Sunday, May 23, 2010

Water, water

Water, water, everywhere... (Image source here) We are told our body is between 60 and 70% water.  Our blood is mostly water, our cells, muscles, lungs and brain need water to function.  Water helps us to hydrate our body, carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells, removes toxins and waste, and protects our organs.  But the body is also constantly losing water - through urination, breathing, and sweat.  And when we lose more water than we can replenish, the body suffers from dehydration.

According to Dr. Google and, symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, daytime fatigue, constipation, lower back pain, and even chronic joint and muscle pain.  The skin dries out (read: you look older!), and a yellow or amber colour to your urine confirms the diagnosis.  I personally think that a lot of people suffer from mild dehydration without realizing it - and if you drink a lot of coffee and little water, you might be one of them!

I have become hyper-sensitive to dehydration.  I can tell when my headaches or moods are water related.  Drinking enough water not only clears my head but it helps me to be a nicer person to be around!  People also report that drinking enough water helps to relieve insomnia, curb overeating (Ayurveda tells us that at mealtimes the stomach should be 1/4 full of water, 1/2 full of food, and 1/4 empty), and keep their skin looking young and healthy.

Thirst, of course, is the most obvious symptom of dehydration but in fact, your body may need water long before you are thirsty!  So, how much water do we need to drink to stay hydrated?  [NB, about 20% of your daily water intake comes from food, but the rest we have to drink.]

Well, the answer depends on many factors including the climate, your diet, how much exercise you are doing, and how much you sweat.  Someone doing 90 minutes of sweaty exercise a day will need to replenish more fluids than someone mostly sedentary.  Also, if you eat a lot of salty food, or drink a lot of caffeine or alcohol, you will need to drink more water because these foods exacerbate dehydration.  Some sports drinks or 'enhanced water' drinks offer the additional advantage of including electrolytes that help to increase re-hydration.  But be careful, many of them also contain way too much sugar and other additives. offers this handy equation: Take your body weight in pounds, and divide that number in half.  That gives you the base number of ounces of water you should drink every day.   Then, add even more water if you exercise, live in an arid climate, or sweat a lot!  I did this calculation and it actually seems pretty accurate - according to the calc., I should drink about 65 oz, or 1.9 litres of water a day.  I reckon on an average day I drink between 2 and 4 litres, depending on how hot it is an my level of activity.

Some good tips from on staying hydrated:
  1. Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
  2. Drink fluids slowly by constantly sipping throughout the day.
  3. Don't drink caffeinated drinks or alcoholic beverages, which can actually have a dehydrating effect.
  4. When flying in an airplane, drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.
  5. Drink water before, during, and after exercise--slowly!
  6. Carry a water bottle whenever possible, especially when participating in outdoor activities in warm weather.

Finally, let's not forget: there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  Avoid trying to drink your entire daily intake of water all at once, and check with a doctor if you have any kidney problems or other issues that might affect your body's ability to absorb water.

So readers, what is your experience with hydration or dehydration? How much water do you drink a day?


  1. La Gitane, I could go on for a while about this one! I love water and crave it constantly! I think it's because I nurse Luna, and she nurses OFTEN. As soon as she latches on, I become thirsty. I'd be curious to find out just how much water she gets through me from nursing, that way I can do the math like you did and figure out whether I am drinking enough.

    I also drink only water most of the time -- no sodas, no juice, no milk, etc. I drink hot (decaf) tea a couple of time per day, but I find that if I drink caffeinated beverages, I get a headache (dehydration) and sugary beverages make me feel ill and shaky. I do like Kombucha now and then, but this also leaves me feeling tipsy (I'm assuming it's the alcohol from the fermentation). I'm just too sensitive to these things! I usually know when I need water as well; I'll get headaches or feel sluggish mid-day, and if I drink a glass or two of water, I'll feel much better and usually more energized. They say water is a cure-all, and I believe it :). Now that it's almost summer, I'll have to be especially careful with making sure both Luna and I stay hydrated.

    Speaking of water, I think that's how I got my stomach bug. Not from the water itself, but from a Sigg canteen I found at the thrift store. I don't think I cleaned it out well enough before filling it up with water and drinking from it. Some bacteria might have been lingering. Oh, well, one's gotta learn ;).

  2. I am hyper sensitive to dehydration too. I drink gallons and gallons of water and/or water with fresh lemon/ginger each day. I wish I didn't pee so much though. I'm sure my days could be more productive if I peed less.... (sorry, TMI???!!!)

  3. I am a chronic hydrator. I have never added up how many ounces I drink daily, but I drink at least 4 refills of my water bottle every day. I need to drink a full glass as soon as I wake up every morning or I feel lightheaded. Water is my friend! : )

    This combined with my small bladder means I'm in the bathroom a lot!

    I also cut all caffeine out of my diet almost a year ago and have been very happy ever since. Water is my drink of choice : )

  4. During Sunday afternoon frisbee on the beach in Dili we often wouldn't take a break for water. After 2 or more hours playing I would pretty frequently polish off a 2l bottle of water in about a minute before riding home and drinking another litre or two...

  5. @Shaktimama - Living in the tropics I know about water-borne illnesses oh so well. And in far greater detail than I care to share on the internet!! Glad you are better - keep sterilising!

    @Rachel - I KNOW, right?!! So inconvenient on long road trips, long yoga workshops, and at work when the bathroom is a 7 min walk away...

    @Jamie - See above, LOL. Good for you on cancelling out the caffeine! I still enjoy my one cup of local organic coffee in the morning.

    @John - Hey there! Where are you guys now anyway, Australia? I find I have to drink so much more in Dili than almost anywhere else as I sweat just by sitting still. I think I go through at least 3 1.5 litre bottles on a work day, not including what I drink at meals!

  6. Just discovered your blog :)
    I do hot yoga, and I can tell pretty quickly after I start class if i'm dehydrated- I pretty much instantly get a headache. I'm working on cutting back my caffiene intake- I recently made the switch from coffee to tea and will be cutting back completely over the next 5 weeks- I'm taking my yoga teacher training and we have to commit to be caffeine and alcohol free! Pretty smart I'd say since we'll be practicing in the heat twice a day- we won't need any help wong dehydrated!

  7. *Being dehydrated, not wong! iPhones type some wonky words lol!

  8. @Callah - thanks for stopping by! Caffeine and alcohol are huge for dehydration... I hope giving them up for a whle goes well for you!