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How Can This Ayurvedic Food Make You Feel Great?
Staying Hydrated: Ayurveda's Approach to the Essence of LifeWater is the essence of life. Without it you cannot go on living. In fact, the sheer volume of water on Earth is what makes this planet unique. But how much do you really need? And when is enough simply enough? Proper hydration is essential for health and thus a somewhat controversial topic. Although modern medicine claims that more water is better, the ancient Ayurvedic texts discourage drinking large amounts of water, and recommend a more individualized approach to fluid intake.
The average person loses 3-4 liters (about 10-15 cups) of fluid a day. This may seem like a lot, but when you consider that sweat, urine, breathing and bowel movements all contribute to loss of fluids, the numbers start to make sense. Water vapor in the breath alone is responsible for 1-2 liters of water loss a day. Exercise, illness and other factors can significantly increase the rate of water loss.
As your fluids drop, it causes blood volume and blood pressure to drop too. Once pressure drops below a certain threshold or the concentration of salt becomes too high in your body, your brain triggers thirst. That means a high salt diet could make you more thirsty. Swelling, inflammation, and water retention could also make you drink more water than normal. Absorption of fluids by dry foods like corn chips & granola bars could deplete fluid levels as well.
DehydrationDehydration can be the source of much dis-ease in the body. It can cause poor circulation, poor digestion, and fatigue. There are two types of dehydration, extracellular and intracellular. Extracellular dehydration is a result of the total amount of blood fluids dropping below a certain threshold. This type of dehydration happens outside and independently from the cells and is usually due to lack of fluid intake. Intracellular dehydration occurs when the concentration of sodium in the blood is too high, encouraging water migration out of cells due to osmotic pressure. This type of dehydration can be caused by an excess amount of sodium in the diet and a lack of electrolytes in the body.
You may be dehydrated if you notice one or more of these signs and symptoms:
What about my urine?
Dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration. Clear urine is either a sign of too much water or kidney flushing. When water and electrolytes are balanced, and the kidneys are functioning properly, the urine will be a light yellow color.
Water & Digestion
Adequate hydration is the essential ingredient that makes digestion work. Fluids form the backbone of digestion and water provides the medium for all enzymatic activity. Dehydration makes it impossible for your stomach to secrete the two-thirds of a liter of hydrochloric acid it needs to digest a meal. Drinking warm water 20-30 minutes before eating can improve digestion by up to 24%. Make a habit of drinking a glass of warm water every morning to warm up your blood and gently wake up your digestive organs.
"Water before a meal is nectar. It replenishes fluids and encourages juicy digestive organs. Small sips during a meal is honey. It helps turn the food into a sauce. Water after a meal is poison because it dilutes stomach acids." - Dr. Vasant Lad
How much water should I drink?This depends on the individual. Blood that is rich in sugars, fats, salt and proteins, typical of a Kapha, also has a lower osmotic pressure that tends to encourage water retention. The blood's thickness also obstructs the kidneys' ability to extract fluids from the blood. Kapha people should thus limit water consumption to 4-6 glasses a day and also employ diuretics such as parsley & celery as regular dietary supplements or herbs such as dandelion or punarnava.
Conversely, thin, deficient blood (typical of Vata) has the opposite effect encouraging leaky kidneys. Vata individuals may also be chronically dehydrated no matter how much water they drink due to kidney flushing. To thicken the blood Vata should eat more sweet taste, including carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. A wedge of lime and a pinch of salt in warm water helps Vata people retain more fluids, along with anti-diuretic herbs such as Licorice root. Vata people should drink 8-10 glasses of water a day and should avoid diuretic foods.
Pitta imbalanced individuals lose water and electrolytes quickly through sweat, urine, and loose stools. They should increase their water consumption (6-8 glasses a day) and make sure to fortify it with electrolytes.
Can I drink too much water?
Yes. Ever get the feeling that drinking too much water has become an addiction, that your mouth is dry no matter how often you tip the bottle, and that you pee like crazy but still feel thirsty? When you drink too much water, you pee too much, which also depletes your electrolytes. Electrolytes help you retain water, keep your palate moist, and truly quench your thirst. Once you've lost them in your pee, you feel dehydrated. Clear urine is a clear sign the modern epidemic of overhydration could be drying you out. Modern medicine, TV ads, and bottled water companies all tout the advantages of adequate hydration. In addition to these nuggets of wisdom, it's important to know when enough is enough.
Too much water also makes your stomach feel bloated and heavy, and overburdens digestive organs.
When should I drink water?
An easy routine to prevent dehydration is to drink a glass of water when you wake up, a 1/2hr before meals, and before you go to bed. If you tend to get dehydrated, you might also want to drink a glass of water between meals. A soup-based diet also helps to keep a person hydrated.
What should I drink?
Soups, broths & teas
Chronic dehydrationSome people are chronically dehydrated no matter how much water they drink. These individuals tend to pee clear urine within a 1/2 hr after drinking a glass of water. The most common causes of chronic dehydration include stress, cold weather, and kidney flushing.
Dehydration, stress & cold weather
Stress and cold temperatures cause the blood vessels to constrict. The constriction of blood vessels is called vasoconstriction. Much as squeezing a balloon raises the air pressure inside the balloon, vasoconstriction causes blood pressure to rise. The kidneys are one of the organs that regulate constant blood pressure. They release water from blood circulation into the urine to compensate for the increase in blood pressure, deflating the baloon. The result is dehydration. Taking steps to de-stress your life and wearing warm, appropriate clothing in the cool months can thus help to prevent dehydration.
Kidney flushing occurs when the kidneys flush toxins from the blood into the urine, resulting in a higher than normal urine output. Often poor digestion can be the source of toxicity. Poorly digested food tends to ferment in the intestines. As bacteria ferment the food, they release toxic metabolic waste products into the gut. The intestines, engineered to absorb nutrients, also absorb some of the toxin into the bloodstream. This is a great reason to keep your digestive tract in peak health. There are also herbs that help prevent kidney flushing and reduce loss of fluids. Try Sensitive Stomach Tea, found at: (https://www.joyfulbelly.com/Ayurveda/products/Sensitive-Stomach-Tea:-Calm-Digestion/199)
Lack of thirst
Sometimes weak digestion and excess stress can prevent you from noticing when you are thirsty. The sensation of thirst also diminishes in adults over fifty years old. If you have trouble recognizing thirst you should pay careful attention to signs of dehydration and take in adequate fluids as necessary.
Water makes me feel full.
Some people feel full after drinking a small quantity of water. This may be due to weak digestion and insufficient acid production in the stomach. Ayurveda says "It takes a fire to get thirsty." To increase digestive capacity, drink a glass of warm water with a wedge of lime or lemon, a pinch of salt, and a slice of ginger.
SourcesYour Body's Many Cries for Water
Tony Robbins' Book: Unleash the Power Within
[Charaka Su 5:13]
[Ashtanga Hrdayam. Su 5:15-17]