A hydration tip from a skincare expert
Did you know that Dr. Howard Murad, the skincare expert and creator of Murad skincare, does not recommend drinking 8 glasses of water per day? Instead, he suggests “eating your water” – obtaining nutrient-and-electrolyte-rich water from fresh fruits and vegetables.
Although we’re told from every corner of the internet to consume 8 glasses of water per day, there is actually no evidence that drinking this much water is beneficial. As Dr. Murad acknowledges, drinking this much water can actually deplete electrolytes and therefore cause dehydration and premature aging of the skin.
The metabolic approach to hydration
Two years ago, I was introduced to an unconventional but common sense approach to metabolic health by numerous bloggers and health writers. These include Ray Peat, Matt Stone, and Josh and Jeanne at East West Healing and Performance.
With everything you read about health, take it with a grain of salt and weigh it against both your intuition and other resources. While I left some aspects of this approach aside, there were two key takeaways for me:
The two main points that allowed me to make significant progress in my metabolic health include:
- The importance of consuming adequate carbohydrate and salt
- The problems with glugging tons of water
As someone who previously saw my gigantic water bottle as an extension of my arm, I was shocked to learn that “flushing” my body with half my body weight in ounces was not only not helpful… it was harmful.
I’ve been practicing hydration for metabolic health for probably the last year and a half. Along with the other metabolic tweaks, such including more grain-free carbohydrates, my severe hypothyroidism has improved, my constipation issues resolved, and my skin improved. The lesson? Take care of your metabolism and it will take care of you!
1. Over-hydration causes imbalanced electrolytes
We are told from mainstream and natural health practitioners alike to drink half our body weight in ounces of water per day. “It flushes everything out and keeps you hydrated. If you pee clear, it means that you are well hydrated.”
Actually, clear pee signals over-hydration, a state where the electrolytes in your body fluid is out of balance with the water levels.
When we drink too much water, we create an electrolyte deficiency. The extracellular fluid in the body contains sodium, as well as other electrolytes. When we drink plain water, it dilutes the electrolytes which carries metabolic consequences. This is because the concentration of electrolytes in the blood and extracellular fluid is key to cell-to-cell communication and regulation.
In a non-scientific but easy-to-grasp example, Matt Stone in Eat for Heat explains,
Picture your body filled with nutritious, high-octane, electrically conductive fluids.Things work better and your cells have the ability to produce more energy at the cellular level.
It’s all about increasing the nutrients – the electrolytes, including sodium – in our body fluids. If we drink too much water, we decrease those nutrients and prevent our cells from working optimally. Water-logged cells are not happy cells! And when cells work optimally, it means that we have a high metabolism and healthy thyroid function.
2. Over-hydration further stresses adrenal glands
Over-hydration proves extremely problematic for anyone who struggles with overworked adrenal glands. The adrenal glands respond to stress with stress hormones. When stress is chronic, due to emotional trauma or a physical stressor, the adrenal glands exhaust and can no longer keep up with their hormone production. I have an upcoming post on adrenal fatigue.
In those with adrenal fatigue, aldosterone levels drop below optimal levels. Aldosterone keeps sodium in the blood. So when aldosterone is too low, we start to lose to much sodium from the blood. This causes a problematic drop in blood pressure. By drinking a lot of water, we further reduce the sodium levels in the blood and exacerbate stressed adrenal glands.
Since adrenal glands and the thyroid work hand-in-hand, we must support the adrenals to optimize thyroid health.
3. Excess water is too cooling
Body warmth is correlated to a fiery metabolism, good libido, and fertility. A cool body is correlated to poor thyroid function and a slow metabolism. How do you know if your body is cool?
Something you can do throughout the day is to simply feel your fingers and toes. If they feel chilly to the touch at any point, it points to a too cool body. You’ll notice that your fingers are colder at different times of the day. You’ll also find that they warm up, even slightly, after eating certain foods.
Cold fingers and toes, at any point during the day, means that you need to make some dietary tweaks to warm your body.
You will experience colder fingers after guzzling a big glass of water. However, you’ll most likely experience a warming sensation after eating “warming foods” which contain healthy carbohydrates, unrefined salt and/or saturated fat. By emphasizing warming foods, you’ll boost your metabolic rate which supports weight loss, adrenal health, and a healthy thyroid.
Traditional medicine paradigms, including Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine, share a concept of warming and cooling foods. In Ayurveda, spices like anise and ginger are warming while tomatoes and celery are cooling. Makes sense, right?
Consider your food cravings in winter. You likely do not want to start your day with a smoothie or shake, but may have followed a protocol where you overrode your instinctual cravings. Instead, some eggs cooked in butter and sprinkled with unrefined salt would have fulfilled your body’s plea for metabolic fuel.
So, how can we optimize metabolic health with our water intake? It’s simple:
Just drink when you are thirsty
I think Matt Stone hit the nail on the head when he said:
No other creature is so removed from its instinctual programing to the point of accidentally over drinking.
However, we must take into consideration the aspects of modern life that remove our instinctual programming. This includes processed foods, refined sugar, highly processed salt, and chronic stress. In order to truly tune into our body’s thirst mechanism.
Unlike fresh foods, processed foods are dehydrated and contain disastrous levels of mineral-stripped refined salt. The first step to hear your body’s true call for water? Eat meals that you prepare at home, made with fresh ingredients.
Add electrolytes to your water
If you find yourself craving salt, it likely indicates that your body is deficient in the trace minerals and sodium found in unrefined salt. Further, if you have chronically tired adrenals, your body may need an increased intake of salt.
When I’m thirsty, I reach for well-salted, homemade bone broth. The mineral and sodium concentration in the broth supports that nutrient-rich, highly conductive extracellular fluid.
Don’t dilute stomach acid
Also importantly, do not gulp water with meals. Advice to drink a glass of water before each meal, “to fill you up,” sets you up for very poor digestion. This is because water dilutes stomach acid, and we want our stomach to be an acid tank when we are eating a meal. Powerful stomach acid prevents heartburn, gas and bloating.
1/2 cup of water with meals is fine, but to improve digestion, enjoy a small cup of homemade bone broth. The gelatin in the broth is a time-honored secret to improve digestion. Of course, salt the broth to taste.
Are you familiar with the metabolic approach to hydration? Are you a recovering water-holic?
Is it OK to drinks lots of herbal tea?
Good question. I would instinctively say no, because we’d still be ingesting way too much water from the tea. My personal recommendation (and I’m no expert) is 3-5 cups of herbal tea per day.