Water is essential for life. You can only survive a few days without it. And being hydrated is essential for health. I could argue that water is the most essential nutrient of them all. Water is needed for every cell and function in your body.
Water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion. It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat. It helps to regulate your body temperature and helps maintain electrolyte (mineral) balance. And that's just a few of its roles.
Dehydration can impair mood and concentration, and contribute to headaches and dizziness. It can reduce your physical endurance, and increase the risk for kidney stones and constipation. Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke.
So, water is critical for life and health.
But, just as way too little water is life-threatening, so is way too much. As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balance be reached.
But, there are conflicting opinions as to how much water to drink. Is there a magic number for everyone? What counts toward water intake?
Let’s dive right in.
How much water do I need?
Once upon a time, there was a magic number called "8x8." This was the recommendation to drink eight-8 oz glasses of water every day; that's about 2 liters of water.
Over time, we've realized that imposing this external "one size fits all" rule may not be the best approach. Now, many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst. You don’t need to go overboard forcing down glasses of water when you’re not thirsty. Just pay attention to your thirst mechanism. We have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are. And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable. A good "rule of thumb" is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Therefore, if you weight 160 pounds, you should drink 80 ounces of water. And to make keeping track even easier, if you have a 20 ounce water bottle, you know you need to drink 4 of those!
Besides thirst, pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker.
There are a few other things to consider when evaluating your hydration status. If you’re sweating a lot, or are in a hot/humid climate drink more. Breastfeeding moms, elderly people, and people at risk of kidney stones need to drink more water too. So do people who experience vomiting and/or diarrhea, as both can quickly dehydrate our bodies.
No matter what, pay attention to your body’s subtle cues for water.
What counts toward my water intake?
Water is usually the best choice. If you're not drinking pure water, consider the effects that the other ingredients have on your body. Drinks containing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will have effects besides hydration. Sugar can mess with your blood sugar balance. Alcohol can make you feel "buzzed." And caffeine can keep you awake. Let's talk a bit more about caffeine for a second.
Caffeine is the infamous "dehydrator," right? Well, not so much. If you take high dose caffeine pills, then sure, they cause fluid loss. But the idea that coffee and tea don't count toward your water intake is an old myth. While caffeine may make you have to go to the bathroom more, that effect isn't strong enough to negate the hydrating effects of its water. Plus, if you're tolerant to it (i.e., regularly drink it) then the effect is even smaller. So, you don’t need to counteract your daily cup(s) of coffee and/or tea.
Also, many foods contain significant amounts of water. Especially fruits and vegetables like cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water, so they are good sources of hydration.
Everyone is different. Children, pregnant women, elderly people need more. Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea will also increase your short-term need for more water. The most important thing is to pay attention to your thirst. Other signs you need more water are dark urine, sweating, constipation, and kidney stones.
Water is your best source of fluids. But other liquids, including caffeinated ones, help too. Just consider the effects the other ingredients have on your health as well. And many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don't forget about them.
Let me know in the comments: What’s your favorite way to hydrate?
Recipe (Hydration): Tasty hydrating teas
You may not love the taste (or lack thereof) of plain water. One thing you can do is add some sliced or frozen fruit to your water. Since we learned that you could hydrate just as well with other water-containing beverages, here are some of my favorite herbal teas you can drink hot or cold.
Hot tea - Place tea bags in a pot (1 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey and slice of lemon, if desired. Serve.
Iced tea - Place tea bags in a pot (2 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey, if desired. Chill. Add ice to a glass and fill with cold tea.
Tip: Freeze berries in your ice cubes to make your iced tea more beautiful and nutritious.
Serve & enjoy!
Getting a common cold doesn’t have to be so… common. There are things you can do naturally to make getting sick less likely.
But, if you do happen to get sick, there are things you can also do to help support your body to fight it off.
Good hand hygiene and overall healthy habits can reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. And good nutrition can help your immune system fight off a cold quicker. Imagine your germ-fighting immune cells all hungry and tired, versus them being nourished and full of energy.
And that’s what this post is all about.
First I’ll give you some tips to reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. Then, I’ll let you in on some of my strategies to recover from that cold you may still get from time to time.
Natural tips to reduce your risk of sickness
Here are some great ideas to incorporate into your daily life to reduce your risk of getting sick.
1 - Wash your hands. A lot. Your hands can trap and transport all kinds of microbes that cause sickness. And I’m not just talking about colds here, but lots of different germs.
NOTE: Antibacterial soap is not recommended! Not only is it no more effective than regular soap and water, but it can contribute to antibiotic resistance.
2 - Get enough nutrients. I know this is way oversimplified, but I would be remiss to exclude it. Every cell in your body, including your immune cells, need enough of all the essential nutrients. The more nutrition you have, the better and stronger you will be, especially with vitamins A, C, and E. Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, sweet potato, and organ meats. Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers and citrus. Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
3 - Probiotic foods. Helping our health-promoting gut microbes with more of their probiotic friends is in order here to help keep the immune system strong. Try 1-2 servings/day of fermented foods and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kefir, and kombucha.
