Why It’s Important to Drink Enough Water

Lifefactory Glass Bottles

 

Drinking enough water keeps you healthy. How much is enough, though? How much is too much? And, how do you keep kids drinking when you are on the run so often? We have answers.

Humans are about 60% water (45-75% depending on age, body fat, gender, etc.). We lose fluids through sweating, breathing, urinating, and moving our bowels, then we replace that water by eating foods high in water (fruits, vegetables, and soup, for example), by drinking non-water beverages, and by just drinking water. We keep our body fluids in balance when fluids in and fluids out are equal.

How much water should I drink a day?

You’ve heard that you should drink a gallon (64 ounces) of water a day. There isn’t actually any scientific support for this number, but it’s easy to remember 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day, so that can be used as a general guideline. An adult male might need about 100 ounces a day while a female might need 72 ounces. A pregnant woman would need to add another 8 ounces a day, and a breastfeeding woman would need to add another 24 ounces, or 3 small glasses of water per day.

You body uses more water when you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as you exercise (and you sweat), when it’s hot (and you sweat), when you are sick (especially if you’ve vomited or had diarrhea), or if you are losing weight (to eliminate toxins). To keep fluids in balance, drink more water in any of these situations.

Don’t drink all of that water at once

You can drink too much water all at once. Your intake shouldn’t exceed what your kidneys can excrete, which is about 1 liter or 1 quart of water in an hour. When you exceed what your kidneys can excrete, the excess goes to your cells and swells them. This is why one symptom of excess water intake is a headache, since your brain is 70-75% water.

What happens if I don’t drink enough?

Mild dehydration, when your body is losing more fluids than you are taking in, can result in feeling tired, headachy, dizzy, and, of course, thirsty. If you are exercising without drinking, you might notice muscle fatigue. More severe dehydration can leave your or your children with sunken eyes, sunken fontanel, no tears, rapid breathing, rapid heartbeat, and dry mouth. You are likely to notice and remedy the lack of water before the severe symptoms.

Dehydration can also lower your metabolism. If you are trying to lose weight, keep a close eye on your water intake because “[b]eing even 1% dehydrated can cause a significant drop in metabolism.” If you urine is amber or dark, you need more water.

Drink Steadily

It’s a Goldilocks situation. Not too much, not too little, just right helps to keep our body fluids in balance. Your thirst generally tells you when you need to be drinking, unless you are drinking dehydrating drinks or unless you are sick (or diabetic).

Drink water steadily throughout the day without taking in too much at once.

Your tap water is probably safe, though it’s worth watching the local water quality assessments. If you do need a water filtration system, get one that meets your needs. Most people won’t need anything fancy.

How can I get my kids to drink water?

In my family, we started when the children were small, and we limited non-water drinks. It’s easier to start a habit when your children are young, and the behavior is just what your family does.

One thing that helped a lot in my family was getting a set of four glasses each with a different design. We have the Beatles. When I see John, I know it’s my glass, and I don’t hesitate to pick it up. It’s a funny thing to make a difference, but designated water glasses has kept us drinking more.

Lifefactory Glass Bottles for the whole family

Lifefactory reusable glass water bottles

If you are avoiding plastic and aluminum bottles, so you are leaning toward glass but want to avoid breakage as well, we recommend Lifefactory glass bottles. They are covered in silicone sleeves that make them break resistant and easy to grip, even for little hands.

We like the Lifefactory Glass bottles because of the variety. For adults and older children, you can choose 12 oz, 16 oz, or 22 oz sizes. They have straw tops, loop tops, and flip tops. For little kids and babies, they have sippy tops and bottle tops. Choose a different color for each person in the family, and you will always know whose water is whose.

Lifefactory’s bottles are made in France, and the rest of the components are made in the USA. They are BPA free and dishwasher safe. Wide tops make it easy to add ice. We like the great performance of these reusable water bottles.

