NOTE: This article is not about the benefits of drinking water.
Read on to understand your body's signals, what kind of water you need to be drinking to quench the thirst of a dehydrated body and a short story about me and water. :)
One of the key channels (srota) that regulate the water transportation in our body is called the Ambuvaha Srotas in Ayurvedic Medicine.
"Ambuvaha (uddakavaha) srotas: its chief organs are talu (palate) and kloma (pancreas), it gets vitiated by ama, fear, excess of alcoholic drinks, dry foods, suppression of thirst etc. Severe thirst, dryness of the mouth, ringing of the ears and unconsciousness are signs of its vitiation, treatment for these is the same as that of trishna (thirst)." (1)
The channel itself doesn't correspond to a system but shares a functional integrity with the food processing channels. Dr. Vasant Lad explains it as "the mucous lining of the large intestine is the Water carrying channel, whereas the GI tract itself is the digestive process channel." So there is a connection to their functional integrity.
The water carrying channel also corresponds to the very vital physiological function of the body: the fluid and electrolyte balance, for which the Pancreas plays a major role for its endocrine aspect that helps produce insulin from the food / water we eat/drink.
Dehydration is known as a key disorder of this water carrying channel, which can be caused by excessive fluid loss (#hotyogis take note) or having dry mouth and feeling thirsty - pay strict attention that these are all signals of the body being dehydrated.
A recent article in Medical News Today, shared that the top 3 general causes of dehydration seen are:
1. Diarrhea and Vomiting most common with children.
2. Sweating especially as the hotter season approaches for adults.
3. Patients of Diabetes
In Western medicine the most common symptoms and progressions of dehydration are:
Dry mouth, dry eyes, lack of sweating, yellow colored urine, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, confusion, dizziness, and eventually coma and death (in the case of diabetics or alcohol related).
The Ayurvedic system understands it as "due to evaporation of saumya (watery) dhatus (tissues), causing trishna (thirst) leads on to dizziness, causing increased tremors all over the body, feeling of increased heat, burning sensation and delusion. General features of dehydration are dryness of the mouth, non-contentment by drinking water, aversion to food, feeble voice, roughness of the throat, lips and tongue...disorderliness of the mind." (2)
So what all this means is that feeling thirsty, should not be taken lightly. By the time the body is feeling thirsty it is already dehydrated and some unwelcome but really common and overlooked symptoms are:
2. Feeling Foggy headed
3. Headaches and
4. Acidic feeling in the body
My personal story with dehydration has been quite a source of reflection for all the problems I faced and the transformations I have experienced in my current life.
I spent the first 13 years of my life in South East Asia, where I grew up drinking fresh coconut water and home made digestive spiced drinks. My family always had to force water down my throat since I found it boring to drink since very young and lead a very active lifestyle with summers being very hot. As we migrated to Australia fresh coconuts or spiced drinks were no longer a regular thing but I found a liking to spiced chai and homemade Lassis but I wasn't as active as before. While I never developed a liking for take away or soft drinks, water was still not a favorite until very hot weather hit Sydney.
Fifteen years later when I started earning and paying for my own drinks, I always opted to pay for a potent beverage, and it wouldn't feel satisfying to have paid for a pot of herbal tea or the room temperature mineral water. Especially when everyone else ordered something sparkling or alcoholic.
Mind you, it was partly my naivety and the social me, that would try to keep up with the rest and end up feeling like crap afterwards for not knowing how to care for myself. A few more years later, frequenting pubs and restaurants became quite a regular thing and I never wanted to pay for water, or a warm tea when out (since I could have just stayed home for that!). Unfortunately I just didn't have the awareness nor the understanding of my personal behaviors in how they were contributing to signs like: Waking up regularly with a dull headache, or feeling lazy first thing in the mornings, and being really emotionally reactive in life.
Funniest thing is I honestly thought that I was living a balanced lifestyle since I was doing a bit of everything in life - but you know, it takes these experiences to learn from and only in 2015 I had a chance to become aware of my personal health. When I reflected, I tracked that every month I had experienced water retention and slight weight gain during the pre-menstrual days but before this, all my friends and a lot of women I knew would just accept these symptoms as PMS and close the book. I also tracked that my lack of desire to drink water was because I found it difficult to retain water so I would drink only minimally since, everytime I would drink I would go immediately and I would find it annoying- so unconsciously I was avoiding drinking water.
So as part of my healing, I got on some herbs, made changes to my diet, mindset, lifestyle and revised my personal values. Slowly the monthly symptoms of water retention and not wanting to drink water passed.
One of the unsuspecting patterns that I had also adopted while constantly being slightly tired was that I ate a lot of foods that were high in sugar or would give me an immediate energy boost. This over time would have lead me to Diabetes, because of the jumps in my blood glucose levels. Mind you I also have family history of Diabetes and various types of Cancer to be concerned for.
I thought I was eating "healthy" energizing foods because I was eating fruits!!! You already know about my story though on how I overcame the low iron issue on this blog.
Along my life and Ayurveda journey I have met many women that talk of drinking liters of water and still have dry skin, feel tired and thirsty. The tiredness is coming from the lack of hydration and drinking the wrong water (yes that's right) is as good as not drinking water when things are so dire.
You see by the time our body tells us we are thirsty, is is already dehydrated. And if we have attempted to hydrate (with the wrong water or sources of sustenance) but still feel thirsty, it can be a sign that the body needs hydrating on a cellular level.
So Ayurveda recommends the following:
Instead of drinking normal temperature water, boil the water to make it sharper and more penetrating.
By making it sharper and warmer, it can enter the tissues that normal or cold water cannot.
Try this Ayurvedic Cleansing Water:
Bring two cups of water to boil in a stainless steel pan (do not use aluminium), let the water boil for 2-4 minutes, then add the following:1/2 t. whole coriander seeds,1/2 t. whole fennel and let steep two 1” slices of fresh ginger root
Let the tea sit for 10 minutes with the spices releasing their herbal properties into the water. Then strain out the spices to store inside a thermos / flask to sip throughout the day.
This recipe is to quench thirst, aids in digestion and removes impurities from the body's micro channels that cold water cannot reach.
For better results you can drink 1 glass every morning on an empty stomach daily to see the usual fogginess, headaches or indigestion reduce.
I have a question for you:
What is 1 of your single biggest challenge when it comes to keeping hydrated?
Please comment below this article and share your story.
1. KR Srikantha Murthy tr. Asthanga Sangraha Sharirasthan Ch 6 quoted from Ashtanga Hridayam Chowkhambha Krishnadas Academy Vol 1 p 403 footnote
2. KR Srikantha Murthy tr. Ashtanga Hridayam Nidanasthanam ch V v 46-49 Chowkhambha Krishnadas Academy, Varanasi