Drink More Water

We have all heard that human beings are made up primarily of water and that we need to be drinking 8-10 8-oz glasses of water daily for our health.  Drinking water sounds so simple, but how many of us actually know how much water we drink or whether we are meeting our needs for hydration?  In my practice, dehydration due to not drinking enough water is probably the biggest health issue I see with my clients.

Nearly all of our major body systems require water to work.  Water helps regulate our body temperature, lubricates our joints, flushes out waste products through our livers and kidneys, makes minerals and other nutrients available to the body, and carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells.  Drinking an adequate amount of water is especially important during pregnancy, labor and postpartum, where water plays additional roles in our well-being.

During pregnancy, the water you drink makes up the amniotic fluid that surrounds your baby.  If you are drinking enough water in a healthy pregnancy, the amniotic fluid should be fully replenished every 24 hours.  Moreover, dehydration in pregnancy is uncomfortable and dangerous.  It can cause nausea, constipation, urinary infections and dizziness and can even cause contractions leading to preterm labor.

Labor is serious work and drinking water during labor is important to provide sustenance and nourishment to you and your baby and prevent fatigue.  It is also good to continually flush out your bladder so that it does not impede the process of your baby’s head coming into the birth canal.  For many years, doctors’ groups have recommended only having ice chips during labor, but that is changing.  Studies have shown that eating and drinking during labor does not cause any medical concerns and is actually beneficial to laboring moms and fetal well being.  Now, most care providers at least allow mothers to have clear liquids during labor.

Water is key to the production of breast milk and a mother’s water intake should go up in the postpartum period.  But, it is easy to forget to drink water when you are a sleep deprived new mama, so I recommend keeping a large water bottle next to you throughout your day, especially during each feeding, to help replace some of the water that is leaving your body through the nursing process.

Here are some major signs of dehydration to look for:

1. Dark Urine – The absolute best way to determine if you are drinking enough water is to monitor your urine each day.  It should be light in color, clear and odor free.  If your urine is dark or smelly, drink more water.

2.  Chapped Lips – Chapped lips is a sign of chronic dehydration.  Don’t just treat chapped lips topically, but drink more water to treat them from the inside out.

3.  Constipation – Dry, hard stool is a sign of dehydration.

4.  Cramps – Muscle cramps can be greatly lessened with proper hydration.  If you wake up in the middle of the night with leg cramps or have heavy cramping during your period, drink more water.

5.  Excessive hunger – It goes without saying to drink when you are thirsty, but the body’s cues for hunger and thirst are very similar and can be easily confused.  I recommend having a full glass of water any time you feel hungry and at least an hour before every normal meal time.  If you eat a full nutritious meal and still feel hungry, maybe you are experiencing thirst rather than hunger.

6.  Unexplained fatigue – Obviously this can have many sources, but dehydration can cause fatigue and is one of the easiest factors to rule out.  Drink more water and see if your fatigue begins to fade.

So, now what?  Whether you just know that you should be drinking more water or have used the list above to discover signs that you are dehydrated, here are some strategies for drinking more water daily that have worked for me and my clients:

1.  Keep a water bottle on you at all times – If you have a water bottle that you are carrying around, you will see it and it will remind you to drink water.  How many times do you end up thirsty on a long drive or in the middle of a business meeting away from water sources?  Make sure you have water available to you at all times, by carrying around your own supply.  Also, be aware of using a safe and reusable water container by choosing a water bottle made from glass, stainless steel or BPA free plastic.

2.  Choose your beverages wisely – Minimize beverages that dehydrate you, such as those with excess sugar or caffeine.  Replace coffee, soda, alcoholic beverages and sugary fruit juices with water or herbal tea.  If you don’t like plain water, try sparkling.  If need be, you can add a small amount of fruit juice or herbal tea to your sparkling water for flavor.  Follow every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage that you do drink with an extra glass of water.

3.  Change your diet – Maximize your water intake from your food by eating lots of fruits and vegetables.  Soup is a great way to get extra hydration in the colder months.

4.  Measure your water intake – One option is to count the number of times you fill your water bottle daily.  Another is to keep a large container of water at your office, on your counter or in your refrigerator that you refill every day with the amount of water you should be drinking on a daily basis (ie 64 oz that can be parceled out throughout your day).  If you are trying to increase your daily water intake, measure for a few weeks or a month until you have created a routine and then you can be a little more casual with it.

There are tons of other strategies and you can also create your own.  My mother loves crushed ice and carries around a 12 oz container of it with her like a water bottle.  One client of mine keeps a daily liquid journal where she records her intake and output of liquids.  The bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter what strategies you use as long as you stay vigilant about giving yourself the hydration you need.  You will be amazed at how much better you feel.

Please feel free to comment and share any other hydration strategies that have worked for you.

 

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2 Responses to “Drink More Water”

  1. Lynn Franklin December 22, 2011 10:16 pm #

    Great encouraging article! I always feel better when I’ve been keeping well hydrated.

    I used to keep count of how many times I’d emptied my water bottle by putting a rubber band around it every time I refilled it. All during the day it was easy to see if I was keeping up with where I wanted to be.

    Bottoms up!

    • Becca December 22, 2011 10:30 pm #

      That’s a great idea!

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