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  • Susan Koursaris, NTP, BCHN®

All About Hydration: How Getting Enough Water Affects Digestion

Last week, we learned that optimal hydration keeps blood fluid enough to improve circulation and nutrient delivery to cells. We also learned it allows for proper detoxification via elimination pathways (or helps our bodies “take out the trash”), improves digestion, and even helps keep our joints properly lubricated.

Good digestion plays such a critical role in every aspect of our health. While keeping our digestive tract in great condition is paramount to good health, we cannot support good digestion without adequate hydration. So, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Who cares – when you want to have one, you need the other!

Our bodies can only produce about 8% of our daily water needs. This means we need to consume 92% of the water it takes to be properly hydrated. That is what makes water an essential nutrient and the single most important one that we, literally, cannot live without.

The not-so-good news? Most Americans live in a state of dehydration. CHRONICALLY.

We are on the go-go-GO all the time, that many of us don’t even recognize our bodies’ thirst cues. Early signs of dehydration include dry mouth, headaches, fatigue, cravings, anxiety, muscle cramps and less ability to focus. After a long time remaining in this state, your body develops more chronic signs of dehydration: heartburn, joint pain, back pain, constipation, colitis, and exercise asthma. Feel free to use this as your cue to go get yourself a nice glass of filtered water. And treat yourself to some electrolytes by adding a pinch of sea or pink salt, and a squeeze of citrus. That is the king of hydrating drinks. Simple. And so good for you.

These are just a few ways staying properly hydrated improves digestion:

· Alleviates constipation symptoms – simple physics tells us that processes involving friction go much smoother when there’s a liquid or smooth barrier between those surfaces. When we are taking in enough quality water, this allows the cellular lining of our guts to produce more mucous. It also enables autonomic cellular functions to keep things moving, thereby improving gut motility, or the ability to poop! Conversely, this is also why constipation is a sign of chronic dehydration.

· Improves symptoms of colitis – another sign of chronic dehydration is actually colitis – which simply means inflammation of the (large) colon. Healthy bacteria that we need to thrive begin to decrease and inflammatory bacteria, pathogens, fungi, and even viruses can then take over. Not a fun place to be in. Since we know that having enough water improves cellular function, the opposite holds true as well.

· Prevents dry-mouth – Saliva is SO IMPORTANT for digestion! If you’re dehydrated, you won’t produce enough saliva, hence, the dry mouth. But how does producing more saliva help digestion?? Well, it sets the stage for how well you begin to break down your food. Saliva contains amylase, which is an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates as well as lingual lipase – an enzyme that breaks down fat. If you are gulping down your food without chewing it completely and getting all that awesome saliva in it, chances are you are not breaking down your food any better in your stomach, nor the organs that follow. This leads to many forms of dysfunction including leaky gut and inflammatory conditions.

The good news? Like my sweet Mom always told me, ‘It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.’ You can add A GLASS of water to your day. I know you can. I believe in you. Then, keep drinking to the point at which your pee is light or straw-colored, and you’ll know that’s the right amount for you! Keep in mind that exercise, sweating, age, and other factors affect how much water you need, so this is a very bio-individual thing. Increasing your water intake can greatly improve your digestion. Try it today – Cheers!

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