One part of being a New Yorker, in addition to lifelong bagel consumption and a penchant for sidewalk road rage, is being proud of our drinking water.
I don’t know why that is. But I grew up with an inexplicable loyalty to the deliciousness of our dirty city tap water. Perhaps there was some schoolyard propaganda campaign conducted by the department of sanitation that I’m forgetting about. But given our vibrant pollution-pink sunsets and what my feet look like in summertime after walking around all day in flip flops, it seems odd that I would think our water was on par with Poland Spring.
I wised up when I started seeing my militant Greek naturopath endocrinologist. She was flabbergasted when I told her I didn’t filter my water and rarely, if ever, drank any H2O that didn’t come from the tap. I’m that dork who always tells the waiter a bottle of New York’s finest, please in an attempt to be charming.
But Dr. A, whose name has way too many vowels and syllables to try to spell, whipped me into water shape. She told me I’d never be able to control my hyperthyroidism while ingesting so much chlorine and fluoride. That sent me on a wild goose chase trying to find a water filter that could fit within the confines of my small kitchen, and not require hundreds of dollars and a plumber to install.
As part of this month’s hydration theme for The Wellness Project, I want to investigate all the questions behind what water toxins we should be avoiding and how best to do so.
I also want to explore ways to make my body better at absorbing and retaining water.
For many people, “drink more water” falls under the category of common sense. Yet so many of the experts I talked to at the beginning of my project sited chronic dehydration as one of the biggest barriers to good health. It also happens to be one of the easiest and cheapest to fix.
Here’s a look at some of the experiments I’ll be recapping at the end of hydration month. Want to follow along? Let me know if you’re taking on any of these challenges in the comments!
From one healthy hedonist to another,
1. Create a water habit: Go on a beverage aisle fast.
There’s perhaps no better space to witness how the wellness industry has grown over the last few years than the beverage aisle.
Giant Eagle, a typical grocery store, now carries about 4319 different drinks. While the majority of that real estate used to be dedicated to soft drinks, once coconut water came to town (and many brands were purchased by the soft drink giants), healthy drinks began appearing front and center.
A lot of these drinks aren’t as good for you as the label claims. Coconut water has electrolytes and potassium, but nutritionists say that the category’s reputation as a natural elixir is way overstated. Vita Coco contains about 5.5 calories a fluid ounce. That’s less than Gatorade, but still a lot. It also contains a ton of sugar. And we all remember the pitfalls of this from detox month, yes?
If I were to analyze my spending from last year, I’d guess that a significant portion of my daily food buddget actually went towards coconut water, kombucha and Juice Press. Healthy beverages, especially fresh juices, can make you bleed green.
This month I’m going to try to remember that no matter how many electrolytes or probiotics my bottle has in it, as far as hydration goes, no drink is better for you than water. And it’s free!
I love a good buche every now and then as a treat, but I want to try to break my dependency on buying my beverages. When you’re used to chugging things that are sweet, it makes fostering a new water habit an uphill battle. No glass of H2O will ever compare to a Hibiscious ginger ale, taste-wise.
I hope that a 2-week beverage aisle ban will not only allow me to save money, but will get me back in the habit of making water my drink of choice.
2. Quantity: Drink half your weight in ounces daily.
It’s kind of sad how little of my basic elementary school anatomy education I can recall. I remember very vividly the module of 6th grade science when we got to dissect a squid and then cook it on Bunsen burners with marinara sauce. But I must have been less compelled to pay attention to the lesson on how water works in the body since there was no fresh garlic involved.
After a little research, I discovered that the general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces daily—and even more if you live in a dry place or exercise a lot. Since my apartment feels like a desert when the building heat is cranked to the max, I’ll be taking cues from my pee. You want to drink water until it’s a nice mellow yellow (preferably Crystal geyser clear!).
I read this great article on Medium about how to improve absorption and retention. On an empty stomach, your body’s cells can use water within 5 minutes. Because of this, drinking a big glass of water first thing in the morning is one of the healthiest things you can do. Another key tip is to avoid drinking water at meals. You’re supposed to stop 30 minutes before eating and wait an hour for your digestive system to do its work until consuming more. I’ve tried this, and it’s a struggle. Especially when you accidentally eat the ghost pepper in your Thai curry.
* I love the app Moro for tracking my daily consumption.
* But since I don’t always remember to enter my drinks into my phone, I keep a 20 ounce water bottle on my desk and try to drink at least 3 a day. You can also buy a pitcher that houses your exact body weight in ounces and slowly work your way through it each day.
3. Quality: Buy a filter for your home.
Sadly, the regulations on our tap water are incredibly outdated. The more research you do, the scarier the reality of this public health hazard becomes. The list of chemicals that are banned in drinking water has not been majorly updated since the 1980s, which means rocket fuel additives and dry cleaning solvent can still legally flow from our tap under The Clean Water Act.
Bottled water is even less regulated, and despite marketing claims, is more likely to be sourced from a man-made well in Queens than a glacier in Alaska. You’re paying a premium for that bottle, which also leaches plastic into your agua and pollutes the environment after it’s thrown away, with no real health benefits.
