Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Water, Just How Important Is It?

Recently a friend asked me my opinion about a water filtration system. As a wellness consultant, the topic of water comes up quite often. Since the second half of the radio show this week was concerning oral hygiene I chose water as the topic this week.

Without oxygen, we can only live for a few minutes. Without water, life is only sustainable for a few days. Food, on the other hand, is something we can live without for a few weeks. In that context, water is the second most important component to life, and yet we often neglect to focus on our need to stay properly hydrated. For many, it is simply ignorance. We don't know what we don't know. Most people think they know based on what they have been told. Sadly, we have been taught incorrect information in many areas for the past 30-40 years. Water consumption happens to be one of those misconceptions.

Everybody knows we should be drinking eight 8 oz glasses of water a day, right? What if I told you that was way off base for most people? Somehow, it was determined that we could arbitrarily drink a standard amount, regardless of our weight or body composition. Somehow, we've been led to believe that a person weighing 50 pounds needs to consume the same amount of water as a person weighing 300 pounds. Let's bring common sense into the picture for a moment before I share with you the "formula" for determining how much water you need.

Our bodies are at least 75% water. Is 75% of 50 even remotely close to 75% of 300? Would it stand to reason that maybe our generic rule isn't really applicable in the real world? The simple formula to use is to drink .5 ounces for every pound of body weight. For example, a 200lb person should drink 100 ounces of water per day. It is important to understand that we are talking about WATER here, and not liquids. Drinks containing caffeine will actually dehydrate instead of rehydrate, so if you are a caffeine consumer, you will need to add to your calculations. I suggest that you not only drink half your body weight (times ounces) but also match your other liquid consumption ounce for ounce. In other words, if you drink 12 ounces of coffee per day, and another 20 ounces of tea, you need to add another 32 ounces of water to the formula above. For our hypothetical person above, that would mean 132 ounces, or just a little over a gallon per day.

Most people say, "Wow, that's a lot of water! How can I ever drink that much?!" Amazingly, it really isn't that difficult! It helps to have a way to pre-measure, or measure as you go. Get yourself a BPA free water bottle and calculate how many you'll have to drink to meet your quota for the day. Some people like to pre-measure their water into a pitcher and keep it in the refrigerator. Another way to be sure you get your water in is to play games with yourself. Make yourself drink so much before each meal, and pour up a glass every time you think you are hungry. Interestingly, most people will find that they weren't really hungry at all. Our signals have gotten so mixed up that we often mistake thirst for hunger. Keep your water bottle with you at all times, and sip on water throughout the day.

It is important to note that the KIND of water you consume is just as important as consuming it. Not all water is safe. Not all water bottles are good for you. As you begin to transition to healthier living, you need to transition away from mindlessly making choices without considering whether or not those choices will affect your health. We have been using plastics for years without questioning their safety. It has only been recently that there have been studies conducted to see if plastics are a part of the overlying problem with chronic conditions and illnesses. If you visit plastics.org you will be sure to find numerous articles claiming that safety has been established. However, you can also find research that indicates otherwise. BPA has become a buzz word in health circles. Marketing trends are following by labeling plastic containers as BPA free. Don't be fooled into thinking that "BPA free" is synonymous with "safe" though. When you move away from the hard plastics containing BPA you enter the realm of soft plastics that are laden with other alarming chemicals that have been linked to a myriad of problems, including estrogen imbalance, and hormone linked cancers. My container of choice would be glass, with stainless steel coming in second. If you have to use a plastic bottle, purchase a BPA free hard plastic bottle that you can fill from the tap and reuse. If you want some reference articles to consider you can read about BPA here, and what Consumer Reports has to say in this article. For more info on the softer plastics check this out.

Other reasons not to use bottled water would be cost (conservatively $7 per gallon) and pollution. Think of how many millions of water bottles litter the landfills! A simple way to do our part would be to use the money we would spend on bottle water and invest in a good water filtration system that will remove the chlorine and the fluoride from our drinking water. Even if you don't have a lot of money to put towards a filter, you could at the very least by a faucet filter that will remove some of the toxins. Most all of them remove chlorine. If you want to spend a little money for a top of the line filtration system you can buy a carafe from here that is inexpensive, and yet produces some of the purest water available. Reverse osmosis systems are good at removing a high percentage of contaminants from water, but they also deplete the minerals. Water filtration systems that create Hunza, clustered, ionized water are best, but also the most expensive. Distilled water should not be used regularly because there is evidence that it is so stripped of minerals that will actually cause the minerals to be depleted from your body. It is safe to use during a fast or cleanse, but not recommended as a constant water supply. Again, remember – do the best with what you have. Doing something is better than doing nothing!

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