Hydration: the first step to building health

The first step to preventing dementia is to stay hydrated. The brain is more sensitive to dehydration than any other tissue in your body. This issue is on my mind due to numerous friends’ parents having tragically developed Alzheimer’s and also learning of contemporaries with early-stage dementia. Craniosacral therapy can help, and I’ll write about that in the future. Today: hydration.

This is a topic that your doctor will probably never mention unless you have a severe issue like kidney disease, but your massage therapist certainly will!

You are at your most dehydrated when you wake up in the morning. Therefore, drink water soon after you wake! It’ll help get your brain and your whole system going. 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and recommend that if you want to be healthier (and aren’t already doing this), simply drinking enough water every day is the best first step you can take. We are squishy, fluid creatures, full of blood, lymph, digestive fluids, cerebrospinal fluid, and more. Even our bones are 30 percent water. So everything (cells, brain, hormones, enzymes, metabolism, organs, glands, muscles, nerves, digestion, moods, energy — everything!) works better when we keep ourselves hydrated.

If you’re not sure you’re getting enough water, go for drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day, so if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces. You can count the water in other beverages and in foods toward the total.

If you sweat, drink more.

Hydration is important enough to your health to track your water consumption every day until you get a sense of how much you are actually getting. Measure how much your water bottle and favorite glass hold. Drinking a 14-oz. glass on waking and before three meals and sipping on a refill of a 16-oz. water bottle between meals and before bed adds up to 72 ounces.

You can also use the color of your urine as a gauge of your hydration level. If it’s nearly clear, you are drinking enough water.

Some people like to drink a glass of water 30 minutes before eating. It provides a sense of fullness so you eat less, and since many people mistake hunger for thirst, this lets you satiate your thirst first. You will usually not eat as much.

Thirty minutes before eating gives the water enough time to pass through your stomach without diluting your natural digestive enzymes breaking down that meal. These enzymes tend to decline with age, meaning we assimilate fewer of the nutrients we consume. You want your digestive enzymes working at full strength on the food you eat! After a meal, wait at least an hour before drinking water for the same reason.

Concerned about water quality? If not, you should be. Tiny microfibers from synthetic fabrics have entered the food chain and are poisoning water sources (source: The Guardian, How your clothes are poisoning our oceans and food supply). Patagonia, a responsible outdoor apparel company that sometimes uses synthetic fabrics, has sponsored some of the research and has published an update here. Meanwhile, wear more natural fibers.

Of course you want to drink the cleanest, best tasting water available! EWG has published a database of water quality for public water supplies in the U.S. I learned that the tap water in Austin, Texas, has eight contaminants that exceed health guidelines. (NYC only has 6.) Six of the eight are due to the water being treated with chlorine. Austin also has 16 other contaminants for which there are apparently no guidelines, including fluoride, cyanide, herbicides, and nitrate, a fertilizer.

So, yes, filtered water is much better than unfiltered! Any filter properly and consistently used is much better than none, so if a faucet filter or a filtered pitcher is what you can afford now, do it. EWG has a buying guide for water filters.

Curious about pharmaceutical residues in drinking water? Read this. I take as few pharmaceuticals as possible (currently none) and don’t want to drink them with my water. Most municipal water treatment plants get most of the pharmaceuticals out of our drinking water. But even very small amounts of numerous drugs over the decades can have an effect on our bodies, not to mention aquatic life. This is an issue to keep an eye on, and to advocate for.

So, please do not flush your unused medications down the toilet, where they can enter the water supply. Take them to a collection center.

For years, I used a dual-stage under-counter system by Kenmore, recommended by Consumer Reports, until Sears stopped making replacement filters. (Go figure, right?)

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.32.29 PMI recently upgraded and bought myself the best system I could afford, a Travel Berkey water system — not included on EWG’s list. I’m not sure why, perhaps because it’s a British product with British certification standards? If you know, please enlighten us.

It sits on my counter next to my sink and holds 1.5 gallons, enough water for 1 or 2 people a day. I take off the lid, fill the top container with tap water (you can filter rain, well, lake, stream, and river water too), and two ceramic filters clean the water as it drips into the bottom container, filling it in a couple of hours. These ceramic filters are good for filtering 1,000 gallons and take out over 90% of the chlorine. They pull out sediment, inhibit bacteria and viruses, and greatly reduce fluoride, a known neurotoxin. The filters can be washed and reused.

I plan to upgrade to Berkey black filters, which filter more chlorine as well as lead, heavy metals, and other contaminants, and last longer (6,000 gallons). They are said to be the leading water purifier filter available.

So, yes, it’s a little work to fill it…but so worth it! When I wake up in the morning, I look forward to drinking that first beautiful glass of clean, clear, great tasting water, and throughout the day, it’s as if my natural sense of thirst for wonderful tasting clean water has been restored.


I just watched 6 of the 8 episodes of Broken Brain, which consists of videotaped interviews with leading functional medicine practitioners and their allies (which I consider myself to be one).

Not once in those episodes did they mention drinking water to keep the brain hydrated.

Granted, they may have mentioned it in episodes 3 and 4, which I missed. If you watched and heard them mention hydration, I’d love it.

I just came from doing a craniosacral session on a client with a recent concussion who’s still feeling some vertigo, problems with words, pain, fatigue, and having to have her husband drive her.

Earlier I had put together a handout on post-concussion recovery to give to her and future concussion clients. I put hydration at the top of my list, along with taking Epsom salt baths to restore depleted magnesium levels, a critical mineral for nervous system health (also not mentioned on Broken Brain that I know of).



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