Water is the very essence of life and yet, for many of us, it is one of those things that we simply forget to drink, don't like to drink or just find boring. But with your body being made up of around 60% water it is absolutely vital to your health, especially when you suffer from a digestive ailment such as bloating or constipation.
Quite simply, water is essential! It is in every single cell within the body and more specifically is used in everyday functions including the digestion of our food and the subsequent transport of waste and toxins out of our body.
Imagine that every cell in your body should resemble a plump, juicy grape … and yet for the majority of us they look more like shrivelled raisins because we don't drink enough water. This means that the cell’s surface area is less able to absorb nutrients or work effectively, which can be the very start of our health problems.
On a broader level, a lack of water can wreak havoc on our digestion and cause or worsen a varying number of symptoms including constipation, cramps, pain and toxic build-up. With constipation in particular, water helps to keep the gastrointestinal tract moist and keeps things moving thereby allowing food an easier passage through the intestines. So if you suffer from a digestive complaint then water is a very good place to start ... it's certainly not going to do you any harm!
How much water should I drink?
There is lots of talk about how much water we should drink a day but we are all different and will have different requirements; for example, if you exercise a lot you will need more water to replenish and rehydrate that which has been lost through sweating, or if you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables you may not need as much as these foods naturally have a higher water content. A minimum of eight glasses a day is a good goal to aim for though, especially if water isn’t a big part of your everyday diet.
If you do suffer from constipation then try to aim for around 10 glasses a day. However, rather than worrying too much about counting how many glasses a day you have had, as this in itself can be tedious, look to your own health and lifestyle and see where you can make improvements to include more water that make it easier. For example, an easy pattern to follow is to have a glass as soon as you wake up, a glass before or after every meal, a few glasses mid-morning and mid-afternoon and one before bed.
By 'water' I mean the plain, still variety and not those that are fizzy, flavoured or any of the new 'vitamin' waters now available in shops as they tend to contain sugars and a whole array of flavourings and preservatives which, for those of us with sensitive guts, may play additional havoc by worsening our symptoms or contributing to others such as headaches.
There is no getting away from the fact that we simply need water to survive and for our bodies to perform at their optimum. So if you are one of those who finds water "boring" then you need to start looking at it differently and see it as 'vitality and health' and something that comes with a huge amount of benefits rather than something that is perhaps more of a chore.
Ideas of how to drink more water
Here are a few simple ways and ideas to ensure that you include enough water in your daily diet:
- Keep a bottle of water with you all the time. On your desk at work, in the car, on the kitchen work top ... Somewhere you can see it as this will act as a reminder.
- Keep a glass of water on your beside table - take a gulp just before you turn the lights out and again as soon as you wake up. Don't get out of bed before that first mouthful!
- Add flavour to your water to make it a bit more exciting using fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices which come with added health benefits as well:
- Fresh mint leaves or peppermint tea– mint aids digestion, especially after a meal, as it can help to relax the surrounding muscles as well as aid the elimination of any unwanted gas.
- Slices of fresh ginger – it contains antibacterial and antiviral properties, and is a great stimulant for the stomach. It is also used to help treat nausea so if you are feeling a bit queasy add a slice to some hot water.
- Fresh lemon, lime or orange - alkalising and full of vitamin C and antioxidants. A slice of lemon in hot water first thing in the morning is a fantastic start to the day.
- Cucumber - take a potato peeler and slice the cucumber lengthways to make ribbons. Add a few to a jug of water and leave for a few minutes before drinking - super refreshing and cleansing, especially as the weather starts to get warmer.
- Herbal teas - next time you make a cup of herbal tea, take the tea bag out of the hot water and place it straight into a jug or glass of cold water as the flavour will continue to steep through. White or green tea, roobios, liquorice, fennel, nettle, cardamom – try different flavours to see what you like and to add variety.
- Invest in a good filter jug. It's cheaper in the long-term than buying bottled water and makes sure you're getting the best out of your tap water.
Did you also know that thirst has the same symptoms as hunger? So next time you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water first as it might be that your body needs hydrating rather than feeding.
It won't take long for drinking water to become a habit and part of your everyday lifestyle, and it's one of the cheapest, easiest health benefits around. Go on, just try it!
For more ideas for solving constipation naturally, read 'Natural Remedies for Constipation'