My column for Holistic Scotland Magazine this month focuses on what gives people some of the biggest results on The Body Toolkit Retreats:drinking more water. Incredibly simple, but it can be a serious game changer for so many. "I know the ‘drink more water’ tip feels overly simplistic, but in so many ways we have actually overcomplicated health. What is quite astounding is how many physical symptoms improve, vanish or heal over the course of a week’s retreat, as people are encouraged to hydrate the body and nurture their water drinking habit."
Water - The World's Most Underrated Superfood
In the four years that I’ve been running health retreats, what’s become surprisingly consistent is just how many people present as being chronically dehydrated. We all know that for good health, drinking water has to be part of our routine, but when we feel poorly, in pain or just lethargic, how many of us reach for a glass of water as a priority?
I know the ‘drink more water’ tip feels overly simplistic, but in so many ways we have actually overcomplicated health. What is quite astounding is how many physical symptoms improve, vanish or heal over the course of a week’s retreat, as people are encouraged to hydrate the body and nurture their water drinking habit.
In his book, ‘Your Body’s Many Cries for Water’, Dr Batmanghelidj links almost every health condition in the body to a lack of hydration. Given that 70% of the human body is made up of water, it makes sense that hydration is key, but why are so many of us dehydrated?
There’s a lot to be said for dietary factors contributing to dehydration: we don’t eat the quantity of raw fruits and vegetables we would have done as hunter-gatherers, for example. Most of us in the west have a relationship with either caffeine or alcohol (or both) – and almost everyone nowadays is experiencing regular stress – all of which dehydrate the body.
Thirst vs Hunger
Another factor is the ‘thirst signal’ being confused with the hunger signal; eating when we’re actually thirsty. Also, when it comes to the thirst signal, ideally we should never feel really thirsty – much like the oil in a car engine, keeping it topped up is preferable to running a car low on oil. A good habit is to drink a glass of water when we feel hungry, and wait 30 minutes or so before eating.
Interestingly, after a certain age in life we can lose our thirst signal altogether – it’s quite common for older people to say that they never feel thirsty – and this is where a water drinking habit might require a bit more effort, but is incredibly important.
The Benefits of Hydration
It’s hard to believe that something so simple can generate serious health results, but here are a few examples of results I regularly see in people after upping their water intake for a couple of weeks:
• Improved Memory & Concentration
• Clearer, brighter & firmer skin
• Reduction in pain
• Better digestion
• Increased energy
Possibly one of the most surprising influences water has on the body is how it affects the brain. One study that really highlighted this for me was an experiment with two sets of drivers - one group were driving ‘drunk at the wheel’, under the influence of alcohol, in a controlled environment. The other set of drivers were driving their cars, whilst ‘clinically dehydrated at the wheel’. Astonishingly, it was the group of dehydrated drivers that had made more mistakes at the wheel. It’s a powerful comparison, and when so many of us aren’t drinking enough water, how many mistakes are we making in our daily lives, whilst at work or looking after the family? How often are we losing concentration, or struggling to focus?
Side Effects of Drinking More Water
Apart from the healthier, happier skin, the reduction in back and joint pain and the dramatic boost in energy, one side effect that people dread is the number of bathroom visits. What people notice during the retreat is that the first few days they are peeing a lot more than usual, much like a neglected house plant when it’s watered for the first time in a long while - if the soil is dry, the water just flows straight out. But, if you persevere and water it little and often, after a short time the soil and the plant begin to hold the hydration. And the body responds much the same, after about the third day, it begins to retain hydration - and fewer pit stops are required.
We completely underestimate how powerful water can be when we’re dealing with ailments, physical conditions or pain - hydration, or a lack thereof, affects every cell in the body. Therefore, getting back to basics and getting the hydration in place really is the foundation of everything health related.
How to Increase Your Water Intake
- Aim for 2 litres of pure, still water per day
- Start the day with a large glass of warm water
- Avoid drinking lots of water at mealtimes
(e.g. 30 mins before & after a meal for good digestion)
- Sip your water regularly away from meals
- If drinking caffeine or alcohol, have a glass of water too
The Body Toolkit award-winning retreat programmes share simple, yet powerful things we can all do to nourish the body, reduce stress and help ourselves to thrive. For dates, availability and prices for upcoming retreats: www.thebodytoolkit.com/book-a-retreat