Hydration Habits

What is the big deal about drinking “enough” water?

Water is present in every cell, between all of your cells, in your blood, and in almost every process in your body. It helps hydrate our skin, lubricate our joints, remove toxins and biproducts of metabolic activity in your cells, keeps our digestion moving, just to name a few things.

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Then what is “enough” water?

Water intake is best calculated on body weight. On average we need about the equivalent of our body weight in kg in oz per day. For example, a 62kg person needs about 8 glasses (assuming 8oz glass) per day. What’s the math on that? To make it simple, take weight in pounds (lbs) and divide by 2.2, that will give you approximately your weight in kilograms (kg). Then divide that weight by 8, as in a standard 8oz glass of water… or if you know your glasses are much smaller or larger, divide by the number of oz per glass that you are usually drinking.

What happens if we don’t get enough water?

When we don’t drink enough water, we get dehydrated. There are so many symptoms of dehydration that look like they could be a worse disease process, so always make sure you’re hydrating well enough. Just to name a few of the possible symptoms: dry skin, poor skin recoil, wrinkles, dark under eye area (wouldn’t drinking water be a lot cheaper than expensive creams or makeups?), constipation, foggy thinking, urinary frequency, muscle cramps and twitches, restless legs, and dizziness.

No, your coffee intake does NOT count towards your water intake.

What does count as towards your daily hydration target? Plain water, lemon water, herbal tea, and coconut water, which each may have different additional benefits for your body as well. Coffee, pop, and juice do not count towards your water intake.

Does drinking more water give you fear about having to pee too often?

Our trigger to urinate is actually driven by our hydration level. If you are dehydrated, you will get more frequent signals to urinate, especially at night. Yes, your body will have to adjust to drinking more water, so increase your amount slowly, but then you should find there is a decrease in your urge to urinate.

I’d love to think this is such a basic topic, but honestly, I have to have a discussion about water intake with at least 30-50% of my patients every single day, so this may just be a good reminder for you, or a revelation, depending where you are starting. If you’re only having 2 cups of water per day and you need 8, you’re probably going to take 6-8 weeks to get up to that intake with slow increases, and make it a habit to continue.

Digestion and Depression

Yes, we’re still here talking about Digestion.

Your gut health is central to the health of your whole body, and this is equally true for your brain health and mood balance.

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Wait, brain and mood balance are also regulated in the gut?

Mood via the gut is regulated through a few different pathways. First of all, not having enough of the beneficial bacteria in your gut has been linked to depression and anxiety symptoms. Changing the microbiome to a more beneficial balance has been shown to improve or resolve depression and anxiety. Secondly, nutrient absorption is dependent on overall gut health and depletion of nutrients can lead to mood or fatigue issues, because your body then struggles to build the hormones and signaling molecules it needs to regulate those functions. Third, inflammation in the gut, causes a change in nerve signaling to the brains that pushes the body into a constant state of low-grade stress, and ongoing stress causes mood imbalances leading to fatigue, depression, and anxiety. But that is a discussion for another day when we talking about HPA dysfunction and adrenal fatigue.

Yes, your mood is intricately connected with your gut health.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, we actually have more receptors and production of serotonin in the gut than we do in our brain! We know that the theory of low serotonin causing depression may not actually be correct, but if it is part of the issue in depression and anxiety, then it is important to know that the health of your gut has a significant impact on these levels and their signaling function.

So, helping the gut, helps your mood.

What is the best way to keep your gut healthy? You have to drop that highly processed junk food. Yep I mean the fast food, the chips, the sugars and syrups. I’m not saying that you can never had these things ever, but when they are making up a significant amount of your diet (be honest with yourself!), you are not feeding your body good nutrients, you’re killing the good bacteria in your gut, and you’re causing that ongoing low-grade inflammation and body stress. So, start adjusting what you’re consuming in order to eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, good quality fats, and adequate protein, and drink enough water!

The Best Diet

It’s just so hard to know what to do.

These days every time I blink there is a new diet fad to follow. Last year it was Paleo, this year it seems to be Keto. It seems that everyone is fighting over what is right…

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What is the best way to eat?

In reality there is no one way that is best for everyone. However, almost all options boil down to a main theme.