When you are teaching your family to have healthy habits, like drinking more water, it helps to have the right tools on hand.

Drink up.

Natural First Aid

Preparation of comfrey

The need for natural first aid will come up as you spend more time outside in the summer—hiking, camping, and adventuring. Start with a few basic plants and ingredients for natural first aid.

Kitchen First Aid

Before you go out into the garden, start in your kitchen. If you know your food and what it does for your body, you can use common basic ingredients to aid in health and healing every day. These are just a few of my favorite essentials.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Internally, add to water and drink or use on food to avoid heartburn or indigestion. Gargle to soothe a sore throat. Kids might be reluctant to just take vinegar because it is a very strong taste.

If you just want to get your kids to take apple cider vinegar regularly, slice up cucumbers and onions, cover in apple cider vinegar and water, leave for a day, and you have quick pickles. My kids love these. We always have pickled cucumbers and beets in our fridge.

Externally, pour on a cloth and dab on the skin to take the sting and color out of sunburn. This is one of my family’s most common uses of apple cider vinegar. My childhood memories of summer include smelling like fish and chips, but it works, and I’ve continued to use it on my own children.

Also, use a cloth soaked in apple cider vinegar to neutralize the alkaline venom of wasps or hornets.

Baking Soda

While we are healing stings, take a paste with water and apply on bee stings to neutralize their acidic venom.

Peppermint and Ginger

For nausea or upset stomach, peppermint and ginger are my first choice. This is another food that I have used as long as I can remember. My mother often picked mint from around our house to boil for a drink when I was feeling nauseated.

There is a reason we have after dinner mints or ginger sweets to follow a meal. They help digestion. These are easy foods to give a child.

Cayenne

We eat a lot of spicy foods, so I get a regular does of cayenne internally. This can increase blood flow. You can also use cayenne powder externally to stop bleeding.

Manuka Honey

We have family in New Zealand, where we learned about the healing properties of manuka honey—honey produced by bees that pollinate manuka (which is similiar to tea tree). When manuka honey contains high concentrations of methylglyoxal (MG), it can be used medically. In my family, we use it for wound care or for a food additive when we are ill.

The honey, especially medical-grade honey, is expensive, so we use this sparingly. If we were in New Zealand and could get it less expensively, it would be at the top of my list.

Plant a Healing Garden

If you want to heal your family naturally, start by planting a few essential healing plants in your own garden.

Echinacea

These beautiful pink-purple flowers are easy to grow. Echinacea is often used internally, usually in tea, as an immunity builder or as a cold remedy. It reduces inflammation and is antibacterial and antibiotic.

Arnica

Arnica is commonly used externally (though not on open wounds) for bruises, muscle soreness, and other aches and pains. Most natural first aid kits will include arnica.

Arnica Spray

Arnica Spray for bruises

Mom’s Kisses Topical Arnica Spray is an easy way to keep arnica in your first aid kit. It comes in travel size, also.

Comfrey

Comfrey is another common natural healing plant best used externally, though you can use it on open wounds that aren’t too deep. Comfrey encourages healing of skin and tissues. Very common ingredient in homemade salves.

Yarrow

Yarrow flowers act as a styptic, stopping bleeding when used on wounds. Yarrow flowers or ointment made with yarrow are an important addition to your kit.

Aloe Vera

My mother always had an aloe vera plant growing in our house. When I had bites or rashes, she would trim the plant and squeeze the gel onto my skin. Plus, the plant looks great indoors. Every house should have an aloe vera plant to be used to soothe skin.

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment

Anointment Skin Soothing Ointment contains many of these basic natural first aid plants listed above: comfrey, burdock, plaintain, and other soothing and healing ingredients. You don’t necessarily need to make your own ointments, but it does help to understand what herbs do and which herbs work for which purposes, so you can choose wisely when you buy prepared healing potions.

Wildcrafting

Learn the plants of your area, and your hiking adventures can yield wild foods (like nettles, red clover, dandelion, burdock, and other common plants) and wild healing (like plaintain, arnica, yarrow, mullein, and other plants specific to your region).

