How Much to Drink

This article discusses water how much to drink a day and the effects of drinking too much, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a complete, professional medical system continuously practiced for at least 2500 years.

While in the West the general advice is that you should drink at least 8 x 8-ounce glasses of water a day, TCM advises you should drink water when you're thirsty, i.e. to tune in and listen to your body's natural signals.

Further, TCM considers each of us a unique individual with unique needs - how often you get thirsty depends on many factors such as your state of health, age, job, lifestyle and the environmental conditions where you live. For instance, it stands to reason that a construction worker or athlete living in the tropics needs to drink more water each day than a sedentary office worker living in a cold climate. Similarly, people who are prone to such health problems as kidney stones, or people recovering from diarrhea need more water than usual.

Dangers of Drinking Too Much Water

Anyone drinking within the range of the recommended amount in the West of 8 glasses of water a day need not be concerned with any dangers of drinking too much water (unless perhaps the water is of poor quality). People drinking a lot more than that, though, should consider the TCM viewpoint on the effects of drinking too much water (or any liquid)... drinking too many liquids, including water, overburdens and weakens your digestive and excretory systems, especially your kidneys. Why? According to TCM, liquids (just like food) need to be actively processed in your body, i.e. they don't just flow through it. Therefore, if you drink too much certain organs will, in time, suffer - just like if you eat too much.

TCM & Water
How Much to Drink a Day

In TCM it is generally considered healthy to drink a cup of warm-hot water, or green tea, with meals to facilitate digestion. Cold drinks are considered particularly harmful to the digestive system, as they cool the digestive "fire" that helps break down the food you eat. Between meals you should drink when thirsty. Furthermore, you should sip your drinks, not gulp them down in large mouthfulls - especially during meals, as this also interferes with digestion.

Based on this, a general TCM guideline for how much water to drink a day is to have around 5 cups... one per meal (assuming you eat 3 meals a day), one between breakfast and lunch, and one between lunch and dinner. You could also have a cup of warm-hot water before breakfast, for cleansing and bowel-stimulating purposes, making a total of 6 cups a day. Drinking after dinner and especially within an hour or two of bedtime may interfere with your sleep by causing you to get up during the night to urinate. In China, green tea is consumed probably more than just water alone.

When considering water and how much to drink daily, the age-old advice from TCM makes sense, i.e. tune in and pay heed to what your body tells you.

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