How much water do I need?
Water helps your body go with the flow. Water helps your brain control body temperature, and your eyes, nose, and mouth depend on its moisture. Your joints stay lubricated, your organs stay safe and cushioned, and your excretory system flushes out waste - mostly thanks to water.
All told, water makes up 60% of your body weight. Everyday, you lose some of that water. You sweat, you urinate, and you sigh out imperceptible water vapour each time you breathe. How much of that water you need to replenish each day depends on many different factors. Are you male or female? How old are you? Very active people may need more water than those with more sedentary habits. Folks in dry climates need more than those in temperate zones. Likewise, certain diseases and conditions require unique hydration needs.
The standard recommendation of eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day is just that - a recommendation. And it has recently come under scrutiny from the scientific community. Calls for more rigorous research have come, and studies have been recommended on the benefits of water in the areas of weight management, headache relief, and skin care.
Rather than counting on the 8×8 rule, gauge your water needs based on your body, health, and lifestyle. Some days you'll need more water, and some days you'll need less. If you're a reasonably healthy, moderately active person, you'll get the water you need through a healthy diet and a few healthy hydration habits.
Don't wait until you're thirsty. Thirst warns of the onset of dehydration. If you promptly heed your body's warnings, you should be fine. More advanced dehydration can be serious and dangerous.
Drink more water when you're active. Challenge your body with arduous aerobic tasks like running or cycling, and your body sheds water to keep you cool. Sip water before, during, and after exercise.
Make water your first choice. The drink menu may tempt you, and water is not always the most inspired choice, but opt for water instead of pop or booze to accompany meals. Caffeine and alcohol don't quench thirst; in fact, they dehydrate. Add a little zest to water by ordering a lemon or orange wedge, juicy berries, or a sprig of fresh peppermint.
Eat your water. Food accounts for about 20% of your water intake. So, you can get a boost of the benefits of water when you munch on fruits and vegetables like tomato, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, celery, or cucumbers.
Which should I choose: tap, bottle, or filter?
To many people, drinking water didn't used to be such a big deal. As a child, you may have sipped from the tap or from park water fountains, or when you were hot you may have chugged down water straight from the gardening hose.
Nowadays, diligence about health and safety leads us to spend millions and millions each year on bottled water, filters, and water purifying systems. Is it worth it or are we pouring our money right down the drain; or, in the case of plastic water bottles, onto a landfill? Consider the following pros and cons as you decide which you should choose: tap, bottled, or filtered water.
Pro: Tap water in Canada is tightly regulated by the provinces and territories through the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
Pro: Aside from municipal fees, tap water is practically free.
Con: To some, tap water tastes unpleasant. The taste of water varies from place to place, depending on its source and what is used in its treatment process.
Con: Despite methodical treatment, public water can become contaminated by environmental pollutants or during flooding.
Pro: For a busy, on-the-go populace, bottled water offers a convenient choice.
Pro: Health Canada regulates bottled water safety, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces safety standards for bottled water. As new health and safety standards are created for tap water, bottled water standards adapt accordingly.
Pro: The type of plastic used in most bottled water containers, polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), is considered a safe plastic. You'll know PET plastic by the recycling code No. 1, which is stamped on the bottom of bottles. Only use a PET plastic bottle for its intended single use and then properly recycle it. Using it more than once can turn the bottle into a microbe breeding ground.
Con: Drinking bottled water exclusively means that you might be missing out on the benefit of fluoride, which is added to some municipal water supplies.
Con: Bottled water is much more expensive. The cost of convenience extends beyond your wallet. A bottle of water passes through several costly channels in its lifespan: pre-treatment, purification, processing and filtration, mineral injection, testing, bottling, coding and labelling, and transportation. And that's just bottled water's path to your lips.
Con: Once you've finished with a one-use bottle, a whole new set of costly processes begins. Though recyclable, many water bottles are either incinerated or discarded, ending up in crowded landfills.
Filtered or purified water
Pro: A variety of choices exist, from small filtering pitchers for the fridge to systems that purify a home's entire water system. You can choose based on your individual needs and budget.