The best way to learn about local plants is to join a local herbalist or visit a local botanical garden for a walk specifically designed to teach you about local plant resources.

As preparation, you could play Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, a cooperative board game I play with my kids. This is a great way to learn and reinforce learning about herbs for healing.

Essential Oils

I do worry about the ways I see some essential oils being used. Someone who has been warning against essential oil misuse for years is renowned herbalist Susun Weed.

An essential oil is a highly concentrated, drug-like substance which can cause severe side effects if used incorrectly. It concerns me that essential oils, which have killed several adults and children when taken internally, have been presented to the American public as a safe, warm-fuzzy, natural remedy. Out of respect for the plants and the many tons of them it takes to produce a little essential oil, I rarely use essential oils. Also, I prefer the safety and pleasure of using the plants themselves with their effective and amazing volatile oils.

From Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal Ezine v 7, no 12 (December 2007).

If you are going to use essential oils, please be sure that you start with the guidance of someone who has been trained, not just someone who wants to sell you a product they just learned about themselves.

Recipes? No.

I am not trained in natural first aid or herbal medicine. I have taken classes, read books, and helped my family when I can, but I do not have the background to share recipes with you.

I trust few natural healers. Among those I do trust are Demetria Clark and Susun Weed.

If you are looking for recipes, please choose wisely from those who have long-term experience and dedication to natural health. There are many great herbalists. Just look into the background of the person you want to work with or the person whose recipes you want to try before you experiment on your family.

Be the Herbalist

Yes, there is so much more. You could spend a lifetime learning about all of the natural ways to keep your family healthy and to heal them when they are injured or ill.

I think it is best to go slowly and deeply into that knowledge rather than dabbling with broad, shallow knowledge and taking risks.

You don’t need to become an herbalist in order to help your family naturally, though, why not? A friend and colleague of mine, Demetria Clark, runs Heart of Herbs School. In addition to intensive programs that lead toward master certification and diplomas in herbal medicine or aromatherapy, she offers short programs you can complete at your own pace.

Closer to home, find a local herbalist who is giving an all-day workshop or nature walk on herbal remedies. Just one day will help you identify basics that can become part of the naturally foundation for your family’s health.

Learn about herbal basics, safe herbs, and use them. Compare your experience with what you hear from your teachers. Then, add new herbs and natural remedies as you become more knowledgeable.

Pregnant?

My constant companion through pregnancy was Susun Weed’s Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (1985). If you are pregnant, you need to consult an herbal expert before using remedies. A few of them are unsafe, while most of them will be fine. Just learn the difference.

Natural First Aid Resources

Be sure to read our article on natural bug sprays and the sad state of repelling bugs naturally in Canada.

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Self Care: Sleep Matters

Mother sleeping

 

You keep your family functional through your strength, your health, your happiness and mood, and your focus. The one most important thing you can do to take care of yourself, the one thing that all other self care builds on, is getting enough sleep. Putting on your own oxygen mask first starts with sleep.

It’s so simple!

Sort of. Tough for a young mother but simple in theory.

You probably remember when it was easy to stay up all night and keep going the next day. That was before you had responsibilities for others, children to care for, and a long list of tasks you just have to get done every day. If you go without sleep now, you don’t feel your best the next day. A study of doctors showed that, when fatigued, their performance was comparable to having 3-4 cocktails.

Lack of sleep leaves you impaired with slower reaction times. This does not help your family. Beyond the immediate effects of impaired judgment, lack of sleep triggers health effects: lower immunity, metabolism changes (weight gain), and even more serious disease. This is just the beginning.

Abusing your body by doing without sleep will have a long-term impact. I write from experience. I know getting enough sleep is a very difficult thing for the mother of a young child, but it has both short- and long-term impact on your own health and on everyone around you. Right now you are bridging from your youth to your middle age, and the choices you make for your health make a difference for your present and your future.

