Nutrition as Self-care Part 2: Hydration

Last month I introduced the idea of nutrition as a form of self-care, Today I’d like to talk about another aspect of nutrition to think of as self-care: hydration. I’m sure you know it’s important to be hydrated, but many people only think about it when they’re sick, exercising, or when it’s hot out and they’re sweating. Now that it’s Fall and the temperature is dropping, are you paying attention to your hydration? No matter what the weather, staying hydrated is a great way to practice self-care through nutrition.

Our bodies need to be properly hydrated to run optimally. More than half of our body is made up of water – it is found in all of our cells, and between cells as well, and our bodies need a certain amount of fluid for everyday functioning – things like regulating body temperature, digestion, nutrient absorption, and flushing out waste all require water.

When our body uses or loses more fluid than it takes in, we get dehydrated. People worry about extreme dehydration because it can cause serious health issues and can even be deadly. But many vague symptoms can result from mild dehydration, like:

  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramping
  • Impaired physical performance
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin

Basically, if you’re dehydrated, you’re not going to feel your best. And when you’re not feeling your best, it’s harder to do all the things you need to do. I hope you can see why proper hydration is a form of self-care.

The common rule of thumb is to drink 8, 8 oz glasses of water a day, which is half a gallon or approximately 2 liters. This is a good starting point, but nutrition and health experts agree that everyone’s needs are different. The best way to know if enough is going in, is to monitor what’s coming out.

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Urine who?
Urine trouble if you don’t stay hydrated!
Okay, I had to acknowledge the awkward pee conversations ahead ;-)

In general, most people who are properly hydrated should have to urinate every 2-3 hours and have clear to pale yellow urine (but keep in mind that certain medications or supplements can alter the color even if you’re well hydrated.)

Although water is a great way to hydrate, it’s not the only way! Here are some other ways to meet your hydration goal:

  • Flavored sparkling water or seltzer
  • Hot or iced herbal tea
  • Water infused with fruits, vegetables and/or herbs
  • Diluted sweet drinks like juice or lemonade (watering these down gives you some of the taste with less sugar)
  • Milk and milk alternatives
  • Foods that contain moisture, like fruits, vegetables, cooked grains like pasta, and soup

Keep in mind, most drinks count toward your fluid intake. Those containing caffeine do zap a little fluid from your body, so you need a little extra fluid to make up for that. Drinks containing alcohol zap a significant amount of fluid, so don’t count those toward your fluid needs.

If you think you aren’t taking in enough fluid most days, here’s one easy thing you can do: Drink ONE more bottle of water or other beverage each day.

Find a reusable water bottle or cup that you like and bring it everywhere you go. Pick one that you find to be pretty, or one you like because it’s sturdy and durable. Or maybe you like it because you think that drinks taste better out of it. The key is to find one that you like, so you’re more likely to use it. Carrying a favorite water bottle with you everywhere serves as an easy reminder to drink more.

Once you’ve gotten used to drinking that one extra bottle a day, assess your overall fluid intake. Besides monitoring what’s coming out, pay attention to how you feel: do you feel more energized? Is your digestive system running more smoothly? Any change in headaches or brain fog? How is your skin? Remember, signs of mild dehydration can be subtle, but you may find that those little symptoms have resolved. But if you still need more, try adding a second bottle each day. When that’s a habit, add more until you reach a point where you’re regularly well hydrated.

Remember, being well hydrated can help you feel better. And when you feel better, it’s easier to do all the things you need and want to do. So take care of yourself and hydrate!

Key Takeaways:

  1. Hydration is a great way to practice self-care through nutrition.
  2. Our bodies need to be properly hydrated to work optimally.
  3. Start with ONE – One more bottle of water or other beverage each day.
  4. Carrying a favorite water bottle with you reminds you to drink more.

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