We need to have a focus on eating whole foods.

That means lots of vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds for good fats, and adequate protein from clean sources. If you choose to eat grains, make them whole grains instead of processed products like quick oats, or ‘brown bread’.

And keep sugar intake limited.

Also remember it is important not to starve your body, so make sure you are eating enough. When we eat this way, we keep things easy for our body by keeping blood sugar balanced, reducing chemicals it needs to process, and ensuring it gets all of the vitamins and minerals it needs to actually do its job each day.

Don’t give up.

I know it seems like a lot, but it’s not as hard as it might appear. It takes some planning, and a change in your shopping, but if you start with small steps, and replacing easy things, you’ll get there in no time at all.

Take advantage of my free meal plan, it will even give you a grocery list! Team up with a friend so that you, and your families, are all working on it together. A partner for accountability skyrockets the potential for success.

Stress and Digestion

Stress has a Negative effect on your digestion.

As I’ve mentioned before, your digestive tract has to be a in a state of relaxation in order to digest food. Why is this? Because when you are in a sympathetic, or stress state, our body is set to feed blood and nerve innervation to the systems that would give you the ability to run away from a threat. You do not need to digest to do that, in fact digesting would slow you down.

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It really is True.

So, when you are stressed (and it doesn’t have to be from being chased by a tiger), you shunt blood flow away from the digestive tract and slow down peristalsis, the muscular wave that moves food through your intestines. It also prevents stomach emptying, which can lead to more indigestion or abnormal fullness after eating.

We all want our digestion to be symptom free.

At the level of the tissues themselves, you will reduce the production of amount of protective mucus you form, which can lead to gastritis, which is an inflammation in the lining of the stomach, and secondarily to ulcer formation, which is a severe inflammation of the lining which also hosts the H pylori bacterial infection.

If something is wrong with digestion, then you’re not absorbing properly.

Along with this process you decrease your stomach acid production, which means your food isn’t digested as well, triggers for more digestive enzyme release doesn’t happen, bacterial growth isn’t inhibited in the right areas, and you can also develop acid reflux.

Acid Reflux is a sign of poor digestion.

Reflux can happen because the sphincter at the bottom of your esophagus doesn’t close tightly enough, and the trigger for it to close is actually having enough stomach acid! I’ll leave a longer discussion about acid reflux for another day though.

Good Digestion

Alright, it’s time to talk about something really important.

Something no one really wants to talk about…

Your digestive health. Why is it so important? Because so many of your body systems are regulated through what is happening in the gut, or by what your gut absorbs, that the health of your digestive tract is central to your health overall. Before we start figuring out how to fix the issues with digestion, what does good digestion even look like? Every day in practice I see a number of people who tell me their digestion is great, but when I ask further questions I find there are a number of things going on, that they just assumed were normal!

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What does good digestion actually mean?

Simply – we eat our food, we digest it, and then we eliminate.

Okay, let’s get really descriptive…

We don’t have heartburn or burping. We don’t feel abnormally full or have indigestion after a meal. We don’t get stomach aches, pains, or cramps. We don’t have excessive gas, or bloating. And we don’t have constipation or diarrhea.

What do healthy bowel movements look like?

Healthy bowel movements happen 1-3 times per day, and are well formed, usually a banana shape and size, and easy to pass. We don’t have to strain, they aren’t small hard pieces, and we don’t have urging that sends us running to the bathroom, or stools that are very loose or watery. We don’t see any blood, mucus, or undigested food in those stools either. Go on, have a look next time. As the health of your digestion is central to the health of your body, you should know what’s coming out, as it is the first step to figuring out what needs to be addressed.

One thing to help digestion – be in a state of relaxation.

Make time to sit down at the table for every meal, at a table that is clear and uncluttered. You might even consider lighting some candles, and then try to sit for at least 20 minutes afterward to allow your body to digest. We have to be relaxed (parasympathetic mode, not sympathetic fight or flight mode) in order to physiologically be able to digest, and therefor absorb, properly.

Addressed the basics, but there is still something going on? Watch for more posts to guide you, or consider getting some individualized help or joining a more specific group program. If you haven’t already, make sure you are signed up for emails, and get a free 6 day meal plan, Eating for Happiness, when you sign up. 

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