The 8 Glasses A Day Conspiracy: How Much Should You Drink?
I asked a question on Facebook this week:
What one thing would make you healthier now if you did it every day?
A couple of people responded with: Drink more water!
Let’s talk about this. K?
If we start researching (read: googling) it’s obvious that there is some contention with the 8 glasses a day rule. Everywhere from a nutrition blog to the Mayo Clinic, similar advice is repeated. Yes, drink water to stay healthy. No, it doesn’t need to necessarily be 8 glasses of pure water. No, it doesn’t necessarily need to be 8 glasses. Yes, you should listen to your thirst.
I don’t trust thirst. In a perfect world, where you are perfectly healthy – you should drink according to your thirst. HOWEVER, if you are constantly thirsty or never thirsty or feel thirst but forget to drink anyway – those are all signs that your body isn’t working as it should. I’ll break it down for you into the 2 most common options. If you don’t fall into either category, comment below and I’ll add your option in! Make sure to read all the way through to find out the full formula of how much you should drink.
Option 1. You never feel thirst or you are thirsty but have no desire to drink.
In Chinese Medicine (CM) this means that you have too much ‘improper’ fluid in the body. We call it damp. You can call it whatever you want. The basics of it are this: if your body has enough fluid, even if it’s the wrong kind, it will turn off your thirst signals. The body thinks “Hey, I’ve got enough liquid in here! I don’t need anymore, thanks!”
This isn’t a great sign and could show up alongside other symptoms like bloating, weight gain, swollen ankles, cough, etc.
In order to move ‘damp’, we like to use herbs but if you don’t have access to that, here’s what you can do.
Add more soup to your diet. This is a sneaky way to get good fluids in and the fact that it is warm means it’s easier for your body to digest and absorb.
Avoid salads. I know. Your inner health expert is screaming: but salads are HEALTHY. Well.. yes..but not for you, not right now. Get your thirst right and we can talk about salads.
Avoid shakes. Most ingredients in shakes increase ‘damp’ in the body (milk, bananas, overloads of fruit sugars, etc.) Green shakes are better, but should have a good amount of cinnamon or ginger to help warm up that shake as it hits your digestive system.
Eat a warm breakfast of some type of porridge without added sugar in it. Best options: Pearl barley, coix seeds, st job’s tears.
Add warming spices to your foods. Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne, paprika, etc etc.
For more info, check out:
Option 2. You are thirsty all the time for cold drinks and you prefer to gulp them down.
Here, part of the diagnosis in CM would involve the word ‘heat’. If you have too much heat in your body, your body’s natural reaction will be to try and cool you down. Therefore, frequent thirst for cool or cold drinks is totally natural. Your body thinks “Man, it’s getting hot in here! Throw me some ice water!”
The other symptoms that show up here could be: heartburn, frequent headaches, red eyes, dry eyes, nosebleeds, constipation and more fun stuff.
In order to help your body cool down without having to drown yourself in liquids, you can try these basic things.
Eat salads. Yes, exactly opposite of the above. Salads are ‘cold’ in Chinese medicine and will help balance you out.
Add cucumber and watermelon to your diet. Cucumber and watermelon are naturally cooling. Watermelon is the most common food used in the summer in China to keep people cool.
Drink green tea. Green tea has a cooling nature according to Chinese medicine – even when you drink it hot!
Add a spirulina or chlorella supplement. These, like the things above are cooling in nature.
Now that we have covered the basics of thirst, let’s go to the other end.. Literally.
In CM, ‘normal’ urination is considered to be a satisfying stream 4-6 times per day. This article on healthline.com agrees.
If it is less, that means something to us, if it is more… that means something too. What it means exactly will be determined by matching it up with other symptoms in your body and making a full diagnosis. It can be confusing because ‘damp’ in the body can lead to less urination AND more urination depending on its type and location. So, to keep it simple, let’s just agree to the 6ish times a day rule for urination.
Based on those two pieces of information, thirst and urination, here’s my formula for how much you should drink.
If your natural thirst = 6ish pees a day, then your fluid intake = adequate.
This means that some people will drink WAY less than 8 glasses and some people will need more. You might need more one day and less the next based on exercise and sleep levels. If drinking 8 glasses and more sends you to the bathroom constantly, it’s too much for you. Slow down and check out if you have some dampness that should be cleared from your body. If you are drinking 8 glasses a day and hardly going to the bathroom and are showing signs of heat – make some diet adjustments and see if you can regulate your fluid intake and your fluid output.
Phew, that was quite the lecture.
So tell me, are you drinking the right amount for your body??
Do you suspect you have ‘damp’ or ‘heat’?
Let me know!