Summer in Maine is short, but so very sweet: beautiful weather, time for the beach or the lake, and gathering with friends. Because the winters can be long and harsh, we treasure every minute of summer in Maine and try to get outside as much as we can to soak in the sunshine (and the vitamin D!).
Many patients come to me at the clinic wondering what the best options are for staying hydrated. When you’re outside in warmer weather, it is even more important to ensure that you drink often and stay hydrated.
So what should you choose? Should you stick with bottled or tap water? What if you don’t like water?
I’d like to look at some of the options for optimal hydration and share a little about why hydration is so important to support your body through the summer heat and beyond.
Why We Need to Stay Hydrated
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, (and most all of my patients have at some point in time!), you know that it is often not that hard to drop a few pounds when you first start and that your weight can fluctuate a few pounds on a daily basis. That’s because of changes in your body’s water levels and it’s why many say not to weigh yourself on a daily basis (or even at all) but rather to go by how your clothes fit and feel.
More than half our body weight is water and you lose water every day as you go to the bathroom and sweat. When you are active, or in higher temperatures even if you’re just sitting, you’ll lose even more water. You also lose water when you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, if you are on a diet, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or even if you are older. That’s because as we age, our brains are less sensitive to hydration levels and thirst signals are not as precise.
The water we lose must be replaced because our bodies need water to survive.
Every cell, tissue and organ requires water to perform their functions including joint lubrication, waste removal and maintaining your desired body temperature, to name a few. If you’re struggling with hormonal balance and having body temperature changes, it’s even more important not to exacerbate this by becoming dehydrated, as that will prevent your body from maintaining its proper temperature.
Are You Dehydrated? How Much Water Do You Really Need?
Many women come to the clinic with symptoms of sleeplessness, fatigue, headache, dizziness, lightheadedness, or confusion. While these are all common symptoms of hormonal imbalance, many of my patients are surprised to learn that these are also symptoms of dehydration!
In addition, dry mouth, no tears when crying, lighter than normal urine volume or urine that is dark yellow are also common signs of dehydration. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you’ll need to increase your fluid intake. If you do not have these common signs of dehydration, how do you know if you are well hydrated and how to determine much water do you need?
The old adage about water consumption has been that we need to drink 8 8-ounce glasses a day. That’s because back in 1945, when that recommendation was developed, the Food and Nutrition Board suggested 1 ml or 1/5 of a teaspoon of water for every calorie consumed. Since the average diet was about 1900 calories then, that worked out to 64 ounces a day.
Now the Institute of Medicine sets general water guidelines at 91 ounces, or 2.7 liters a day, for women and 125 ounces, or 3.7 liters, for men. But these guidelines include any and all liquids we drink, even coffee or soda, and the water found in foods we eat as well. They now say that most healthy people can get all the fluids they need from their regular food and drink without adding multiple extra glasses of water and that most importantly, thirst should be the guide.
Of course, some of my patients are transitioning off medications for depression, heart disease or stomach ulcers and these medications can disrupt your thirst signals. In addition, diabetes will disrupt thirst signals as well, so you cannot always rely solely on thirst.
I always tell my patients that liquid consumption, much like everything is, bio-individual: some people will need more, some less. One of the best ways to gauge your hydration level is still checking your urine: a well-hydrated body will have clear or light yellow urine. If yours is dark yellow or amber-colored, you are likely dehydrated.
What Is the Best Way to Stay Hydrated?
Because water is a foundation of the human body, drinking pure water is the best way to remain hydrated and to replace the water your body loses on a daily basis. But these days getting pure water is much harder than it should be. Tap water is often fluoridated, which can pose many health concerns including thyroid problems and cancers. (You can learn more about this in our article here.)
If you drink tap water, you will need to filter it. There are whole house filtration systems available that remove all the chemicals from your water, including your bath water and water from faucets. Since we absorb water through our skin as well, these are an excellent investment. Or you can choose to just filter the water from your kitchen sink. If that’s not possible, there are now water bottles with built in filters available that you could refill and keep with you throughout your day.
While bottled water is a convenient option, at our clinic we don’t recommend bottled water to our patients. In addition to the environmental concerns that massive amounts of plastic are posing, recent studies have shown that bottled water often contains many of the same chemicals as tap water, which can disrupt your endocrine system and cause health concerns. In addition, plastic bottles leach chemicals into the water when they are exposed to heat: even if you keep yours in a cool, dark place, it’s very likely they were exposed to heat in transit, in the store or in a warehouse.
If water seems boring, try adding a slice or two of lemon, cucumber or another fruit to it to jazz it up. Keep a pitcher of fruit water handy in your fridge to make it convenient. While any liquid counts in terms of hydration, we don’t recommend soda or juice because of the high sugar content. (Diet soda poses numerous other health concerns and should always be avoided).
In addition, stay away from energy drinks, as they are usually high in caffeine and other stimulants such as ginseng, guarana or taurine. Most processed sports drinks are not much better. They contain very high levels of sugar, may contain caffeine, and often contain artificial dyes and ingredients that may pose health risks.
If you are going to be physically active outside in hot weather, though, it is important to replace the electrolytes your body will lose through excessive sweating. In that case, look for a natural water supplement to add to your filtered water. Ultima Replenisher makes an electrolyte drink powder that has no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. It comes in convenient single serve packs you can carry with you and simply add to your water if needed – my favorite is the lemonade flavor!
While I think people should mostly avoid caffeine, I’ve long maintained that a cup or two of coffee a day is fine. It’s even better if you choose to have it iced in the summer. Either way, it still contributes to your liquid intake. Same with tea: if it’s caffeinated, a cup or two a day, hot or iced, is fine. Green tea (which has lower caffeine) or herbal teas can be even more effective hydrators, especially over ice.
And don’t forget that the food you eat that contains water counts too: soups and broths, vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, watermelon and even lettuces all contain water as well.
Water Loss, Hormones and Vitamins
If you are losing more water than normal for any of the previously mentioned reasons, you’ll also want to pay extra attention to supporting your body by making sure you get the vitamins, minerals and co-factors needed for your body to remain in optimal health.
While it’s always a good idea to take a high-quality multi-vitamin, since we simply cannot get enough nutrition from our diets today given the way food is produced and marketed, it’s especially important if you are experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Symptoms like fatigue, hot flashes, anxiety, night sweats, digestive concerns, depression, or fuzzy thinking are your body’s way of telling you it needs extra help and support to get back on track. You don’t have to suffer. Our hormonal balance product has helped thousands of women to finally feel like themselves again – we can help you too!
Lifestyle changes in the summer months might also require you to provide your body with additional support. These might include if you are more active, as we often are in the summer; if you are outside in heat or other environmentally stressful situations; if you are exercising more or doing your usual routine in warmer temperatures than normal; if you are not sleeping as well at night due to warmer temperatures or because you are staying up later to fully enjoy every summer day and night; or if you are eating lighter because of the heat.
If any of those conditions or scenarios sounds like you, you can’t expect your body to perform optimally or heal itself without giving it the right support. With our stressful lives depleting our nutrients and our food supply unable to replenish them, you must take action to heal your body and restore hormonal balance if you want to live symptom-free.
You can feel better. But it won’t happen unless you make the decision to give your body the support it needs. By staying well hydrated, finding ways to reduce stress, making healthy nutrition choices, and taking high quality supplements when necessary, you can enjoy summer – and the rest of the year – to its fullest!
To learn more about our hormonal balance program including our high-quality pharmaceutical grade multi-vitamin, which has helped thousands of women to feel better and restore their health, click here.