Around the Island

Here’s to lots of water

This is one of an occasional series of articles by Ms. Sherman, a registered nurse with an interest in natural foods and wellness and the “new super foods” that naturally and nutritionally maintain health. Ms. Sherman is the owner of Greeny’s, a natural food market on the Island. 

The information in her articles is for general interest and is not intended to replace medical advice or attention.

I spoke at the Women’s Club last month about the importance of hydration. Since then I have been asked about it repeatedly. After telling my spiel several times, I decided to make it the topic of this month’s article.

While working as a home health care nurse, I had the opportunity to meet with many of Shelter Island’s seniors. I talked with them about their medications and noticed that the only time a lot of them drank anything was when taking those medications.

When I asked about their daily intake of water, I usually got the same response. “I get plenty of water in my coffee (tea),” or “I drink orange juice with breakfast.” What I found was that most didn’t realize that they were dehydrated. The next comment I usually received was, “I don’t get thirsty, so I don’t need to drink.” 

So, here are the facts. Humans are made up of 70 percent water. Every cell in our body requires water for its daily function. When we don’t “change our water,” we are, in a sense, never changing our bath water when we bathe. The water our body holds onto gets stale, grey or cloudy. 

Picture it like this. Let’s say you were lost in the desert. There’s no water to be found. Your body would respond by holding onto all its old water. This can present as swollen ankles or your rings feeling tight. Now you have stumbled into an oasis. You dive into a pool of water, you drink it, it’s everywhere. Now your body is sure that if it lets go of all that old water, it will be replaced with new water. So your body lets go of that excess stored in your ankles, fingers and other places we can’t see. You are now well-hydrated and your body will expect you to continue to hydrate it. 

To keep the fresh water flowing, your body reminds you to continue to hydrate by giving you a sensation of thirst. But here’s the kicker. If you ignore your new-found sense of thirst, it will go away. This is your body leaving the oasis and entering the desert again. And nothing thrives in the desert.

One of the big concerns for the senior population is the statement: Eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Well, that’s a lot of water. I try to drink water whenever possible, but sometimes 64 ounces is out of reach for me too. What I suggest is this: if you drink no water, try adding a glass or two. If you drink a little water then try doubling it. You get the picture. Any increase is a bonus. 

The second big concern is getting out of bed to urinate in the middle of the night. This can be avoided if you stop drinking three hours before you actually go to bed. Most of that glorious new water will have been processed, so you shouldn’t have to get out of bed any more than your normal routine.

What is the benefit of being well hydrated? There are too many for me to list, but one is helping to keep lungs clear and open, especially when recovering from a respiratory infection. When we are well hydrated, the mucus in our lungs is pliable and we are able to cough it up. When we are dry (dehydrated), that mucus stays thick and sticky. When we cough, it sticks to our lungs, keeps us sick longer and even re-infects.

Hydration also affects the thickness of our blood. The thinner (better hydrated) our blood is, the less chance we have of abnormal clotting and the better our skin looks and feels. When the blood is thin, it is able to get into all those tiny blood vessels that nourish and oxygenate our skin.

To sum it up, when we are well hydrated, we look better, feel better and recover faster. I think water might just be the least expensive health and beauty treatment on the planet. Cheers!