Hydration is one of the most important factors in improving digestion and promoting a healthy gut. It doesn't matter if you drink water hot or cold. Regardless of temperature, water can move nutrients around in the body and assist in removing waste and other toxins. A hydrated gut also promotes better skin, reduces inflammation, and helps with bowel regularity—but how does hydration work?
How does staying hydrated improve gut health?
- Prevents constipation
- Your body pulls fluids to the digestive system to help move food as it travels through your stomach, intestines, and colon. If there isn’t enough fluid to keep the food moving, the food can get stuck or slow down, which causes constipation or bloating.
- Imagine you’re going down a waterslide in an amusement park. If there’s no water to push you down, you get stuck and have to slowly inch down the slide. This is similar to what happens to the stool in your gut when you’re dehydrated.
- Helps break down food for digestion
- Fluid is used to transport acids and enzymes that break down food in your small intestine. You can think of it like a bus that drops off the deconstruction crew, then picks up the nutrients to take back to the bloodstream.
- Reduces inflammation in the gut
- When you’re dehydrated, it’s harder for food to move through your digestive system. Part of your intestines can become inflamed from the constant rub of the food without the fluid transport. Over time, this irritation can lead to increased inflammation in the gut.
- Reduces risk of a permeable gut
- How does your gut become permeable? You might have heard the term “leaky gut” to describe gut permeability. This happens when the tight junctions of the intestinal walls become loose.
- That looseness allows harmful substances, such as toxins, bacteria, and undigested food particles, to flow into your bloodstream. If your gut lining becomes inflamed for too long, the intestinal walls can become more permeable. If you’re hydrated, you reduce the inflammation in your gut, which, in turn, reduces your risk of gut permeability.
How do you know if you're hydrated?
- You don’t feel thirsty. Your body is exceptionally good at telling you exactly what you need and when you need it—we just need to learn to listen. If you’re feeling thirsty, there’s a good chance you’re already dehydrated.
- Your urine is colorless or very pale yellow. As you become dehydrated, your urine will turn a darker golden shade. If your urine is dark, you need to drink more water!
Five tips to stay hydrated
- Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink because these dehydrate you as you drink them.
- Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up, before meals, and right before bed.
- “Eat your water” by snacking on fruits and vegetables with high water content, such as watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, celery, and spinach. These foods are 90% water and will help increase your fluid intake.
- Carry a water bottle with you. The constant reminder of the water bottle in your view will encourage you to take more sips throughout the day.
- Don’t like the taste of water? No problem! Try mixing it up by adding fresh fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, lemons, or cucumbers, to give it some flavor. You can also add frozen blueberries as ice cubes on hot summer days.