There is no better time than the middle of the summer to discuss the importance of good hydration! I have been eagerly awaiting this post, as I knew that it would be an excellent reminder to myself of how and why to keep my hydration levels optimal. Guest poster Alison of Pennythoughts (soon to be WholesomeGoodness), always shares so eloquently and knowledgeably about health and nutrition issues, and this post is no exception!

Guest Post by Alison

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Every health-conscious person knows that proper hydration is essential for wellbeing. At 55 to 65% water, our bodies need the universal solvent for every conceivable function. We’ve heard this for years, of course, just as we’ve heard the eight-glasses-a-day mantra. But did you know that there is more to hydration than haphazardly downing 64 ounces of water every 24 hour period?

First, many alternative healthcare practitioners believe we need much more water than that. Beyond sheer volume, however, timing and quality matter too. Here are a few ways to keep your body running at its properly hydrated best.

Prioritize Morning Hydration

Because the body becomes dehydrated overnight, it is especially important to drink sufficient water in the morning. Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet, recommends drinking half of your minimum daily water intake by mid-morning.

Following the most recent formula of drinking half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day, this means that a 140 pound woman would aim for at least 4 to 5 cups of water by 10:00 a.m. (she would need a total of almost 9 cups, or 70 ounces, by the end of the day).

I find that observing this rule helps me tremendously. I feel less hungry and experience fewer headaches later in the day by drinking so much in the early morning. If I wait until I feel thirsty, which is usually sometime after lunch, I find I’m fighting an uphill battle to rehydrate my body.

Drinking this much water first thing in the morning doesn’t come naturally to me, but by writing a little note to myself, I can make sure it happens. I try to drink two cups of water immediately upon awakening. Then, I refill my glass and sip it as I go about my morning routine. I check up on my progress by keeping an eye on the time. Here are a few other ideas for boosting morning hydration:

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  • Wake up with warm, lemony water. About 15 to 30 minutes before breakfast, squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon into a mug of warm water. Not only will this combination delight your taste buds, making it infinitely easier to drink water when you may not feel thirsty, it can help you have a morning bowel movement by stimulating peristalsis, prepare your digestive system for food, and help alkalize the body (again, very important in the mornings because the body becomes more acidic overnight). This practice is recommended by many health gurus. I love it! I use a large mug, so I can get an extra 12 ounces of water in the morning with this simple and delicious step.
  • Eat leftover soup for breakfast. A light vegetable or miso soup works beautifully in the morning alongside eggs, homemade turkey sausage, or, if you can digest it easily, a grain porridge. My favorite breakfast soups include Tarragon Carrot Cauliflower Soup, EZ Traditional Miso Soup, and my own Garden Green Vegetable Soup. Although eating soup does not replace drinking pure water, it does boost morning hydration.
  • Drink herbal or rooibos tea. Herbal teas offer many health benefits and make your water taste delicious, though they do not contain antioxidants. Rooibos tea (pronounced roy-boss), relatively new to North America, is not only naturally caffeine free, it contains even more antioxidants than green and white tea. While black, green, and white tea’s antioxidant content makes them healthful, it is important to realize that the caffeine in these beverages is dehydrating. Thus, you should not rely on them for hydration, even if you drink them for other health reasons. If you have adrenal fatigue, the caffeine content of black, green, and white tea may completely outweigh its benefits for you. In that case, you have even more reasons to go rooibos. (For more information on rooibos tea, go here and here.)

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  • Avoid or limit coffee. Acid-forming and dehydrating, the ubiquitous morning beverage does your body few favors. Try drinking the aforementioned teas instead. Another option, though I have not yet tried it myself, is Teeccino, a caffeine-free, mineral-rich, alkalizing coffee substitute. I know several former coffee-drinkers who are very pleased with Teeccino’s taste. I have heard that the Mayan line most resembles a dark-roast coffee. Kat James highly recommends this product in her book, The Truth about Beauty. You can find Teeccino at Whole Foods and other health food stores, through co-ops, and online. I can’t wait to try it!

Prioritize Between-Meal Drinking

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One of the times not to drink large amounts of water is immediately before, during, or after a meal. Because water dilutes your digestive juices, overdoing it will render your digestion slower and less effective. This, in turn, impedes your body’s absorption of nutrients.

I know that mealtime is often the easiest time of day to drink water because it is right in front of you. For years, I drank the majority of my water with meals, partly out of ignorance and partly out of my lack of planning. The best way I have found to get my water intake between meals is to carry a water bottle or, if I am at home, to keep a large glass of water within my sight at all times.

Of course, if you’re feeling dehydrated, I think that it’s important to go ahead and drink plenty of water, even if it is at mealtime. When you have choice, though, do try to avoid drinking lots of water with your food.

Prioritize Water Quality

A number of factors can influence the quality of the water you drink, including the water temperature, its source, and how you store it. Here are a few suggestions to make sure that you’re drinking the highest quality water:

  • Consider drinking your water at room temperature. It is widely believed in the alternative health community that cold water puts extra strain on the body. Many claim that, in particular, the liver suffers from cold water. I still drink cold water sometimes, but I do try to keep most of it room-temperature or warmer.
  • Avoid plain tap water, particularly if yours is fluoridated. You can choose from a variety of purification options at many price points. Although the more expensive filters, like the ones offered by Nikken (recommended by Kat James in The Truth about Beauty), may be most effective, it seems to me that any purification is better than no purification. Personally, I use the Aquasana countertop filter. Retailing at about $100 (U.S.), it is far more affordable than many other options and still offers impressive reduction of chlorine, lead, synthetic chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), cysts, and parasites. The water tastes better too! Of course, reverse osmosis and distilling systems are other options, with distillers creating the absolute cleanest water. But water quality entails more than purity. (For more about problems with fluoride, you can check out a previous post on the topic here.)
  • Don’t forget the importance of mineral content. Distilling water removes not only the bad stuff, it strips the water’s beneficial mineral content too. Our bodies desperately need minerals, and our depleted soil and mineral-poor water have created mineral deficiencies in almost everyone. If you choose distilled water, add back some minerals. Many products exist for this purpose, like alkalizing mineral drops. Just ask an associate at your local health food store to point you in the right direction. If bottled water is more your style and you’re not afraid to shell out the cash, consider ordering Mountain Valley Spring water delivered to your door. Pure, rich in minerals, and available in glass bottles, this water is recommended by naturopaths, chiropractors, and holistic medical doctors everywhere.

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  • Store your water smartly. The very best way to store water is in glass or stainless steel as many plastic containers will leach toxins into their contents. For this reason, re-using bottled water bottles does not serve your health, even if it seems environmentally responsible. A better option might be to purify your own water at home and bring it with you in your own. If you choose to use polycarbonate bottles, like those made by Nalgene, do not place them in the dishwasher, but wash them by hand with a mild soap. Try not to leave them in a hot car either. These precautions will reduce the possibility of PBA leaching. Personally, I prefer stainless steel water bottles. While they are bit pricey, they are virtually indestructible and do not leach toxins. For a point-by-point comparison of two popular brands, Klean Kanteen and New Wave Enviro, you can check out this post.

Learning to prioritize morning hydration, between-meal drinking, and water quality have helped me tremendously in my pursuit of more vibrant health. I hope that some of these suggestions will be useful for you as well!

Alison is a wife (who still feels like a newlywed after a couple of years), an undergraduate student (who is eager to be done), the owner of two adorable dogs, and a future mother and homemaker extraordinaire. You can get to know her and receive much nutritional, health and cooking related inspiration at her blog, Pennythoughts.