I mostly love hot weather...but my partner Cait isn’t quite used to it. Last week she had a wicked case of what we think was heat exhaustion and electrolyte depletion. For two days, she was too exhausted and weak to even spend much time out of bed, and nearly passed out when she tried.
This was surprising and scary, and it got me really interested in learning about hydration and electrolytes. What I am learning is a lot different than I expected - and a little scary. There is so much I did not know, and I want to share it with you, as well as ALL my best recipes for cooling summer drinks to help you stay nourished and hydrated, and keep your pitta in check this summer.
Healthy, homemade, hydrating drinks are something I am serious about for my own self-care - even in the Bay Area summer - because otherwise, by October, I get really dried out - my skin, my hair, even my mind feels dried out. I find these drinks work much better than plain water and have none of the artificial ingredients of commercial sports drinks. In this post, I'll share:
<< All About Hydration >>
People talk a lot about hydration, but most of what is said could be summed up as: “The more water you drink, the better, and the more purified your water is, the better.”
Yet in my experience, neither of these statements are true.
Your body has to digest water to integrate it into your tissues (to hydrate your cells and flush waste products), so drinking when you are not thirsty is not only unhelpful, it is akin to eating when you are not hungry. Drinking when you are not thirsty ignores your body’s wisdom and causes harm. The excess water will either simply be excreted through the urinary system without circulating through your body, which puts a strain on your kidneys, or it will accumulate, undigested, as water retention.
So, how much water should I drink?
It depends on your body size, activity level, and how much you are sweating, as well as your food choices today and what else is happening in your body. There is no set amount of water you should drink, but if you pay attention to your body’s cues, it will tell you when when it is thirsty just like it tells you when it is hungry. Do not concern yourself with drinking a certain amount of water, but instead with paying attention to your body's cues.
Do I have to drink plain water?
No! Absolutely not! Most beverages are hydrating - just not those containing caffeine or alcohol, though I find small amounts of either of those substances fine in terms of hydration/dehydration.
Additionally, many different herbs can be steeped in water to make a weak infusion that actually helps your body digest the water (two of my favorite recipes are available below). Adding a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of maple syrup provides beneficial electrolytes and nourishment. The truth is, I find that my body processes water much better as a weak herbal tea than when the water is plain.
What’s the deal with purified water?
This has always been a confusing subject for me. There is a lot of conflicting information out there - much of it sales-driven. Normally, I have used a basic water filter, mostly to remove chlorine, which I find extremely drying to my tissues if I’m drinking too much of it. I had not tried reverse osmosis water, except by coincidence at others’ homes perhaps, but in my mind I thought reverse osmosis was a good thing because it is said to remove more unwanted chemicals than other processes, including flouride. My partner Cait gets a stomach ache from drinking tap water unless it’s been filtered, so she was drinking reverse osmosis water from the food coop, since our water filter is still packed.
When Cait was in bed recovering from heat exhaustion (and sipping gatorade and reverse osmosis water alternately), I met up with a friend, and we had a lengthy discussion on water. She has done a lot of research on drinking water generally and reverse osmosis water specifically. She told me that, yes, RO water has none of the harmful chlorine or flouride, but it also has none of the dissolved minerals found in natural water. Our bodies depend on those dissolved minerals for even basic functioning, and drinking water that’s been stripped of those needed minerals messes up our blood chemistry pretty damn quick and can cause an array of health problems, including muscle cramping, fatigue, bone fractures, problems in childbirth, and heart problems.
I started doing my own research, and I quickly learned that the World Health Organization has a pretty strong stance against “demineralized water”, which includes reverse osmosis water, distilled water, and also just water that is naturally very low in minerals like magnesium and calcium.
Get this: RO water actually pulls minerals from our bones, contributing to bone loss over time and cannot be used in pipes because it pulls minerals from the pipes, causing the pipes to crack and crumble.
Purity Above All Else?
Water in nature is NEVER pure, right? It always has other substances dissolved in it, even rain water and other lower-mineral waters are not PURE.
The focus on purity is interesting. The common belief is, "If something is Pure then it must be the best. It must be healthy. Purity at all costs!" I can see why some people have not even questioned this belief, and why I didn’t question it regarding water until now.
We can see that purifying water to the extent that it becomes harmful to the body is not different than “purifying” sugar cane so that it becomes white sugar, or coca leaves so they become cocaine, or poppy resin so it becomes heroine.
