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How Much Water Should You Actually Drink? Ayurveda Opinion

“Sir, you have written in your book that drinking water only when one is thirsty is good. But I have read in one book that thirst destroys body mechanism. Feeling thirsty is a sign of body weakness. Grab for water in a day even if you don’t feel thirsty.”
“Many health experts advise that one should drink 8 glasses of water. Is that true? What Ayurveda says about it?”
These are the questions from Maa! From USA and Vivek Tandon.
Let’s analyse.

How Much Water Should We Drink?

There is no truth in thirst theory

We feel hungry. Does that destroy our body mechanism? Many people do food-less and water-less fasting. Have they caused injury to their bodies? No. So, there is no truth in saying that thirst is a sign of disaster.
We feel hungry, when the body needs food. Similarly we feel thirsty when the body needs water. As per Ayurveda, thirst is one of the “Vega” – an urge of the body, indicating a need.

Thirst is an urge

Ayurvedic Mantra – Supply only when there is an urge.
According to Ayurveda, thirst, hunger, sleep, sneezing, urination, defecation etc are called natural urges.
Ayurveda preaches that “Not attending a natural urge, when it is there, and initiating an urge, when it is not there leads to disease. “
For example, any healthy person should eat when he feels hungry. He should not eat, when there is no hunger.
Similarly, water should be had whenever there is thirst and it should not be had, when there isn’t any thirst.

How much water to drink?

How much water should I drink? 
There are some theories that if you drink 8 glasses of water, it will detoxify and flush of all the toxins in the body.
Excess of water drinking is good for skin, as it keeps it well nourished and hydrated.

But this is not true as per Ayurveda! As a co-incidence, researchers also have same opinion

Water is a coolant. Too much of water intake, even when you’re not feeling thirsty will cause indigestion and may cause or worsen a condition called as “Ama”. This is a product of improper digestion and metabolism at the level of digestive track and at the level of body tissues and cells. As per Ayurveda, ‘Ama’ is the precursor for a host of diseases.
Drinking a large quantity of water will cause increase of Kapha and Vata, and decrease of Pitta and digestion power.
Related reading – Greatest secret of Ayurveda

So, how much water to drink? 
Till you feel satiated. Stop it there. Satiation is a signal from your body to stop drinking.

Right time to drink water is, while taking food. Drinking water before food is not very recommended. After food, drink water only if you’re feeling thirsty.

Modern research

Associate Professor Michael Farrell from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute oversaw the work by University of Melbourne PhD student Pascal Saker as part of a collaboration with several Melbourne institutes, regarding this issue about right quantity of water intake. Michael Farrel says – “If we just do what our body demands us to we’ll probably get it right – just drink according to thirst rather than an elaborate schedule,” Associate Professor Farrell said. (Source)

Excess water consumption

Is too much water harmful to the body?
How much water is good to the body? It is a never-ending debate and we have addressed this issue many times before. Here is the comparison between the modern scientific argument and where Ayurveda stands. Long story short, there are no discrepancies between the two theories, but Ayurveda puts furth some clauses and warns against generalization of rules.

Modern argument: 
Mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning (1). Brain is made up of 75% of water. So, dehydration affects the brain, so we should be drinking water frequently. 

It is a well-accepted theory that healthy people should be drinking sufficient quantities of water every day. But Ayurveda advises that one should wait for the thirst urge to occur to drink water. This principle is in line with the scarcity – abundance theory of Ayurveda. 

Whenever the body needs something, it will produce signals. Act on those signals.
Hunger, thirst, yawning, belching, flatus, urination, defecation etc are such signals. 

With thirst –
A health person
should drink water when we are thirsty.
should drink sufficient quantities of water till the thirst is quenched completely and the person should not drink water without the thirst signal. 

This does not mean that we should be limiting the water intake. It only means that we should wait for the urge to appear. 

This keeps the body to produce necessary signals at the right time and it keeps the body in perfect balance. 

It is true that dehydration leads to decreased brain functions. But going with the scarcity theory, it is fine to keep the brain functioning with limited resources. This is akin to fasting.
Brain requires glucose. It does not mean that we should be eating glucose all the time. 

Water and Agni –
Agni is the digestive component of the body.
Excess water intake can decrease agni and hunger. This is why, for people intending to lose weight, water is advised before food, so as to decrease hunger. For obese patients, who are trying to incorporate intermittent fasting, drinking excess water helps to keep the hunger under check. Extrapolating this theory into healthy people, it is not good to have a decreased Agni caused due to excess drinking of water. That is why, it is advised not to drink water excessively, except during summer and autumn seasons. Excess water not only dilutes Agni, it also dilutes and weakens Dhatus – tissues. 

What if someone does not get thirsty at all?
As per Ayurveda, lack of thirst signal is a sign of Pitta dosha depletion. Including healthy amounts of spices such as ginger, black pepper, cumin, fennel, asafoetida etc. can be helpful to finetune the thirst signal. 
What about diseases?
The above rules are applicable only to healthy people. In urinary tract infection, kidney stones etc., larger amounts of water is advised and in case of cardiomyopathy, renal damage etc, fluid restriction is advised. In such conditions, the above rule does not apply.

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