Susan's Blog

Reasons You May Not Be Digesting Your Food Well–Not Enough Water

Our bodies are 70 percent water, and if we don’t adequately hydrate our cells, they can’t function properly.  The water we drink and consume in our foods (like watermelon) is essential for bringing in nutrients and carrying out waste.

But did you know that water can specifically help your digestive tract?​

How water helps with digestion:

  • Helps to normalize stool transit time and emptying of the stomach
  • It is the main component of the mucus that lines the entire digestive tract, acting as a lubricant and also an integral part of our gastrointestinal wall
  • Helps to relieve constipation

Side note: While drinking plenty of water does help to relieve constipation, the reverse is not true!  If you have a problem with stools that are too loose, drinking less water will not help.  In other words, loose stools are not caused by drinking too much water.

Side note #2: Both constipation and diarrhea can be caused by inflammation.  One of the signs of food sensitivity (food sensitivities cause inflammation) is that the GI tract does something with water—either it will pull too much water out resulting in constipation, or it will pull too much water in, resulting in diarrhea.

How much water do you need to drink?

One way to figure out how much water you need to drink is to divide your body weight by 2, and that’s how many ounces of water you need to drink in a day.  For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., dividing that by 2 equals 75, so you need to drink at least 75 ounces of water a day.

I like to figure that out by the quart.  One quart is 32 ounces.  Two quarts are 64 ounces, and so a person that weighs 150 lbs. needs to drink 2 quarts plus 11 ounces of water, or roughly 2.5 quarts a day. If it’s hot outside, or you are sweating a lot, you need to drink even more!

Where do you get good, clean water?

Unfortunately, chemicals often show up in the water supply because groundwater is easily contaminated by runoff.   The EPA estimates that 1.5 trillion gallons of pollutants leak into the ground every year.  The highest contaminants are lead, radon, and nitrates (from fertilizers).  More than 700 chemicals have been found in tap water, but testing is commonly done for only 200 of them.

Also, public water supplies have to be treated with chlorine or chloramine to kill microbes in the water that could make us sick.  The problem with that is that the chlorine or chloramine is destructive to our microbiomes when ingested and the thyroid gland when inhaled (like in a hot, steamy shower).

An inexpensive charcoal filter can remove chlorine and other pollutants from tap water, so even a Brita or Pur pitcher can help purify your drinking water at very little expense.  A Berkley is a step up from that and can remove over 200 contaminants.  Or, consider a whole house water filtration system so that you don’t inhale chlorine and other pollutants while showering.  Depending on how much chlorine is in your water, inhaling chlorine can be harmful to your thyroid gland.

A lot of people don’t like drinking water because they say it doesn’t taste good.  A good water filter can go a long way in making the water taste much better and, with a little training, even the most reluctant water drinker can eventually learn to like it!  To ease the way, it’s really nice to make what I call “spa water”.  That’s where you slice some type of citrus fruit like lemon, limes, or oranges and add to a pitcher of chilled water for a more refreshing beverage.  Or, get creative and try some sliced strawberries, maybe with mint.  It’s hard to go wrong!

What about drinking bottles of water?

Water bought in plastic bottles contains small amounts of plastic from the bottle, and plastics are known to have hormone-disrupting effects.  If you regularly drink bottled` water, it’s a good idea to ask the manufacturer for information on the water source, type of plastics used, mineral content per serving, and levels of toxic substances.

What about tap water?

If you rely on local tap water, ask your water department where it originates, how it’s processed, what’s been added to it, and ask for an analysis.  You can also attend their yearly meeting to find out more.  Check out Environmental Working Group’s water filter guide and use their searchable Tap Water Database to see what pollutants are above the level of safety in your local water.  (Hint: legal levels and safe levels are sometimes different.)

What about well water?

If you have a water well, lucky you!  Consider getting a water sample and have it tested for bacteria and pollutants.  Also, consider a whole-house water filtration system specifically designed for well water.

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