4 - Prebiotic foods. Feeding those friendly gut microbes their favourite foods can help them to grow and flourish. They love fibrous foods like onions, asparagus, berries, bananas, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and seeds. Aim for 2-3 servings/day.
5 - Get enough sleep. Did you know that our immune system cycles with our circadian system? When we sleep our immune cells produce antibodies to fight infections. Try to get at least 7 hours every single night, even when you're feeling great.
Natural tips to recover from that sickness
When you do get an infection, not only do you need more nutrients to fight it off, but your body also has a harder time absorbing and using the nutrients you take in. Sometimes this is because of reduced hunger, sometimes due to gastrointestinal reasons. Either way, nourishing your body is even more important. When you do get sick, make sure you are implementing tips 1-5 plus the tips below that are crucial for getting over a common cold.
6 - Drink lots of fluids. Being sick can be dehydrating. Fluids like water, chicken soup, and green tea are warm, hydrating comfort drinks. Chicken soup is a source of electrolytes, especially if homemade from a real chicken with lots of vegetables. Green tea has been shown to boost some of our immune cells, and this can help to better fight off the invading germ.
7 - Rest and recover. When your body is fighting an infection, it’s busy working hard for your health. Give it a break and relax while you’re feeling under the weather.
There are lots of things we can do to stay healthy and reduce infections naturally. Washing your hands is a proven way to reduce your risk. And staying healthy in all other ways helps a lot. Getting enough nutrition, eating probiotic and prebiotic foods, and getting enough sleep are key year round.
If you do get sick, keep up all of your good habits above, and make sure to add some warm, healthy fluids, and extra rest.
What do you do when you get sick? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Throat soothing): Honey Lemon Ginger Cough Drops
½ cup honey
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated ginger root
Put ingredients into a small saucepan.
Stir frequently until it becomes foamy. Be careful because the honey can burn easily.
Remove from heat and continue to stir until the foam reduces.
Put the saucepan back on the heat.
Repeat this until a candy thermometer reads 300F.
Drop a bit into a glass of ice water. If the mixture forms a hard, crunchy ball, it's ready! If not, keep stirring and heating for another minute or two and try with the ice water again.
Once a hard ball forms from a drop into the ice water, let the saucepan cool until the foam has reduced.
Drizzle the candy into a candy mold or onto oiled parchment paper.
Let cool at room temperature until the cough drops are hard.
Pop out of the mold or break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.
Tip: You can sprinkle them with vitamin C powder to keep them from sticking together.
Hormones are like chemical messengers, and govern nearly every cellular action in our body.
While very important, our sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are actually not essential for our survival.
They’re responsible for sexual functioning and fertility, as well as in more of a “beauty” capacity - keeping our skin, hair & nails vital and youthful looking.
On the other hand, stress hormones (like cortisol & epinephrine, also known as adrenaline) are critical to our survival because they synthesize proteins, maintain cellular electrolyte balance, regulate heartbeat and blood pressure, and transport glucose into our cells - essentially feeding our brain.
These hormones are so crucial, that in times of chronic stress, cortisol (the “hormone of stress”) will be made at the expense of sex hormones. No wonder we can start feeling whacked out at certain stages of life!
So what happens when hormones stop playing well together?
We can often experience a ripple effect, even when there’s a slight hiccup in hormone function.
Also, due to the fact that the interconnected nature of your endocrine system, one hormonal imbalance can lead to an additional one, causing multiple symptoms and overlapping health issues.
The 10 most common signs that you probably have a hormonal imbalance
Be sure to eat fresh over packaged foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and quality sources of free range and grass fed meats and eggs. Also, if tolerated - nuts, seeds, and legumes in moderation.
Grains and dairy may cause or exacerbate hormonal problems for some people.
Eat more good fats: Good fats are essential for hormonal health because sex hormones need fat as a building block - and your body can only use the ones you give it.
Opt for sources of good fats from whole foods, such as avocados, raw nuts & seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, real butter or ghee (grass fed preferable), wild-caught salmon, and free range eggs - yes, you can eat the yolks!
Exercise daily: Working out on a regular basis, engaging in resistance (or strength) training, and incorporating a specific workout called HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been proven to be especially beneficial for keeping our bodies AND our hormones fit.
Better sleep: getting deeper, more restorative sleep can be the key to supporting your hormones, above all other measures (but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other ones!)
Stress management & self-care: the truth is - stress can be devastating for hormonal health.
We need to equip ourselves to manage the stress and “business” of everyday life through the actions that bring back balance and wellbeing to our bodies AND our minds - like good nutrition, exercise and sleep!
Learn better coping mechanisms (like breathing techniques), practice mindfulness and be sure to engage in daily self-care.
Hormone-friendly Cho-Coco Fat Bombs
½ cup almond or other nut butter, no sugar-added (if nut-sensitive, use sesame tahini or sunflower seed butter)
½ cup virgin coconut oil
3 Tbs raw, unprocessed cacao powder
stevia, xylitol or monk fruit to sweeten to taste
silicone candy mould or mini-muffin pan
How to prepare:
Be mindful that each fat bomb is considered a full serving of fat - great for curbing the appetite, satisfying a sweet tooth and supporting your hormones with the building blocks they need!