The What, When and How much of drinking water


What is the adequate intake of water, what is the right quantity?

How do we know that we are taking in adequate quantity of water?

Warm water or cold water is good for our health, what is the best way to drink water, which is the best time to drink water?

Is plain water beneficial or detox water?

All the questions and more have been answered in this article

  • Around 8 glasses of water is enough for our body, this is over and above the water added by food and nutrients.
  • The best way to find the adequacy is to allow the thirst mechanism to guide you and also check the colour and output of urine.
  • The temperature of drinking water is seasonal, ayurveda believes, warm water helps to ignite the digestive fire and is more acceptable to the body.
  • The best time to drink water is during meals since water helps the food to digest, drinking before food causes weight loss and post meal water can cause obesity.
  • Plain water is the best when it comes to getting the maximum benefit, however those who do not like the taste of plain water can infuse it with lemon and other flavors, Fruit infused water does not contribute significantly to nutrition, it just makes plain water more tempting to drink,

 

How much water should we drink?

The intake of water depends on various factors like gender, age, environment and level of activity. It has been recommended to drink around 2-3 litres of water in a day for a healthy individual.

The requirement increases in the following situations/conditions1:

  1. Exercising for a long duration and in a hot and humid climate increases the need to consume more water.
  2. For people at higher altitudes, low level of oxygen causes more rapid breathing leading to loss of water through respiration increasing the need.
  3. For a person suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting or high fever, there is always a risk of dehydration and hence would require to consume more water to replace the loss.
  4. Irrespective of age, people should drink more water especially during summer as compared to other seasons.

 

How do you know whether you have adequate water intake

The best way to determine if you are having adequate quantity of water2 or not is by observing the colour of urine. If you get clear coloured urine and in sufficient quantity, the intake is sufficient. However dark coloured urine suggests concentrated urine and requires you to up your intake of water.

Other tests include1:

  • Armpit test: The armpit should always be wet, if dry indicated significant dehydration.
  • Urine output measure: One must pass urine once in eight hours. If not consult your doctor.

All patients with heart, kidney and liver disorders should talk to their doctor about the fluid and salt intake measures.

 

Temperature and time of drinking water

drinking water

There has been innumerable suggestions/advises on the media on when to drink water, whether to drink hot or cold water, but very little research has actually been done on this subject.

However, one thing is clear and has been advocated by the doctors everywhere, is, that one must be mindful when it comes to eating food or even drinking water.

When the water level goes down in our body, we automatically feel the thirst and the need to replenish our body. The thirst mechanism is the one which ensures that a person does not get dehydrated.

A study was done on rats15, to check when is the maximum need to drink water. For this purpose, the rats were given water and food in separate bowls. They were then observed. It was found that the rats drank maximum water during their meals which was contributed to the dry food given to them. This shows that eating food which has very less water content triggers the thirst mechanism.

Water taken during meals help the food to digest and absorb the nutrients like B vitamins which are water soluble.

Which means, a person who drinks water during meals will have a well balanced body. Drinking water before meals leads to weight loss whereas drinking water after meals can lead to obesity.

Ayurveda advises drinking water during meals which helps to aid in digestion and absorption.

 

Temperature of drinking water

It is advisable to drink a glass of warm water as soon as you wake up in an empty stomach. According to ayurveda, warm water increases the agni (digestive strength) and reduces kapha and Vata dosha. It cleanses the digestive system and the urinary bladder by removing the toxins

After a period of rest (sleep) and 7-8 hours of fasting, drinking a glass of warm water helps the digestive system to get ready for digesting the food.

Also the preference of drinking hot and cold water would be more seasonal. In winter, our body prefers warm water and fluids like soups and so on. Likewise in summer, cold water quenches the thirst and also preference for  fluids like buttermilk, coconut water, juices increases.

Ayurveda advises drinking of cold water for people suffering from exhaustion, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, heat stroke and other pitta dominant conditions.

Warm water is generally advised for people with cold and cough, low digestive strength, to relieve flatulence, hiccups, fever and other conditions with aggravated Vata.

Hence there are benefits to drinking both warm and cold water depending on the constitution of a person, season and also the underlying medical condition.

Quantity of drinking water - 8 glasses or close to 2 litres (increase according to physical activity and season)

Temperature of drinking water - warm

Time of drinking water - throughout the day when thirsty and during meals, avoid immediately before and after meals.

Type of drinking water - mostly plain water, herbs can be added to help in certain conditions like cold, cough, indigestion and so on.

 

Fruit infused water/Detox water/Super water

Fruit infused water

Give it any name, detox water is the water in which slices of fruits/vegetables or herbs are added to make it more healthy.  It can be slices of cucumber or lemon added to a jug of water or slices of oranges or apples. This way of drinking water has been gaining a lot of popularity for its so- called health benefits like removing toxins from the body, aiding in digestion, alkalising the body, help in losing weight and so on.

According to Dr. Arturo Olivera7, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Centerin Chicago, the health benefits attributed to detox water can largely be attributed to the water itself. “Although drinking infused water has some benefits and may seem more fun and appealing, the act of drinking water itself is what provides the greatest benefits,” says Dr. Olivera.

Since there is no available research to support the benefit of drinking detox water and neither is there any harm in doing so, one can opt for a detox water to help increase the water intake. Since it is low in calories and gives some amount of flavor to the plain water, it would be helpful especially to those individuals who find drinking plain water boring. Plus it is a better option than drinking beverages laden with lots of sugar and artificial colours and flavours.

 

Ayurvedic perspective to herb infused water

Herb infused water

In ayurveda, herb infused water is very commonly used as a medicine. In ayurveda, anupana is the liquid which is given along with medicine and to enhance the effect with the medicine.

Water is considered to be the best anupana. Water is the best medium to push the medicinal value of plants in the body.

Certain examples of herb infused water used for different conditions are -

  • Tulsi leaves extract + water - used for treating cough and cold
  • Coriander and cumin cold infusion - coriander and cumin seeds added to cold water, kept overnight and filtered, is useful in treating burning sensation and acidity. Cold infusions is used generally for pitta disorders.
  • Hot infusion of herbs - ginger, pepper,long pepper, long pepper root, Piper Cubeba, Leadwort – to treat digestive problems, carminative. Hot infusions are beneficial for Kapha and Vata disorders.

 


References

1 http://medind.nic.in/iaa/t12/i5/iaat12i5p609.pdf

2  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00913847.1992.11947519

7 https://www.ahchealthenews.com/2016/07/28/detox-water-healthier-regular-water/

15 https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpregu.00175.2004


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