Water: Are you getting enough?

Joint pain, headaches, low mood, dizziness, high blood pressure, digestive problems… these could be some of the many ways that your body is asking for more water.

For a lot of people, the sensation of thirst is one of the last signals that water is missing.  And many people have become tuned out even to thirst signals, so chronic lack of water becomes their normal way of being.

Are you getting enough?
Some of the reasons you might not be getting enough water include:

  • Too busy – when you’re at work and involved in a lot of mental activity, this can shut down your body awareness so you don’t notice sensations like thirst
  • Water not available – you might get the urge to drink, but don’t have water ready right there, so the signal to drink fades away
  • Don’t like water – it’s amazing, but a lot of people don’t like the taste or feeling of drinking water
  • Don’t have time to go to the loo – does this sound familiar:  you feel bad because you know you should be drinking more water, so you chug down three glasses at once, then have to keep running to the loo.  Eventually this wears thin and you drop back to low water intake again.

Water and your body 
The majority of your body weight is made up of water, and all of the vital chemical functions that keep you alive take place in a fluid environment.  Many toxic waste products are water-soluble and must be flushed out of the body to protect your cells and organs.  Water is life!

Once you get your water intake up to the right level for you, you should feel fresher, brighter and lighter.

How to get more 
Here are some tips to get your water intake up:

  • Drink filtered water – the basic recommendation is a simple filter jug from shops like Big W or Target.  Keep one at home and one at work if you can.  The filters are replaced every couple of months, which makes it quite economical.  Filtered water tastes much better than tap water and some of the undesirables such as chlorine and heavy metals are reduced or removed by the filter.
  • Flavour your water if you need to – you can use apple juice as you would use cordial – a splash of juice in a glass of water.  Start with the ratio of juice to water that suits your taste buds, and gradually over time use a little less juice and more water.  Train your tastebuds slowly so they don’t notice!
  • Always have water – if possible, get some stainless steel drinking bottles (these are better as they don’t leach toxins into the water like plastic can).  Keep them on your desk at work, by the bedside, in the car, in your bag – wherever you spend your time.  Fill them with fresh filtered water at the start of each day.  Make a habit of taking little sips often.
  • Build up slowly – to make sure that your kidneys are adapting to the increased water intake, please ensure that you gradually increase your water intake.  The body likes slow change – rapid change signals an emergency and puts the body into stress.  As you gradually increase your water intake, you should see a corresponding increase in urine output.  This is important as it shows that your kidneys are adapting.  Everything in excess is dangerous – including water – so you must see these signs that your kidneys are responding.  Over time, your body will adapt to being well hydrated and you won’t be rushing off to the loo so often.  Good hydration will become your normal state.
  • Seek medical advice – If you are on medication or have health problems, please ensure you consult with your doctor to ensure your dosages are correct as you become better hydrated, and discuss any particular concerns.
  • Never cold waterNEVER, ever drink water cold from the fridge or with ice in it.  Your body is about 37 degrees celcius, and this warmth is what we call Yang-Chi.  You are usually warmer than the surrounding air, and this warmth is created by your body and its biological processes.  By breathing and taking in food, your amazing body combusts these raw materials into movement, perception, consciousness and warmth.  When you take in something from the environment that’s much colder than your body, all you are doing is sucking this vital force away to warm it up before it can be useful.  All that hard work of filling your tank with this extraordinary vital force, and a cold drink is just like pulling the plug.  Don’t do it!!  Room temperature at least, please!!  (Tip: on a cold day, put a bit of boiling kettle water into your glass to bring the temperature up a bit)
  • Away from meals – Try not to drink water while you’re eating or directly after meals, as this weakens “digestive fire” in Chinese medicine
  • Get a regular “service” – if your digestive fire is not up to scratch then you might feel heavy, sodden or sick after drinking water.  It’s a great idea to get some acupuncture and perhaps some Chinese herbal medicine to strengthen your digestion – this should have the added bonus of improving other areas eg energy levels, muscular strength, concentration levels or quality of sleep.
  • Good drinksHerbal teas like peppermint, chamomile and rosehip DO count as water
  • Not so good drinksRegular tea, green tea and coffee DO NOT count as water, and in fact you can add them as a negative because they are diuretic which means they cause your body to remove water by creating extra urine.  Green tea is great for other reasons, but keep up the water as well.  Keep fruit juice to a minimum as it’s sugary.
  • Stress, polution, food additives, pesticides and herbicides, electromagnetic radiation – all of these are stressors and are toxic to the body.  Ensuring you have water flowing through your system means your body knows it can dispose of waste products regularly and quickly.  If water intake is sketchy or chronically low, the body must hoard toxic waste as the available fluids have to be used for vital cell and organ processes.

    How much is enough?
    The general rule is 8 glasses of water, or 2 litres, per day.  This will vary depending on your physical activity level, your health status, your toxic load and so on.  Follow the tips above to gradually increase your intake of fresh, clean water until you get to a point that works for you.

    Here is an easy way to get your “recommended daily intake“:

    • Drink two glasses of water first thing in the morning
    • Drink two glasses of water about half an hour before meals (eg while you’re preparing your meals)
    • Drink two glasses of water mid-morning and mid-afternoon

    This simple routine should see you getting 8-10 glasses of water a day (remember, a “glass” here means 250ml – a bit less than a middy/pot glass – a schooner glass is around 400ml).

    A word of caution if you’re having a lot of water – sometimes people get caught up on certain health messages and they can take it to extremes.  As with food and exercise, the right level for you is a comfortable middle ground.  If you have obessive feelings about water or are having many litres per day,  this might be a way of coping with underlying feelings of anxiety.  If you think this is the case, it would be a good idea to talk it over with a health professional that you trust.

    Also, one of the strengths of Chinese medicine is the foundational belief of “everything in moderation”.  Too much of a good thing is a bad idea, and in Chinese medicine too much water will damage your vital Yang-Chi and leave you feeling depleted and cold.  This is crucial in the case of conditions that can be linked to weak Yang-Chi, for example infertility, lower back pain, edema, congestive heart failure or some digestive problems.  It’s a good idea to discuss this with your Chinese medicine practitioner to find the level that’s perfect for you.

    Further advice
    If you’d like to find out how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you, please:

    This post is brought to you by Lois Nethery, acupuncturist and Chinese medicine herbalist at Ocean Acupuncture in Curl Curl on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

    Ocean Acupuncture is a natural medicine centre of independent health practitioners. The views expressed in this blog are the author’s only and do not necessarily reflect the views of the other Ocean Acupuncture practitioners.
    The information presented in this blog, and on the Ocean Acupuncture website, is for interest and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for health or medical information or advice. For health or medical advice, please consult your health professional.