Sleep does matter. You must take care of yourself.

Your Sleep Routine

Create routines that protect your sleep. In order to help your baby sleep with love and compassion, you need routines that signal to everyone that it is time to wind down and let go for the day. If you have figured this out for your baby, you already have an idea how developing a routine works. Your routines involve more than just you, of course. Especially if you are co-sleeping, you need to create routines that work for your entire family.

Start with what is working. When have you found that you slept really well recently? What did you do the day before or the evening before that great night’s sleep? How did you wake up? Can you replicate that?

Tweak your routine over time, but don’t assume it will all work out on its own. You need to protect your sleep time. If you can’t handle everything in the time your have available, ask for help.

How much sleep do you need? Every person is slightly different, but the general rules apply. Most adults need 8 hours sleep per night.

Self Care Means Love & Compassion for Yourself

Approach your own needs with love and compassion—as you would for your children or spouse. That doesn’t mean lining up excuses and accepting every one. Loving yourself means understanding your deeper needs and focusing there rather than on the superficial. Loving yourself means not prioritizing your needs below those of everyone else.

Finding a way to meet the needs of all family members can be difficult. You will undoubtedly come up short, but that doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying.

Understand that taking care of yourself matters. Getting enough sleep matters.

Sleep well.

For more details on the effects of lack of sleep, read “Sleep for Health.”

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Natural Prevention for Cold and Flu

Mother and ill daughter

During a time of stress and disruption of usual, healthy eating habits, we see a lot of colds and flu. We allow our immunity to drop just a bit, and we give bacteria and viruses a way into our system.

The steps you can take to boost immunity in your family are very simple. Maybe not as simple as taking a pill labelled “Prevents colds and flu,” but you know that wouldn’t really work anyway.

Build and maintain health for your whole family through basic habits. You just need to understand what your body needs and provide that. You are more likely to get sick when you are bending your basic rules of healthy living.

Sleep. Your first and most important step to improved health is getting enough sleep. It really is that simple. Read more about sleeping for health.

Nutrition. What you eat matters. Eating whole, unprocessed foods in the right balance gives your body what it needs to function well and fight off seasonal invaders. Which foods? Read more about how to boost your immunity with foods.

Physical Activity. Your physical activity is a factor in your ability to fight off infection. You know you need to be active, but how active for how long? Read more about guidelines for physical activity for adults and children.

Manage Stress. All of us have stress, even very young children. Your choice is in how you manage the stress. We wrote about how you can avoid the immune-suppression of stress through the mind-body connection.

Have Fun. Does it seem odd to include fun in prevention of illness? Laughter does help. In part, it helps you manage stress, but your happiness is a bigger part of the fabric of health you are weaving. Read more about how to help your family stay healthy.

Quick List for Cold & Flu Prevention

Beyond the solutions above for general health, you can give your immunity a boost during these months when bacteria and viruses are being passed around so much.

Raw Garlic. Don’t just add garlic to your cooking (though do that for the taste); eat garlic raw. Chop up or crush 1-2 cloves and either drink in warm water or add to food just before you are ready to eat it. An antiviral compound in raw garlic, allicin, blocks infections.

Apple Cider Vinegar. Drink a tablespoon of organic, apple cider vinegar in water to create an alkaline environment in your body, an environment where bacteria and viruses have a more difficult time surviving.

Vitamin D. Canada’s Food Guide has recognized that vitamin D is the only nutrient for which adults over 50 cannot rely on diet alone to receive their recommended daily dose. We sell Ddrops because of their therapeutic benefits.

Ddrops vitamin D supplement

Warm Drinks. In my family, we start with a base of chicken broth, ginger tea, or some other basic tea. We add honey, lemon, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and other spices to create what we call immuni-tea. The warm liquid and the ingredients both help boost immunity. My mother’s version was always hot water with lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey. Create your own version as an easy way to take in some of the basic cold and flu fighting foods.

