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Stay Hydrated, Be Healthy

Here in the Rogue Valley, things are starting to heat up as we move in to summer, and now is the time to make a plan for staying hydrated in the months ahead.  Taking in enough fluid cleans out our internal systems as a robust blood supply flows throughout the hydrated body, removing toxins and getting essential nutrients where they need to go.  Good hydration can help us avoid or reduce headaches, poor digestion, joint pain, muscle soreness, constipation, and a host of skin complaints from the unattractive to the uncomfortable, as the skin attempts to let out the toxins that don't get flushed out properly when we’re dehydrated. In fact, I could probably fill up the rest of this post just listing all the benefits of staying hydrated!  Most of us know we need to get enough to drink, but many of us struggle to make good hydration a part of our daily routine.  To that end, I want to introduce you to a simple yet powerful daily practice that has helped me boost my own intake of refreshing and replenishing fluids.

This picture shows a tray of beverages I’ve prepared for myself first thing in the morning.  Once this is done, I have everything I need to keep hydrated throughout the day, including the visual reminder of these enticing beverages just waiting to be sipped!  If I’m heading out for a day in the office or another excursion, all these lovely drinks get poured into jars and closed tightly and placed in a portable cooler to come with me on my daily travels.  As with so many things in health and life, this preparation and up-front investment of time pays off many times over. I feel better when I’m sipping my drinks throughout the day, and I never have to resort to a less nourishing beverage choice in a moment of extreme thirst while I’m out and about.  Give it a try for yourself and see how much better you feel!  Some ideas for what you can use to fill your mugs and cups:

Pure Water (with additions):  Fresh spring water, free from chlorine and other chemicals is best. If you are using water purified through reverse osmosis (RO), remember that additional minerals need to be added back, as minerals are filtered out along with the toxins in the reverse osmosis process. I’ve encountered folks who tell me that they don’t like water, and I encourage them to add something to the plain water to make it more appealing to them: a spritz of lemon, a few ounces of juice or kombucha, even a pinch of sea salt can make water more appealing to some while adding trace minerals – try it!  On my beverage table, in the glass on the upper left at about 10 o’clock, I have a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon (use Meyer lemons for the most sweet and deliciously lemony taste) and a pinch of sea salt, which is how I typically start my day.  The fresh lemon juice is a detoxifier, and the warm water helps to start the day with a healthy bowel movement.  Many folks underestimate how potent fresh lemon juice can be in their body. Start with less lemon juice initially if you're feeling weak or are on your menstrual cycle, for example, as the power of this seemingly innocent addition of lemon juice can actually be quite detoxifying.  Add some whey to this drink, and you’ll get a simplified version of the quick sports drink described on page 595 of Nourishing Traditions, a great option for those who will be out working and sweating under the summer sun.  Notice that I prefer a smaller glass of more potent lemon water which I consume pretty fast with a straw before rinsing my mouth with plain water directly after.  This is to prevent the erosion of the enamel coating on my teeth.  In the glass mug in the picture, I have two ounces of kombucha (fermented tea) mixed with my water, which I find entices me more than plain water alone. 

Bone Broth: In a place of honor at 12 o’clock is my mug of homemade bone broth.  You can read more about this superfood (superdrink?!) HERE on my blog, where you can learn how to make it yourself, or buy it from Rogue Valley’s own Bare Bones Broth HERE.  Bone broth is both nourishing and hydrating, and I miss it when I don't include it! Sometimes my bone broth is simply incorporated into the foods I eat throughout the day instead of separately in a broth.  I often add a scoop of deliciously nourishing fat to my mug (ghee or butter are my favorites, though coconut oil is preferred by many), particularly if I need an extra brain or energy boost, like when I'm spending my day helping back to back patients or will be doing physical labor on the farm.  Some patients refer to this as bone broth tea and though there's no actual tea in it, I appreciate the name said with affection for this healing mug of broth.  I especially encourage you to try incorporating this new bone broth tea habit if you struggle with any digestive issues (pain in your abdomen/intestines, irregular bowel movements, heart burn/gerd/reflux, etc.).  Think 'balm on a wound' for soothing inflamed mucosal tissue in your gut.  Give it a try and you may find like many of us who have suffered with digestive distress that it is more effective than most medicines and heals while it soothes! Other great additions to your mug of bone broth include quality sea salt (to taste) to increase mineralization and organic turmeric powder to reduce inflammation. 

