By Dr Eric Berg
“Drink more water! Stay hydrated! Drink LOTS of water!”
It seems like pretty uncontroversial advice, and we hear it all the time, paired with promises of fat loss and toxin elimination. We even hear the specific tip- eight glasses of water a day- so often it’s practically unassailable. But that’s just the type of advice that is so important to question and examine. So is drinking plenty of water really the cure-all it’s made out to be?
Do you really need eight glasses a day?
Eight glasses (one glass=eight ounces, so sixty-four ounces) a day is the most common figure we hear for adequate hydration. Another little bit of water wisdom holds that your body weight in pounds, divided by two, is your magic number in ounces (For example: a 200 pound man should drink 100 ounces of water per day).
Neither of these is correct, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula or number that will tell you how much water you “need” to drink. Yes, the body needs water- of course!- and some bodies do need lots of it. Factors like your environment and activity levels are two major factors that will affect your body’s water needs. Universal figures and formulas are not reliable estimators of your own water needs.
Is the body really 60 per cent water?
Absolutely not. There is not a single ounce of pure water in your body. All the “water” in the body, all the fluid, is electrolyte fluid. Water is just one component of these fluids, and your body constantly works to maintain the proper balance of water, electrolytes, and minerals in these fluids. Drinking significantly more water than you need does nothing but tax this function of the body.
Does water flush out toxins?
There is no shortage of environmental toxins around us- pesticides, pollution, smoke, and drugs, just to name a few- and unfortunately, drinking more water isn’t going to eliminate them from your body any faster. Most of what we call toxins are fat soluble, and accumulate in fat. It would be nice if we could rinse out our insides the way we rinse the dishes, but getting extra water in your body has no impact on toxic or harmful elements that have found their way in.
Does drinking more water help to eliminate fat?
Go run a piece of fatty bacon under the tap. Is it still covered in fat? Of course it is! Water does exactly nothing to impact the state of the fat in your body. Nada, zip, zilch. And no, it also won’t make your body more effective at burning fat.
Does the body not know when it’s thirsty?
The body definitely knows when it is thirsty! The human body has whopping 52 perceptions like hunger, thirst, hot, and cold. I often hear people claiming that thirst is frequently mistaken for hunger, and that is, to put it bluntly, NONSENSE! Thirst and hunger are signals that alert you to different needs in your body. You can tell the difference, just like you can tell the difference between feeling overheated and feeling cold.
What could be wrong with drinking lots of water?
A few extra glasses of water per day aren’t going to cure all your ailments. In general, it isn’t going to hurt you either. If your body isn’t eliminating extra water effectively, it may make you feel bloated. But it can hurt and even kill you to drink too much water.
Believe it or not, excessive consumption of water can cause dehydration when the extra water causes an imbalance between water, electrolytes, and minerals in your body. Also mind that urine contains electrolytes, so those extra trips to the bathroom do represent some loss of electrolytes and minerals. But it gets worse.
Hyponatremia occurs when the sodium in the body is too diluted and can no longer regulate the amount of water that cells absorb. The sodium-starved cells swell with water, causing a litany of symptoms and problems ranging from confusion and headaches to coma or death. Yes, you read that right: drinking too much water can kill you!
Now that I’ve pulled the rug out from under you, here’s the unbelievably simple solution: drink when you’re thirsty. Your body, within reason, can adjust to varying levels of water intake. If you drink less water, your body won’t eliminate as much, and you’ll get thirsty. If you drink more water than you need, your body will eliminate the excess. In short, your body knows better than the conventional wisdom, and your water intake is probably fine (as long as you’re not thirsty!). So, don’t feel that you’re doing it wrong if you can’t count off sixty-four ounces per day. You probably don’t need it, and all those supposed benefits are misleading at best and dangerous at worst.
And if you have any questions or any successes you’d like to share, please let me know! I always love hearing from my readers
-Dr. Eric Berg DC
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