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July 2000 Issue
We Really Need to Drink More Water!
by Michael Fick
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Headaches are very often dehydration-induced, and hangovers are primarily alcohol-induced dehydration. Coffee just increases the dehydration and exacerbates the hangover.

Think you’re an unlikely candidate for dehydration? Think again; the most noted researcher of hydration in the U.S. is convinced half of us are chronically mildly dehydrated. After all, a sedentary, healthy (there’s an classic oxymoron) person in a cool home loses a measurable eight glasses a day of water simply by existing. Any extra activity or warmth increases that loss, and caffeine or extra protein increases it much more. Eight glasses a day is just the bare minimum requirement, but it does include the juices and fluid content of our food.

Isn’t going without water macho? Of course! After all, isn’t “macho” Spanish for “stupid”? It’s also harmful and sometimes downright dangerous, so it’s time to create a new habit.

Once middle-aged people get what I’ve dubbed the Mason jar syndrome, developing this vital habit is a nuisance. In our 50s our bladders lose most of their elasticity, and start behaving like a Mason jar being filled by a trickle of water. A capped jar is quite happy and non-stressed when it’s one teaspoonful short of full, but will not hold one teaspoonful more than it was designed for because it will not stretch. When our middle-aged, inelastic, closed bladder receives that last teaspoonful, we go from “I think I could go to the bathroom” to a full-blown peemergency in mere minutes. There’s none of this, “I gotta go; I’d better plan on a pit stop within the next coupla hours.” (Admit it; you talk that way to yourself.) Instead, it’s, “I’m in pain. I have fewer than five minutes, wedding or no wedding.”

So why, at any age, let alone >50, should we start drinking all that extra water, knowing it’s just going to through us anyway, often within an hour? Again: probably the simplest, cheapest, and most effective thing we can do to improve our health is making a habit of drinking a half gallon of non-caffeinated fluids every day. Besides, within six weeks of consistent increased water intake our bodies adjust and we can again get more than 100 yards from a bathroom without having panic (or choose your own p-word) attacks.

It’s obvious now that most of us need to drink much more water. But 1) how do we do it, 2) how do we make ourselves do it, and 3) how do we do it without constant pit stops? By the numbers …

Chug a pint when you get up. Wash down your pills with a glass. Drink a glass 30 minutes before each meal (this dramatically aids digestion and metabolism), and another with your meals. Keep tasty, low-calorie, low-caffeine drinks handy to entice you to drink more. Drink an extra quart on hot days or on the day before exercising a lot (more if both apply) and an extra pint a couple of hours before exercising. Carry that silly water bottle everywhere (psst … it’s not silly, OK?). Drink a glass of water to offset each drink of alcohol or caffeine. Never wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Never walk past a water fountain without taking a drink. And the very last thing your body needs after prolonged play is that beer.

Just do it. In six weeks it should be a habit and you should feel better and be healthier.

You don’t, initially. But within six weeks your body will adapt and the hassle will subside, just as it did when you added lots of beans to your diet. For fewer middle-of-the-night trips down the hall, we of the Mason-jar-bladder set should drink nothing within three hours of bedtime.

For more details from hydration’s greatest promoter, Dr. Batmanghelidj, check out I don’t know how widely his book described there is accepted yet, but some very well-respected health researchers are starting to pay serious attention to his research and claims. His book does provide extensive scientific explanation for them.

Well, I’m not thirsty, so it’s time for a drink. But I hate warm water, or even ice water when I’m not thirsty, so it’s time for a drink of icy Kool-aid. Whatever it takes to get through this habit-forming period is worth it.

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