Probiotic Fermented Beverages:  This can be a great alternative for those who like the fizz of soda but want to make a better choice than adding all that sugar to their bodies. There are now many brands of kombucha (fermented tea) available in a variety of flavors, so keep trying even if you don’t like the first one (or 5!) you taste.  Kevita brand probiotic drinks also offer a variety of fizzy, flavorful options. I prefer the Lemon Ginger flavor, as it does not contain stevia and to me tastes more delicious than some of their other flavors.  Stevia is an herb that provides a sweet flavor to drinks and foods without necessarily disturbing your blood sugar (glucose) levels, but some folks' taste buds (mine included) register it as bitter, sickeningly sweet, and/or simply unappealing.  You can also take the plunge and start fermenting your own beverages at home, as I have taught my patients and class participants. Making your own nonalcoholic ferments can be a fun and rewarding process.

Herbal Infusions:  The blue mug at 3 o’clock in the picture contains an herbal tea – which doesn’t actually have any black or green tea leaves in it, thus the term “infusion” rather than “tea.” An actual cup of black or green tea can have its place in your routine, but remember that caffeinated beverages like tea, coffee and many sodas will actually act as a diuretic, causing you to urinate out more fluid than you take in, definitely NOT contributing to good hydration overall.  Thus, a caffeine-free herbal infusion is a great choice.  There are so many options to choose from and I love to get the medicinal benefit of healing herbs with my daily cup of tea.  In the morning, I might make a tulsi tea for adrenal support in times of high stress, or some pau de arco brew if I’m feeling a microbial imbalance, for example.  In the evening, choose a lavender and chamomile brew to help you relax and get ready for sleep at least an hour and a half before bed, so it doesn’t keep you up at night evacuating your bladder in the bathroom.  Experiment with herbs that taste good and that can provide you with some benefits beyond flavor and hydration.  If you are buying bagged teas from the store: pay attention to quality!  Many have flavoring added that often times contains soy, so make sure to read the labels and ensure that you’re getting just the good herbs. Once you discover what you prefer and benefit from most, purchasing in bulk may be a good money saving option. As always, look for organic options.

Coffee Alternatives:  The little cup of brown liquid on the left of the picture is Dandy Blend.  You can read more about the benefits of Dandy Blend HERE, and find some tasty options for how to make it HERE.  As I’ve mentioned, coffee is NOT the right choice for good hydration, and because it is hard on the liver, it won’t provide the same detoxifying effects as other more nourishing fluids. 

Smoothies:  A meal and a drink all in one!  

Diluted Fruit and Vegetable Juices:  There are many benefits we can get from eating whole fruits and vegetables that we do not get when we juice them. Juice can be a part of a healthy day’s worth of beverages, however, if it is freshly made from local, organic, low sugar produce, with just enough sweetness from fruits or sweet vegetables (carrot, beet) for palatability. 

Finally, a note about temperature:  I recommend that folks drink their beverages warm or at room temperature.  On hot days, icy beverages may sound good, but the body has extra work to do to bring cold liquids up to a temperature that the body can then digest. It is best to reduce the amount of work the body has to do, especially for people who have sensitive stomachs, poor digestion, or who experience bloating, stomach cramps, or other uncomfortable gut symptoms.  In Florida growing up, I drank sweetened iced beverages all the time (sweet tea and sodas - ugh!), and am now convinced that these habits were a major contributor to the irritable bowel syndrome and gut challenges I developed and spent so many years recovering from. These habits contributed to the feelings of heaviness and fatigue and congestion in the abdomen, caused by what we refer to in Chinese medicine as “spleen qi (energy) deficiency" and "spleen qi (energy) stagnation,” that can affect the whole body. 

Support your body by drinking room-temperature beverages with no caffeine and minimal sugars throughout the day to stay happy, healthy and hydrated! Please leave a comment about hydrating beverages you enjoy.

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