Welcome to post #3 in our ‘Eat this, not that’ series from Marie Feldman.
Helping us fight pain with nutrition, Marie is one of our fantastic registered dietitians and health coaches here at PeerWell Health.
So far you’ve learned about the benefits of eating whole grains and lean protein in place of refined starches and high-fat, animal protein.
Read on to learn more about why water is important if you have pain (and why you should choose it over higher sugar and caloric counterparts.)
After this pain-free eating series, you’ll be able to:
- Choose what foods to add or get rid of in your diet
- Identify which foods promote good health and wellness
- Understand how certain foods fight inflammation and pain
Water is a key player in the body.
You’ve likely heard that our bodies are mainly water — about 50-70 percent of our body weight, in fact!
Water is absolutely necessary for our body’s cells and organs to function.
Drinking water helps:
- move nutrients throughout the body
- remove wastes (and irritating, inflammatory substances) from the body
- protect and cushion your joints, like your knees, hips and shoulders
- maintain blood volume, a key part of blood pressure and heart function
- keep the body at a normal temperature
Reason #1: Drinking water helps you lose weight more efficiently.
Did you know… that filling up on fluids before a meal is an effective weight-loss technique?
Recent research shows that drinking about 2 cups (16oz) of water 30 minutes before meals reduces excess hunger and leads to more weight loss.
This idea is part of the concept of ‘negative pre-loading’. It involves eating filling, low calorie, or calorie-free foods (like water, vegetables, and fruit) before a meal to partially fill us up, so we can avoid overeating more calorie-dense foods.
How does weight influence pain? Extra weight can cause pain.
While certainly not all people with muscle and joint pain carry extra weight, it can worsen pain significantly.
More weight means more load and effort for your joints, particularly your knees, hips and lower joints but also your other joints as well.
According to Dr. Hood, “every pound a person gains puts 4 to 5 pounds of pressure on the knee, and every pound they lose takes it off.”
In one 10-year-long study, they found that reducing weight by just 11 pounds meant subjects were 50% less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis.
Reason #2: Drinking enough water can improve your mood.
Drinking enough water helps prevent dehydration, which can cause low energy and a foul mood.
Dehydration can bring about other negative emotions too. A 2019 study found that even minor dehydration can lead to more negative emotion, including “anger, hostility, confusion, depression, and tension as well as fatigue and tiredness.”
Staying hydrated could help you feel emotionally and physically better.
Reason #3: Water is key to joint health.
Not getting enough water might also worsen pain in the body.
Water allows for joint lubrication and flexibility. Since water makes up a large part of synovial fluid, which helps cushion the joints and prevent friction, drinking enough water allows you to move more easily without any discomfort.
Reason #4: Water flushes out toxins.
Water removes wastes, toxins and inflammatory substances from the body which can help to reduce inflammation and ease pain.
You might be familiar with the connection between inflammation and pain. Short-term (acute) inflammation is helpful. Think for a minute about how a cut on your finger gets red, hot and painful. This prompts the body to start acting defensively against infections and healing.
On the other hand, long-term (or chronic) inflammation is harmful. Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, arthritis, diabetes and other heart, muscle and immune conditions.
Chronic inflammation comes from a variety of factors: eating a diet high in sugar and fats, lots of stress, smoking, drinking alcohol, not sleeping enough, exposure to harmful substances or a pre-existing autoimmune disorder.
How much water should I drink?
The National Academy of Medicine recommends 9 cups a day for women and 13 cups a day for men.
If you’re not a big water fan, start small and aim to drink 6-8 cups each day (this is, of course, unless you’ve been told to restrict fluids by your doctor).
If you live in hotter temperatures, exercise, don’t eat many water-rich foods — like vegetables and fruit — or are sick, you might need more water.
3 tricks to make drinking water easy.
Drink more water with these 3 helpful tips:
- Take a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go: Keep one on your desk at work, or next to you at home.
- A glass or two before each meal! Start out with a glass before you even prepare your meal. Get yourself into a routine of drinking water, so you won’t forget before you start nibbling.
- If you find yourself forgetting to drink water: Set an alarm every hour reminding you to sip.
If water isn’t your cup of tea — 6 healthy alternatives to water:
- Tea: Explore the world of tea! From fruity to spicy, there’s a whole variety of calorie-free, delicious teas to choose from; and some, like green tea, have shown to help decrease risk of inflammation and chronic diseases.
- Fruit-infused water: Add some lemon, lime or any fruit, even cucumber, to water to add extra flavor.
- Sparkling water: Bubbly and crisp, and strangely satisfying. You can add a bit of flavor with a splash of juice, or some fresh herbs like mint.
- Black coffee: Caffeinated for a low-calorie pick-me-up, or decaf if you want a tasty beverage without the caffeine. Caffeine can have a mildly diuretic effect (cause you to pee), but the amount of fluid you’ll get is still worth it.
- Coconut water: A healthy alternative that’s full of potassium (a very important mineral in the body that helps with regulating fluids, muscles and nerve signals).
- Low-fat, fortified milk or soy milk: Full of protein, calcium and vitamin D, this drink can help with bone health.
Skip these unhealthy drinks
Choose water 99% of the time. This will help you cut calories, sugar, and additives. Plus, it makes staying hydrated easy and cheap!
Try to avoid:
- Fruit punch
- Sweet tea
- Sports drinks
- Fancy coffees
Pain & sugary beverages
Sugary beverages are full of calories and sugar, which can lead to weight gain, elevations in blood sugars and inflammation – all of which can increase chronic pain. Avoid these drinks and you’re one step closer to a pain-free life!
Water plays many roles in the body: removing waste and toxins, cushioning joints, transporting nutrients around your body and keeping your organs functioning. It’s key to feeling great and staying healthy throughout your life.
Try to drink more water each day, and you might be surprised by the benefits. Even half a cup of water can improve your energy and alertness. From brighter skin to less joint pain, water is the easiest way to improve your health today.
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