We are told that we need to drink a minimum of eight glasses of water daily, and more is even better. Some pundits recommend having large bottles of water next to us at all times to constantly sip from. The general rationale behind this practice is that water detoxifies and reduces inflammation. On the surface this appears to be a valid approach as most of us have some degree of toxicity or inflammation within us (in mind, body and spirit), though the main focus is that water is physically cleansing.
However, in line with many other trends of modern life, this has at its core a generic way of dealing with the issues of inflammation or toxicity. It is not based on the specific needs of the individual, and while on the surface nothing could be more innocuous or natural than drinking plenty of water, a deeper look reveals many issues with this habit.
Here are some potential issues:
- The amount of water that an individual needs on a daily basis is very much dependant on their daily diet. For example, if someone’s diet already includes a decent amount of “wet foods” (porridges, soups, stews, casseroles, and some fruits), naturally their fluid intake is higher than someone who is only eating sandwiches, fast food and pastas.
- People have different constitutions. Some have higher metabolism and run warmer, while others have a lower metabolism and run cooler. The latter would perhaps need less water, while the former more.
- People also have different levels of physical activity, meaning the level of perspiration and, therefore, water intake would be different.
- The main issue with drinking more water than our system needs is that, first and foremost, our kidneys will be working harder to expel the excess amount of water. We may convince ourselves that this is our body getting rid of toxins or inflammation, but in reality, we are actually stressing our kidneys and the adrenals that sit on top of them. Anything that stresses any organ of our body will, in time, impact the rest of the body, and, in particular the adrenals, which are our stress glands (fight or flight response).
- People often adhere so rigidly to high levels of water consumption that they also drink while eating meals. This will have very negative consequences on the digestive system as the excess water dilutes the stomach acid which then causes a whole array of gastrointestinal issues. It is, however, okay to have a small cup of herbal tea or warm water a little while after the meal is over.
- The effects of this trend are much worse if the water is cold in temperature. Cold drinks (and foods) energetically weaken the body.
As with any other aspect of health, hydration is a personal matter and we should not follow general guidelines that do not take into account individual needs. Instead, we need to develop good habits around drinking what we need. One of the best things to do is to start the day with one or two cups of warm water to flush the system and wake it up in preparation for the day’s digestive activities.
Drinking a lot of water throughout the day simply flushes the system and ultimately stresses the body. Instead, have a few full glasses of water and satiate your thirst all at once. When we water our plants, we do not give them a little bit at a time throughout the day. We water them and wait until the soil is dry before we water them again. If you over-water a plant, it will start looking unhealthy and eventually it will die. As with humans, different plants have different water needs; some plants need to be watered frequently while others can go for a few weeks at a time (though not humans!).
Similarly, animals gorge themselves on water and then go for long stretches without drinking until they are truly thirsty again. It is no different for humans; we need to drink a good amount if and when thirsty, then wait until our thirst returns.
The most efficient and healthy way for humans to hydrate, though, is through the “wet foods” concept: porridges, soups, stews, casseroles, and slow cooking. When foods are cooked in a watery medium, they soak up the water and when ingested, that water is slowly released into our gut and then picked up and assimilated by the cells of our body. This is the ultimate time-released hydration as it ensures the water is actually assimilated as opposed to going in one end and out the other. Through this assimilation, the inflammation in our cells is then reduced, our immunity boosted, and our longevity ensured.
While slow-cooked foods are generally more of a winter type of cooking, they can and should be consumed all year round. They can be rich and hearty in the winter, and lighter and watery in the summer.