Over the past week the temperatures in Chicago have been at all-time high, the hottest in 42 years. With this heat wave descending over Chicago, I feel like I may as well be in India, though I think the humidity may be a bit higher here in Chicago. And what can serve us best in a heat wave like this? Water, perhaps?
Ice. Cold. Glass of water. Or submersed in ice cold water.
Close, but no cigar.
In the next several posts I am going to explore with you the in’s and out’s of water with some tips on how to use it wisely so you can stay hydrated and enjoy the day even when it’s piping hot out. Sometimes in mainstream concepts of health we tend to generalize- one size fits all, all the time. However, if we look into concepts from traditional medicine or delve into extensive research carried out by specialized groups, we will find a much more extensive body of knowledge.
Staying hydrated is certainly important, with the simple equation, drink half of your body weight in ounces, to follow. However, this is not the only important aspect to consider when trying to do your body good. Though we may feel drawn to everything cold when it gets so hot, cold water and beverages are actually particularly harmful to your body. According to Ayurvedic Medicine, your stomach is akin to a small fire, a helpful image to keep in mind as we continue on to consider all the ways that you can use water in a healthy manner.
What happens when you add cold to fire? At the very least, you stifle it. Your stomach does better with warming foods and beverages, energetically, if not in actually temperature. Cold hurts the stomach, causing indigestion, and therefore incomplete nourishment for the rest of the body. What happens with incomplete nourishment? The body begins to deteriorate and imbalance results.
Along this line of thought, when you drink water is also important. Bring into mind that digestive fire of the stomach again. When you are hungry your stomach fire is burning in full force, ready to digest what you put into it. Maybe you’re thirsty too. You take a big swig of water, maybe gulping down a whole glass and your digestive fire… goes out. Kaput. Now what happens when you eat? Again, improper digestion and improper nourishment.
The same idea applies directly following a meal when digestion in the stomach has already begun. The key here is to drink beverages in moderation prior, during, and after a meal, limiting intake during a meal to one glass of room temperature water. According to Ayurveda, this window spans from 45 minutes before meal to 45 minutes after a meal. Following this guideline will help to ensure that your body receives the nourishment it needs and stays hydrated.
Lastly, where is your water coming from? The truths around water are scary. The Earth’s aquifers are fast becoming depleted, not due to human overconsumption but to projects related to livestock farming and oil mining. Instead of getting water directly from natural sources, much of our water, particularly in cities, is coming from the tap- yes, even some of that bottled water comes from there too. The water we drink can contain antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, waste, and various chemicals like fluorine, chlorine, and even arsenic, depending on the city where we live and its quality of water. An article published recently in the New York Times, “The Tap Water is Legal but May Be Unhealthy”, details some of the current issues around water safety in the U.S. Alarmed? Understandable.
What are your choices? How can you drink water and not only stay safe but actually get the hydration and nourishment that you need? Some immediate options include researching local water provision companies, determining if there is a clean spring nearby, or investing in an effective and safe water filter. The current state of health of your body and mind also play a part in how your body handles the water you ingest so taking care to nurture a positive state of mind, a nurturing home environment, and a balanced life all bear weight.
These suggestions are preliminary as is the information in this post so stay tuned for more! In the meantime, check out the article above and see how you feel de-stressing your body with simple Ayurvedic water wisdom.