It isn’t different than isolating one constituent out of hundreds in a medicinal herb and then using that one constituent as a drug - like curcumin from turmeric, or salicin from willow (as the active ingredient in aspirin) - and losing much of the medicinal benefits of the plant in the process. (Aspirin doesn't even begin to compare to willow bark in terms of range of effectiveness, safety, or sustainability!)
We live in a world that seeks purity and bumps into purity’s shadow side at every turn. So, we are figuring it out, together.
To learn more, read HEALTH RISKS FROM DRINKING DEMINERALISED WATER by Frantisek Kozisek. This is a great scholarly article, the best I was able to find. And this is cool: The author even mentions what Ayurveda says about which sort of water to drink!
I also found a company called AquaLiv that claims to have a water filtration system which removes chlorine, flouride, and other harmful chemicals, but doesn’t strip the water of minerals and instead adds some. I haven’t tried their system or even tasted their water so I cannot vouch for it, but if you have I’d love to hear about it! Please drop me a line and tell me about it. They have a lot of educational writing on their site, and I read a lot of it. Consider reading Reverse Osmosis Water Exposed because it is clear and well-written, but keep it mind it is marketing related.
Conclusion (In Progress)
I am in a place now where the tap water comes from the Ogallala Aquaphor and is fabulous. Cait started drinking the tap water and started feeling better quickly. As of yet, I haven’t figured out what sort of filter we will end up using to remove the added chlorine without removing the minerals, but in the mean time tap water definitely seems to be the way to go! If you live in a place where you must filter your water to drink it at all, I highly recommend looking into the type of filter you are using and find one which does not remove significant mineral content from your water. Additionally, consider looking into natural springs in your area as a source of drinking water.
Now. On to the fun part...because you should only have to drink Gatorade in weird circumstances:
<< My 7 Best Homemade Hydration Drinks (in no particular order) >>
Chrysanthemum Nectar. Steep dried chrysanthemum blossoms 10-20 minutes in just-boiled water, adding sugar (rapadura or sucanat are my favorites) or maple syrup to taste. You don’t need much, but a little bit is necessary to bring out the flavor. Let it cool and drink room temperature or slightly chilled. (I usually make the day ahead.)
Cucumber Water. Slice some cucumber in some water. Easy Peasy. The flavor and nutrition will begin to seep into the water almost immediately.
Summer Herbal Tonic. Use Red clover, lemon balm, skullcap, nettles, oatstraw, fennel and chrysanthemum. Any combination of these herbs, or all of them, steeped overnight, or at least 20 minutes. Drink room temperature. Add some water if it is too strong for your taste, and consider adding a blob of food grade aloe gel once the infusion has cooled. Give it a good shake. I often make a half gallon of this in the evening for use the following day. This is a drink that is helpful for hydration and electrolytes, but also helps prevent rashes or any other skin problem, and generally pacifies pitta dosha. I drink it all day in place of plain water.
Linden, Violet leaf, and Raspberry Leaf Infusion. This is a recipe from my friend Alex Svoboda of Arise Botanicals, and it is as DELICIOUS at it is nourishing. Use equal parts of these herbs and follow steeping instructions above. Serve room temp or slightly chilled.
Homemade Lemonade. So fun and simple if you have a lemon tree! Squeeze a bunch of lemons, and add water and maple syrup to taste. Alternately, you can use rapadura or similar minimally-processed sugar and make a simple syrup and use that as your sweetener. Serve chilled.
Green Veggie Juice or Puree. ‘Tis the season for this cooling and energizing treat. Green juice doesn’t work for everyone’s tummy though - so if it makes you super gassy, just don’t even go there. But otherwise, you can make either a puree with a vitamix/other high-powered blender, or a juice with a juicer, depending on what you desire and what equipment you have. Use leafy greens and cucumber, and add a little bit of ginger for digestion. Many other veggies are fine to add, like carrot, beet, and celery, but I would avoid crucifers (broccoli and cabbage) and most fruits (citrus is fine). Keep it simple for easiest digestion.
Hibiscus Elixir. Steep hibiscus flowers and a little minced fresh ginger in just-boiled water for 10-20 minutes. Add maple syrup or sugar to taste. Serve room temp or slightly chilled, and consider adding a squeeze of lemon before serving.
Now...I'd love to hear from you. Do you know something I don't on the topic of water filtration? Do you have a recipe for a hydrating summer drink you'd like to share?
And if you try any of these recipes, I'd love to hear your experience with it! Consider posting a photo and tagging me in it (@molliemoorheadwellness on IG) so others can benefit as well. These recipes have enriched my life and health so much and I hope they do the same for you and your loved ones.