If you don’t manage to fight off cold or flu, you have natural choices to treat the symptoms. We love elderberry syrup, so we carry Sambucol black elderberry extract.

Sambucol for kids

 

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Boost Immunity with Foods

Elderberry juice boosts immunity

You may have heard that this is a particularly tough flu season. Simple actions like choosing healthy foods can boost the immunity of yourself and your family to give all of you the best chance of fighting off flu and colds.


Your Immune System

Your immune system defends your body against disease by ridding your body of foreign invaders. Your immune system is not a constant, though. Your actions can boost or inhibit your immunity. If your body is already struggling because you are tired, for example, you will have more difficulty fighting off a cold.

The simplest way to boost your immunity this winter is to understand which foods provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function well.


Basic Immunity-building Pantry

Foods help your immune system through the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that help the system function. The most important immunity building vitamins are: Beta carotene (increases number of cells fighting infection), Vitamin C (increases white blood cells and antibodies), and Vitamin E (increases B-cells that destroy bacteria). Immunity building minerals are zinc (helps white blood cells reproduce quickly) and selenium (increases fighting cells). Don’t run out and buy a supplement pill, though. You can get all of these vitamins and minerals in food.

Stock your pantry with colorful fruits and vegetables. Carrots and sweet potatoes have beta carotene. Citrus has vitamin C. Blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate seeds, cherries, and other dark blue, purple, and red fruits are high in antioxidants, which reduce inflammation. Elderberries are particularly good for helping you fight colds and flu as an antiviral an antioxidant. Mushrooms have selenium and many other minerals an vitamins. Garlic is a great flu fighter with antioxidants and other immune-building properties.

Choose a variety of proteins. Beans, nuts, fish, and lean meats can all contribute toward your immune-boosting diet. Almonds provide vitamin E. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Sunflower seeds have selenium, as do many nuts, whole grains, and seeds.

Add herbs and spices to your foods. Medicinal herbs, like echinacea, goldenseal, and astragalus, are all immune boosters that fight viruses or increase the efficiency of white blood cells. You don’t want to add these to your foods, though. Culinary spices, like cayenne, oregano, and ginger, are also bacteria fighters. Use them fresh if you can, but use them in any form. Even black pepper can give you a little immune boost.


Every Day Foods

The range of immunity building foods is broad. It wouldn’t make any sense for me to tell you that only 5 or 10 or 50 of them are best for you because there is enough variety for you to choose your favorites. Still, I am going to suggest a few foods that will help you build immunity every day.

Smoothies. Start your morning with smoothies. Add dark fruits and vegetables, almond milk or yoghurt as a base, a few ice cubes to make it cool and reduce the intensity. That’s it! Just choose a colorful collection every morning.

Soup. With lunch, have a cup of soup every day. Chicken or vegetable broth both make a good base, but make sure you add garlic, perhaps ginger, lots of herbs and spices, and a few colorful vegetables.

Salad. With dinner every night, have leafy greens. Spinach and romaine lettuce are both very nutritious. Choose your dressing carefully. Better yet, make your own from olive oil, vinegar, and herbs. Each of these gives you a little boost. Maybe sometimes you have cooked kale with cider vinegar instead, but make sure you eat leafy greens every day.

Whole Grains. If you are going to eat cereal or bread, make them rich and nutty. The variety of grains, nuts, and seeds will help you over time.

Doesn’t that seem simple? It is. Boosting your immunity really isn’t difficult to understand or to do. These choices are easy to make every day, and the benefits build over time.


Keep in Mind

Avoid processed ingredients like white sugar and bleached wheat flour. Just avoiding those two will help you avoid many processed foods that have been drained of most nutritional value.

Get enough sleep. Yes, that isn’t a food, but rest is important enough to the healthy functioning of your immune system that you can undermine all of the good work you do with nutritious food by not getting enough sleep. Sleep for your health.

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