Now you must be thinking, what is there to learn about water? It is the most mindless work that we do after breathing. But, believe me, you cannot be farther from truth. As water is the most important component on earth (almost 70% of it is covered with water), it is the most important ingredient of our body as well (almost 70% of our body is made up of or should be made up of water). Not only should we be mindful about which water to drink, but also about when to drink and how much to drink. I am going to explain these in the next few paragraphs.
Water performs important functions like digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients and maintenance of body temperature. Water goes out of the body continuously due to skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health. When our water intake does not equal your output, we become dehydrated. Fluid losses increase in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults, whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.
How much to drink
It is generally advised that we must drink at least 8-12 glasses of water everyday to retain the correct level of fluids in our body. But this is a very rough estimate and the exact quantity will different person to person primarily as per his body weight and activity level.
A simple formula to remember to calculate the amount of water that you should drink every day is: Drink 1 litre of water for every 20 kgs of body weight. So, while a person weighing 60 kgs should drink 3 litres of water per day, someone weighing 100 kgs should be drinking 5 litres.
Another problem is measuring the amount of water that you have taken in a day as it is very easy to lose count of the number of glasses consumed. A very simple and practical solution is to have a large water bottle (2-4 lts) for personal consumption. Fill it everyday morning with the quantity that you are supposed to drink everyday and only you should drink water from that bottle. Before you go to sleep in the night the bottle should be empty. This is very simple and easy to follow.
One problem that some people face is in carrying this bottle outside home, as it can be bulky. This can be solved by having a smaller bottle (1 litre) and you can fill this bottle from you main bottle, when you are stepping outside your home. Drink water from that when you are outside and when you return, put the remaining water back in your main bottle.
It is very important to follow this as our tests have revealed that most of the people have 40-50% water content in their body. This is very low and a starting point of lot of illnesses.
When to drink
In order to maximise its effectiveness on our body, we should drink water regularly. A bottle of glass or water should be within your reach throughout the day. Though there is no specific schedule for drinking water and you should take few sips every half-an-hour to one-hour, it is important to be aware of few details:
Gap between food and water: As a thumb rule, there should be a gap of at least half an hour always between any solid food and water intake so that they both work independently and do not interfere with each other. Drink one-two glasses of water 30 minutes before a meal and an hour after the meal.
For centuries, modern science believed in drinking water immediately after a meal so that food was washed down with proper amount of water. This view is no longer valid because research has long established that water ingested immediately after a meal leads to dilution of the gastric juices, causing indigestion. It creates an unnecessary burden on the liver and pancreas to secrete more enzymes.
Our ancient Ayurveda had realised this thousands of years back. It mentions that water taken before meal is ‘amrut’ or divine nectar as it properly prepares the stomach by activating the digestive enzymes, leading to production of ample saliva and aiding in more efficient and faster digestion.
During the meal, intake of water dilutes the digestive juices being released to digest your food, thereby hindering them from breaking down food. This leads to indigestion. Drinking water with meals can also cause a surge in your insulin levels. The more insulin is released in to our blood stream, the higher the chances of us storing fat in our body.
Immediately after food tough, water is harmful and acts like a ‘poison’. It is like pouring icy water on a little campfire. If you drink water when your body is in the process of breaking down large chunks of your solid meal, it immediately dilutes the digestive enzymes. Your body has to work longer and harder to digest the food. And the colder the water, the greater the time it takes for food to digest
After waking up: Drink one to two glasses of water immediately after waking up to help activate your internal organs. The water will help to remove any toxins before your first meal of the day. It will be better if this water is lukewarm and you can also add lime and honey to it.
Before sleep Drink one to two glasses of water an hour before bedtime to replenish any fluid loss that can occur during the night and also aiding in cell renewal.
How to drink
You should always drink water sitting and never while standing. The notion of standing up and drinking water is closely related to the speed at which water is drunk. The two are interrelated and the speed of drinking the water is extremely essential. Standing up and drinking water accelerates the speed of drinking that water and this is when problems like arthritis and joint damage comes into play. When water is drunk rapidly, air goes inside the oesophagus and creates pressure, which leads to bone and joint degeneration, joint weakness and joint pain. Drinking at a fast rate may lead to lack of oxygen in the wind and food pipe, this could potentially give rise to heart problems and lung issues. Hence, water must be taken like air, slowly and steadily, while sitting.
