Free-flowing water is crucial for the survival of every living species on the planet. Our Earth is made up of 70 percent water – just a little more than the human brain, which floats at 70 percent. It’s the most abundant substance in the body. This vital liquid accounts for 60 percent of an adult’s body weight. And yet, “Dehydration is the mother of all epidemics and it’s the first step we need to take in addressing chronic disease,” says Dana Cohen, MD, co-author, with cultural anthropologist Gina Bria, of Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration.
In Ayurveda, dehydration is seen as an excess of Vata, the energy of air and space elements, which affect our cognitive abilities, digestion and physical stamina. Additionally, we’re in the throes of the Vata season right now, when our environment becomes drier, windier, and colder forcing us into climate-controlled, heated and often arid, poorly ventilated indoor environments – all combined, dehydrating us, inside and out. These indoor environments can be significantly drier and less oxygenated than outdoors.
Riding in any kind of enclosed environment--cars, planes--also takes its toll. These drying influences, among others, can greatly impact our mind-body health. Add to this that we often take in compromised water that our body tissues don’t absorb well, and too many diuretics like coffee and tea. We’re often out of touch with our thirst or ignore it, we’re not moving enough and circulating fluid throughout our cells. This can create a perfect storm for severe dehydration. Unmanaged stress can also deplete bodily fluids, which is where our mindfulness practice can stave off serious issues.
We’re surrounded by reminders to hydrate--from cute reusable water bottles to water stations--yet most Americans struggle to get enough. Most conservative estimates recommend about eight glasses per day, filled with eight ounces of water. Ayurvedic practice suggests ingesting hydrating and lubricating foods and beverages – including healthy fats/oils that keep us juicy inside, and plants with high water content, like celery, cucumber, kiwi, berries. Ayurveda also recommends regular abhyanga self-massages with oils to maintain optimal moisture, lubrication and emollience of our skin, which is our body’s protection from the elements.
In addition, an Ayurvedic practice seeks to minimize ice-cold water or beverages, because they diminish the “digestive fire,” which optimizes metabolism of our food. Iced drinks can also numb our taste buds, decreasing their ability to discriminate how much and what’s being eaten, and lessening our overall enjoyment of food.
When we first start paying attention to our hydration intake, sometimes we notice how amazingly little we actually consume. Again, remember to be mindful and make yourself accountable until optimal hydration becomes a glorious habit. You simply won’t believe how great this makes you feel!
* Please know that some health conditions require fluid restrictions, so check with your physician if you have questions regarding this.
For a marvelous TED talk with water scientist Gerald Pollack go to hydrationfoundation.org
For info on water-rich foods, Healthline.com
Ayurveda info at chopra.com