Saturday, June 27, 2015


In my effort to wean myself from my favorite beverages, like coffee and wine, I've been focusing more on water.  I noticed that although I always had a cup of cool filtered water at my desk at work, since I retired, once I stop drinking my morning coffee or tea I drink little or no fluid until cocktail hour comes around.  No wonder it feels like time for a drink!  I decided to do a little research on water and how much I should be drinking.

Here is a long list of the good things water does in our bodies:

  • Transports nutrients in the body and enables the kidneys to flush out waste products
  • Helps regulate body temperature
  • Helps the heart pump blood more effectively
  • Aids in digestion
  • Energizes muscles.  Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue.
  • Keeps skin hydrated, plumping up the skin cells and making you look younger
  • Helps lessen achy joints and muscle cramps
  • Helps lessen congestion during colds or flu
  • Helps prevent kidney stones
  • About 70% to 80% of your brain tissue is water.  If you're dehydrated, your mind is stressed.
For more details see

So, how much water should I drink?

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), reported in Medical News Today, an adequate intake for men is approximately 13 cups (3 liters) a day. For women, an adequate intake is around 9 cups (2.2 liters).  Yikes! This is even more than the 8 8-oz glasses we were taught in health class!  Of course, all fluids count, not just water.  "Anything but alcohol", says Kaiser Permanente nephrologist Steven Guest, MD also an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University, in Medical News Today.  He says,  "Alcohol interferes with the brain and kidney communication and causes excess excretion of fluids which can then lead to dehydration."  Beverages containing caffeine are also less than ideal due to having diuretic properties, meaning that they cause the body to release water.

I counted up my fluids for a typical day - 7.5 cups, not too bad, but 3.25 of those were coffee.  I see I had better drink more water instead!

I learned it is possible to drink too much water.  This is called water intoxication and apparently it isn't very rare.  When your kidneys are unable to excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia.   It can happen to athletes who go overboard in drinking water to avoid dehydration, and also to young people who challenge each other to water drinking contests.  It is serious and can even be lethal.

 For myself, just increasing my water consumption by a few glasses seems good enough, but if you want to be more technical about it, here is an online hydration calculator, which computes your ideal amount of water based on your size and activity.

How important is it to filter my drinking water?

For many years I have kept a Brita pitcher in my refrigerator for drinking water, and I find it tastes much better than water straight from the tap.  However, I do fill the tea kettle, coffee pot and pots of cooking water from the tap.  There are many, many articles online about the importance of filtering water, and after reading some of them, I will hopefully be more patient about running coffee and cooking water through the Brita.  

Eating Well blog says standards for tap water are set by the EPA, however, there are many toxins found in drinking water that are not controlled by the EPA and can legally be present in any amount.  They recommend having your own tap water tested, and once you know what is present you can choose a filtering system effective against those particular toxins.  It's possible the Brita will do just fine.

 I can't possibly list here all the scary news I found, but here are a few items that made an impression.

This tip from Pure Water Services in New Zealand caught my eye because I used to live in a 100-year-old house, and my granddaughter lives in a fairly old home.

Very few water systems can remove lead. Lead may be a problem in older homes where lead solder was used to join copper pipes. If the water supply is acidic, it will eat away at the lead - and copper - overnight, so that your first water in the morning may hold high levels of both minerals. For this reason it is always a good practice to run the tap for a minute or so before using the filter first thing in the morning.

The Environmental Working Group makes a note about fluoridated water being harmful to babies' teeth, and says that the carbon filter of a Brita does not remove fluoride.  They suggest all water for babies' formula be made with water from a reverse-osmosis filter.

EWG also reminds us to change water filters on the recommended schedule.  A dirty filter can be worse than no filter at all, harboring bacteria as well as letting contaminants through.

I was especially shocked to hear there are a lot of hormones and drugs like Prozac and Viagra in ordinary drinking water!

Bottom line:  at my age I'm not going to do more than use the Brita pitcher, and perhaps now I'll use it for cooking and coffee too.  However, if I were raising young children and/or living in a home I planned to stay in for a few decades, I would look into getting the water tested and getting a full home system of some kind. 

 So, how am I going to drink more water?

Well, mainly I think it takes awareness.  I need to remember to go to the fridge and pour myself a nice cold glass of filtered water.  I'll be more likely to do that if I haven't had three or more large cups of coffee, so note to self:  cut back on coffee!  I did well drinking no coffee at all for the entire month of May.  That's a bit too drastic long-term, but I can go back to having a few coffee-free days each week.

Here are a few things I can do to make water seem more special:

Squeeze in a lemon wedge

Use my SodaStream to make sparkling water

Then add a few drops of raspberry or caramel or vanilla syrup 

Order a drink Mira introduced to me - sparkling lemonade - one-third lemonade and two-thirds club soda

Order San Pellegrino or Perrier and take it when we travel or visit friends

Order iced tea - unsweetened of course

Add a lot of ice to any other beverage.  Granted I shouldn't be drinking any Starbucks frappuccino, but at least with lots of ice is better than without! 

Carry my water bottle, filled from the Brita, and just drink it!

Water Tasting?

Did you know there are people who taste water like wine?  Here is an interesting article about Martin Reise, a water sommelier, certified by the German Water Trade Association, who holds water tastings.  It sounds like fun!


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