The most common health advice you heard may be “Drink plenty of water” or “drink 8 glasses of water a day”. Though the advice was to prevent dehydration, it often results in following unhealthy habits. Drinking too much of water can be dangerous as it may cause the salt level in the blood to fall abnormally. Hyponatremia or low the sodium levels cause muscle cramping, tiredness and swelling up of cells. This can lead to a headache, seizers, coma or even death. Healthy kidneys can expel about half a litre of water in an hour if our intake is more than what we can expel will result in overhydration.
How much water to drink?
Water requirement for an individual varies on climate, physical activity, age, weight, height etc. So how do we know what is the right amount of water to drink? Our body has built-in mechanisms to prevent dehydration. We feel thirsty once the water levels fall- we just have to drink enough water until we feel satiated. Ayurveda mentions thirst as a natural urge that should not be suppressed. This helps to keep the body properly hydrated. Colour of the urine also indicates hydration levels; the colour of your urine should be straw-coloured to transparent yellow.
Who should not drink water?
Water should not be consumed or consumed in very little quantity, by those suffering from indigestion, digestive disorders, ascites, oedema, anaemia, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, diseases of the duodenum. Excepting for Sharad (autumn) and Greeshma (summer), even healthy persons should drink less the quantity of water in all other seasons.
When to drink water?
Water to be taken whenever one feels thirsty. Drinking too much of water without thirst can impair digestion to generate toxins (Ama) When taking along with food the following directions would be useful
- Sipping water in between meals – would not cause any harm
- Drinking water after meals – causes weight gain and obesity
- Drinking water before meals – causes emaciation, weakness
Ice cold water is not recommended for drinking; it disturbs digestion and constricts blood vessels. Best is to use boiled and cooled water for regular use. Cold water can be used during alcoholic intoxication, dizziness or fainting, Vomiting, poison intake and bleeding disorder.
Hot water is useful to stimulate appetite, improve digestion and cleanse the bladder. Hot water relives hiccup, flatulence, fever, cough and cold.