt, it is a good idea to have your drinking water run through a RO system to get the high sodium level (as well as other compounds) out before you drink it. I personally have used and like these test kits for city and well water: Water Test Kits
Sarah G says
Is there truly any need for electrolyte replacement drinks (like Gatorade) for after a sweaty workout/soccer practice, etc.? If so, do you have a recommendation for a healthy Gatorade-alternative?
After training well over an hour, especially in the heat, they are typically advised. It depends on your sweat rate too. Gatorade has a healthier version out now – I forget the name but saw it at Whole Foods, and there are some out there w/o artificial flavors and stuff like sucralose. Check bike shops and on-line stores. I discuss this more over at sock-doc. Check it out!
Mike S says
I’ve been researching RO systems and have read that they actually make the water more acidic, so now they offer products to make it alkaline or “ionized”. What is your opinion on the pH and ORP values of drinking water and their affect on our health?
There is a lot of people who say RO systems are terrible because they deplete the water of all minerals and therefore when you drink that water you’ll leach minerals from your body, and that’s not good. I’ve never experienced this or have seen this in any of my patients who use RO systems. Though unfortunately RO systems will pull out beneficial minerals such as zinc, calcium, manganese, and others, along with lead, arsenic and other harmful metals, I personally don’t feel we should be getting our minerals from water. A healthy person should not/will not pull minerals from their tissues when consuming mineral-devoid water. Some RO manufacturers now have a “mineral filter” that replaces some of these lost minerals, but I’ve looked at them and haven’t been impressed by their content. I also haven’t been impressed by the many systems that claim to increase alkalinity.
Susan Metzger says
Since you mentioned well water…my brother tells me that he can’t drink water because it goes right through him. He also consumes his tap water for everything else made with it. He works hard every day with many horses but hardly ever sweats. Any thoughts on this?
Test the water – see what’s in it! I use this test: http://www.cleanwaterstore.com/certified-tests.html#item=L1003600&tab=tab1