Pro: Filtration systems improve the taste of tap water. Chlorine gets added to municipal water to clean it, but it can leave behind a taste some people find displeasing.
Con: Maintenance costs can get pricey. Filters need to be changed regularly in order to remain effective.
Con: The filters on these systems mostly grab the larger particles and contaminants. Some of the finer, smaller pollutants may slip through and into your water.
Is it time to put away the plastic?
Polycarbonate plastic bottles stamped with the recycling code 7 began disappearing from retail shelves in 2007, as researchers revealed the potential dangers of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the processing of the plastic. In early 2008, the Government of Canada made the bold move of becoming the first nation to conduct a risk assessment of BPA.
While calling for more research into the issue, the government announced it is taking action by reducing exposure of BPA, especially in newborns and infants, since infants would suffer the most immediate risk from overexposure to BPA.
People who rely on reusable polycarbonate plastic bottles may also be affected. Those clear, hard plastic bottles became popular because they seemed to be a convenient way to keep water on-hand while at work, at the gym, or trekking around town.
One-use plastic bottles offer an alternative. The ubiquitous clear plastic bottle you can buy by the case at warehouse stores or see strewn along the roadside is cheap and convenient. It's made from plastic marked with recycling code No. 1, polyethylene terephthalate, also called PET or PETE, which has been deemed a safe plastic. The downside of these one-offs is that they are one-offs. Use a PET plastic bottle more than once, and you run the risk of drinking down bacteria. And while this type of plastic can be easily recycled, the bottles often end up discarded and piled up on landfills.
Reusable bottles offer a simple, affordable, healthy way to stay hydrated and conserve precious resources. When you fill up a reusable container with tap or filtered water, you skip several costly and wasteful steps: the manufacturing, transportation, and recycling of a one-use plastic bottle.
To make sure that you're choosing healthier and safer options for yourself and your family, keep these bottle basics in mind:
- Lots of safer options exist. Baby bottles made from BPA-free plastic or from glass are widely available, as are reusable sports bottles. Cloudy plastic bottles usually mean no BPA, and rubber or stainless steel bottles and mugs are safe and durable.
- Turn off the heat. If you're hooked on your No. 7 polycarbonate bottles, avoid heating them or filling them with heated beverages. Washing them in the dishwasher at high temperatures may also cause BPA to leach from the plastic. To keep your bottle clean, use warm water and mild detergent soap.
Are there medications and other products in the water?
Medications and other products created to benefit our health and well-being take fantastic voyages through our bodies. Some quantities of these items dissolve into our bloodstream and tissues, while some pass right on out of our system, through our sweat, urine, or feces, or get washed from our skin in the shower.
Some of these materials never even make it into our bodies. Unfinished doses of pills get flushed down toilets, and leftover ointments and lotions are tossed into the garbage. All of it eventually ends up in our soil or in our water, and evidence mounts that these materials could pose a risk to our environment. Less certain, though, is the impact of these products on our health.
Thousands of tons of these materials get used each year, but the good news is that the concentration of these materials in our water and soil remains low. Scientific investigations continue to examine potential health issues, such as antibiotic resistance and whether fetal development could be adversely affected if pregnant women were exposed to an accumulation of these materials.
In the meantime, the best way to preserve ecosystems and safeguard ourselves from potential health risks is to responsibly and safely dispose of our medications and personal care products.
- Follow your doctor's and pharmacist's instructions for safely taking your medications. Stick to the right dosage, follow dosing schedules, and heed any labelled warnings.
- Do a spring and autumn cleaning of your medicine cabinet. Check expiry dates and take outdated, unfinished products to a designated drug recycling program. Most pharmacies sponsor these programs, so take the medications to your local pharmacy for proper disposal. You can also check with your municipality to find out the best and safest place to dispose of the products.
- Never put unused or expired medications in the garbage, toilet, or sink.
- Don't forget about other products, such as vitamins and supplements, homeopathic remedies, suppositories, and pet medications.