What temperature to drink
If you ever visit south India states of Tamil Nadu or Kerala, you will normally find restaurants serving lukewarm water. Sometimes herbs or cumin seeds are also mixed to improve their health benefits on our body. Lukewarm water is always better because it both soothes and activates your digestive tract. Lukewarm water can dissolve and dissipate things you’ve eaten that your body might have had trouble digesting. It also helps your intestines to contract helping old waste trapped in your intestines to pass out of your body. It is also useful in removing the oil, fat, sugar deposited in our intestine during eating. If you cannot lie without cold water, then I will advise you to keep water in a mud pot and drink that. It is a naturally cold water and much better than the one artificially cooled in a refrigerator. Even then, first glass in the morning should ideally be lukewarm water with lemon and honey.
What type to drink
It is true that more than 90% of the diseases/infections start from the stomach and water is the biggest reason for that. Cooked food normally does not cause illness, unless it is stale or store unhygienically, as food cooked at high temperature kills all bacteria. You must drink fresh, flowing water. Never drink stagnant water. Unfortunately, you can directly drink water rivers and streams at very few places in India. So, most of us drink processed water (reverse osmosis, ultra violet treated, TDS controlled with added minerals).
Water dissolves the minerals present in the strata of soil it filters through in the case of ground water and, in the case of surface water, the minerals present in the soil over which it flows (rivers/streams) or over which it stands (lakes, ponds, reservoirs). The dissolved minerals in water are commonly referred to as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). The TDS content of any water is expressed in milligrams /litre (mg/l) or in parts per million (ppm). These units are equivalent. These minerals are very essential for our body and hence, should be present in required amounts for our benefit.
The mineral constituents of water are primarily compounds of Ca, Cl, K, Mg, Na, NO3, bicarbonates, and carbonates. Some dissolved solids are dangerous even in low quantities, like arsenic, fluorides and nitrates. Leaving aside the specific harmful chemicals, drinking water for human beings should contain some level of minerals (TDS), but these levels should not be excessive. Ideally, we should drink water that has TDS levels between 100 – 200 mg/L to ensure that we are getting required minerals through water, though water upt TDS levels of 500 mg/L is potable as per BIS 10500- 2012 standard.
The second thing to note is pH level of your water. The pH level is a number that measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is on a scale of 0 to 14. For example, something with a pH of 1 would be very acidic and probably burn through your skin! And something with a pH of 13 would be very alkaline. Anything with pH levels between 0 to less than 7 is called Acidic, 7 is neutral and more than 7 to 14 is called Alkaline.
Normal drinking water generally has a neutral pH of 7. Our tap water has an average pH level of 6.5 – 6.8 and bottled water has pH between 5.5 – 7 and hence are acidic. They are best avoided as they do not have any health benefit except for quenching your thirst.
Natural mineral water, found in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges, normally has a pH between 7.5 to 9.5, is alkaline and helps in neutralizing the acids in body. Alkaline water has these health benefits: anti-aging properties (via liquid antioxidants that absorb more quickly into the human body), immune system support, hydration, skin health, and other detoxifying properties, weight loss and cancer resistance. A simple method of making any water alkaline is to add few drops of lemon in it. That is why lemon has been given so much importance in our Ayurveda and we should consume in whichever form we like.
5 Tips to Help You Drink More
If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
1. Keep a water bottle with you always for your personal use. It will help you track the amount of water taken by you.
2. Don’t drink water. Sip it instead, every 20-30 minutes.
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
4. You can also have alternatives to water like coconut water, butter milk, fresh juices, milk, fruits like watermelon, muskmelon, cucumber, etc.
1. Water before food is like amrut, water with food is like medicine and water after food is like poison.
2. Take water half an hour before eating and one hour after eating.
3. Do not drink water while eating.
4. Our ancient scriptures say, ‘water should be eaten and food should be drunk’. It means that water should be taken in sips, similar to eating and food should be chewed so much, that it becomes liquid-like.
5. Do no drink water in standing position. Drink water slowly and steadily, in sitting position.