Doctor’s Tip: What to drink to stay healthy
For the past several weeks these columns have been reviewing Dr. Michael Greger’s daily dozen, from his book “How Not to Die.” The first 10 of these columns were about what we should be eating every day for optimal health. Today’s is about what we should be drinking every day.
Adequate fluid intake is clearly important for optimal health. Dehydration leads to concentrated urine and “thicker” blood, and if severe enough can lead to death. Studies have shown a 50 percent decrease in bladder cancer and heart disease in people who drink eight or more cups of water a day. Greger recommends five or more glasses of tap water a day, tap instead of bottled because it is less expensive and has a lower environmental impact. Tap water also often has less chemical and microbial contamination.
Like anything, there can be too much of a good thing, and some people overhydrate. If you are a couch potato, you obviously don’t need to drink as much water as someone who has a physical job or who sweats while exercising. I tell patients to drink enough so they are urinating every hour or so throughout the day, and their urine should be clear to pale yellow. If their urine is dark yellow, they are underhydrated (a caveat is that taking B vitamin pills makes your urine dark yellow for several hours afterward). To make water less boring, try adding carbonation, lemon, lime or mint.
The September issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter notes that “America’s drinking water is in trouble.” Most of us in this country no longer have to worry about getting parasitic, bacterial or viral illnesses any more, but we now have to worry about industrial, pharmaceutical and other chemical contaminants, as well as naturally occurring ones such as arsenic and lead (think Flint, Michigan).
If you have an old house that could possibly have lead pipes, get your water tested by going to: Safe Drinking Water Hotline or epa.gov/dwlabcert and click on contact information for certification programs and then certified laboratories. If you want to see what’s in your town’s water, check your Consumer Confidence Report: epa.gov/ccr or call EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.
In any case, we all should consider using a filter for our drinking water, and the website to check out different filters is nsf.org (the September issue of Nutrition Action has an easy-to-understand chart evaluating different filters on page 10).
What about other fluids?
• Fruit and non-starchy vegetables have a high water content, which counts as part of your daily fluid requirement (I find that I drink less since going plant-based four years ago).
• Tea has many health-promoting micronutrients. According to Dr. Greger, a combination of berry and hibiscus has the most, with green tea close behind. It’s best to buy loose-leaf tea rather than bags, and it should be organic. You can find such tea on the Internet and at True Nature in Carbondale. You can make hot tea or cold-steep it.
• Coffee has some health benefits, but not as many as tea. Over the years I have seen many patients with GERD (acid reflux) that went away after completely stopping coffee (even decaf has some caffeine).
• Alcohol is not recommended as a source of fluids, because other than beer, it is dehydrating. And any alcohol other than red wine is a risk factor for breast cancer.
• The Beverage Guidance Panel ranked milk far down the list of recommended beverages due to links with prostate and ovarian cancer.
• Soda is not recommended in any form or quantity. Sugar is an issue with regular soda and there are other health issues with sugar-free soda.
• Sports drinks such as Gatorade are not healthy unless you are exercising vigorously, because of their sugar, salt and calorie content.
Dr. Feinsinger, who’s retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at email@example.com.
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