Home filters are better for your wallet, and better for the planet. But finding the right one can be tricky. Unfortunately, anything that’s cheap, space-efficient and easy to use, like your standard Britta, does not do an effective job at filtering some of the worst offenders. But even this is better than nothing.
There’s no need to immediately clear your counter-tops for the Ferrari of filters—it’s best to start somewhere that’s not going to put a drastic damper on your lifestyle or your wallet.
Here are some suggestions:
* Japanese charcoal sticks are the best cheap on-the-go filter. These porous sticks look like something you pulled from a campfire, but they are shockingly adept at absorbing impurities. The only catch is you need to let the charcoal do its thing for a few hours to get the best results. They also need to be “refreshed” every few weeks, which involves simply boiling them for 10 minutes. You’ll want to replace them completely every 3 months, which is roughly the same time frame as a pitcher filter cartridge.
* The Soma Carafe Filter is the prettiest and most sustainable counter-top filter. Pitcher filters have their limitations. They seem like the cheapest option, but replacing the filter cartridges every 2-3 months does add up. If you don’t have the time or money to invest in something more advanced, Soma makes a sleek carafe that’s aesthetically pleasing enough to make an appearance on your dinner party table. While most pitchers are made from BPA plastic, Soma uses biodegradable materials, including coconut shells and a plant-based casing. They also sell their carafe inclusive of 12 months of filters for $100.
* New Wave Enviro 10 Stage Water Filter System is the best bang for your buck. After trying a few pitcher options, this is what I ended up getting on my friend Amie’s recommendation. This small spouted filter attaches to your kitchen sink via a small hose, or it can be mounted underneath with a conversion kit. It takes up much less space than a lot of countertop models and the filter only needs to be replaced once a year. Best of all, the filter is made from BPA-free and phthalate-free plastic. If you can’t afford a solid block carbon filter or don’t have space on your counter, this is definitely the best option at $100.
Check out this great article that breaks down all the filter types and the pros and cons of use.
4. (BONUS) Replace your BPA shower curtain with natural option for less toxic showers and add a filter to your showerhead.
While not directly related to hydration, you spend a lot of intimate time with water everyday in the shower. And believe it or not, your shower curtain is one of the most toxic things in your home! Not only is it made of BPA plastic, but you’re hot boxing your bathroom with the emissions. I thought putting my Pad Thai takeout container in the microwave was bad. But this might be worse! Luckily, unlike your daily microwave choices, getting a natural shower curtainis a quick one-time fix. I also got a filter for my shower head, since your skin can absorb 8 glasses worth of toxins during the average rinse.
Check out all my favorite water products here!
The Wellness Project is now a book! It’s part memoir, part health primer, with 20 inflammation fighting recipes for clearer skin, better digestion, and a thriving thyroid. (Because who doesn’t wake up in the morning wanting a thriving thyroid?!). You can read more and preorder here. To read up on past experiments and get more tips from the trenches, click here.
Thanks for the link for natural shower curtains! I’ve been wondering where to buy them. As for water, another option is distilled water. They make countertop models – mine has lasted 4 years and still chugging. You can’t get any purer than this: it’s condensed steam. It takes the machine about 3-4 hours, but you get 3 quarts, which is a lot. However, you’re missing all the minerals and electrolytes in spring water, so you have to take supplements. I use flavored Ultima packets to dissolve in water daily – it’s made with stevia, so no calories.
Phoebe Lapine says
Yes – these are definitely great on the quality front. The unit though would take up my entire counter. not space efficient for most people. i need room to actually put a cutting board!
Do you have any thoughts on alkaline water? I keep reading about it and how good it is for you but it doesn’t seem, from what I have read, that there is any real science to back these claims.
Leah, I don’t know if drinking alkaline water will change your body pH to alkaline, but it’s definitely something good if you do. Cancer and harmful bacteria cannot grow in an alkaline environment. Some people never seem to get sick – they’re probably natural alkaline. The American diet is – guess what – highly acidic.
Phoebe Lapine says
I haven’t found an alkaline water filter that’s space efficient and affordable, but if you come across anything let me know! Agree with Frankie below. There’s definitely something to be said for striving for alkalinity. But for me, it’s just another things to be obsessive about and I just don’t have the emotional bandwidth!
I’m super obsessed with drinking water. Ever since getting knocked up, I’ve found that the key to any pregnancy ailment is hydration. Crampy? Drink water. Irritable? Drink water. Tingly fingers and toes? Drink water. SO GOOD.
I love all the articles you linked to, I’m off to check them out! Thanks 🙂
Phoebe Lapine says
ahhh i love that! it really is the cure all! i read this book by this crazy doctor who claimed to cure everything with water – from ulcers to allergies. some interesting scientific reasoning. so when i’m feeling off, the first thing i do too is drink a glass of agua! i hope you are feeling amazing in the final pregnancy stretch! xo
I grew up in New York too and totally had the same delusions about our tap water!
Thanks for the tips – I’ll definitely be investing in a filter and BPA-free shower curtain!
Phoebe Lapine says
haha that’s so good to hear!! why is that?! awesome. let me know how you like your new water products! xo
Thank you for this great article, Phoebe! Super helpful info
Phoebe Lapine says
you’re so welcome miss steph!!