6. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.
This is an important suggestion from Tom Myers regarding Connective Tissue Fitness. Your body mass is about 70% water, about the same percentage as the Earth’s surface. We can live without food for a month or more, but without water, we may perish within only a few days. Fascia is known as “organized water,” so staying hydrated is key to maintaining good health.
Ayurveda offers some suggestions on how to remain well hydrated. Most people should drink between 5-7 cups of water each day. You figure a cup is 8 ounces, so that is 40-56 ounces per day. The exact amount will be different based upon your constitution, your dosha, lifestyle and physical activity, your job, and the weather. A vata person may require 6-8 cups per day, pitta is more in the middle with 5-7, and a kapha person more like 4-5 cups per day.
Use plain water at warm or room temperature, and in fact, the hotter the better. Drinking one to two mugs of hot water in the morning before eating breakfast will help stimulate your digestive system so that it is ready to take on food and you may eliminate well. Hot water specifically will help build agni, the digestive fire, and remove ama, toxic sludge that can build up in the body when we do not digest properly. Ice water or anything colder than body temperature can be a shock to the system and your body will resist digesting and absorbing it and anything else you eat while drinking the ice water.
Coffee, tea, and soft drinks do not have the same effect as water. Coffee and tea are both diuretics, so you may end up less hydrated after drinking them. Green tea is high in anti-oxidants so it can be helpful to your health, just drink in moderation and make sure you continue to get enough plain water as well. Don’t even get me started on soft drinks. Sodas contain phosphoric acid that can leach calcium from your body, and diet soft drinks are just as bad. Fruit juice, on the other hand, in moderation can be quite refreshing.
Can you drink too much water? Yes. Sometimes you will hear it is good to drink more water to flush out the kidneys, but when the kidneys are already fatigued, excess water will be like drowning so it becomes even harder for them to do their job. That water that is not absorbed will be retained in connective tissue and lead to excess weight. If you drink too much and “drown” the kidneys, it can cause a loss of sodium and potassium and then you are more prone to muscle cramps and gas in the colon. These conditions are due to water toxicity which will affect cell metabolism and in extreme cases can be fatal. (Dr. Vasant Lad, Textbook of Ayurveda, Fundamental Principles, p. 141)
So how do you improve water absorption and therefore good hydration in the body? Stick with the average 5-7 cups of fresh water per day. If you eat raisins or other dried fruits for breakfast, soak them in water overnight before eating them. This goes for almonds too. Almonds are less acidic than other nuts and they are high in protein, vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium. Soaking them overnight does double-duty because you are basically sprouting the almonds and therefore activating enzymes that will assist your absorption of nutrients in addition to absorption of extra water. Soak your rice overnight before cooking that as well.
Soups and stews are a great way to add more water to your diet, and because the water is inherent in the food, your body is more likely to absorb it. One pot meals such as soups and stews are also beneficial in that they are generally easier to digest so your G-I tract is not over-taxed.
One last thing when drinking your 1-2 mugs of hot water in the morning: experiment with herbs and spices. If you are feeling acidic, squeeze a little lemon juice in to your water to calm your stomach. If you have had a poor appetite lately or if you feel congested, infuse a few slices of fresh ginger root in boiling water for 10-15 minutes, and then drink. If you are feeling weaker or fatigued, add a little honey to your ginger tea. Cardamom, cumin, and fennel seeds together in equal proportion infused in boiling water, again 10-15 minutes, has a similar beneficial effect on your digestion as the ginger. Strain the seeds out before you drink and add some natural sweetener like honey, maple syrup, or agave, if necessary. Cinnamon is an all-around beneficial spice, it is warming and can break up congestion as well as bring mental clarity. For more suggestions on spices, Eat, Taste, Heal by Yarema, Rhoda, and Brannigan, is a great text with an overview of Ayurveda as well as recipes for your dosha.
So, these are some things to think about regarding proper hydration for your body. Your fascia will reward you with greater flexibility, elasticity, and tone.