The Art of Drinking Water

It has taken me more than five decades to understand the correct ways of drinking water. In spite of my substantial intake of water, I was perpetually dehydrated. I realized my mistake, only recently. And also discovered that this had contributed to chronic digestive issues, seasonal allergies, as well as, the all too frequent headaches and migraines. Ever since I’ve started using the right method of drinking water, I’ve been pretty free of these ailments. For the first time, just with water, I have been able to abort migraines from setting in. Mind you, with a long history of improper hydration, I don’t expect these to vanish completely but just being able to manage through a proper water regime, for me, is nothing short of a miracle.

There is an art of drinking water. In reality, behind the art, is the science of it – the physiological effects of water. We have all heard about the eight glasses a day formula. Let’s get a handle over how we got this figure. Roughly, we lose this amount daily. Our body eliminates 2 ½ litres every day through various organs: kidneys (1.5), colon (0.3), lungs (0.2) and skin (0.5). If you want to understand this better in layman terms, listen to this talk.

Diet & Dehydration

We need to replace these two and a half litres chiefly by water. Not tea, coffee or sodas. These drinks are, in fact, dehydrating. Our fresh vegetables and fruits, taken on a daily basis, can replenish around half a litre of our water requirement. In summers, we may need even more than this amount especially if we’re sweating a lot but it’s a mistake to think that in winters we don’t need to drink as much. During the cooler season, we may feel thirstless but we’re still losing around the same amount. Some reasons for this are that we sit in artificially heated environments and eat heavier and drying foods like meats and dried fruits.

A major reason for fluid imbalance is our diet. We’re eating food combinations that make us even more thirsty. I’m not talking about processed foods or restaurant cuisine. Even the clean and organic dietary combinations that we cleverly whip up may actually be sucking the water out of our bodies. Also, if you’re eating highly spiced foods, you’ll need more water as these tend to have a heating and therefore drying effect within the body.

Let me clarify one thing. It’s not bad to lose all of this water. In fact, it’s crucial. This is how our body throws out toxic waste. However, to maintain our fluid balance, we need to pay special attention towards getting good pure water back into the system.

Tea-junkies and coffee addicts — you’re not going to like this.

Much as I too, enjoyed that one cup of steaming hot black tea in the morning, it was a toss between continuing this habit or the possibility of becoming migraine-free. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to balance that one cup of tea with an additional litre of water every day. That’s four glasses of water on top of the 2 ½ litres. It’s worse for coffee drinkers. The ratio is one cup of coffee to five glasses of water. Who could imagine that a harmless cup of these beverages costs the body so much. If we do the math, most of us will find that we fall well within the range of dehydration. Some years ago when I read in the book called Your body’s many cries for water that dehydration was at the root of all diseases, I shrugged it off. Since then having experienced myself that proper hydration can and does keep the body disease-free, the writer, Batmanghelidj, was certainly not exaggerating. His premise: if we’re dehydrated we are more susceptible to disease.

So I’ve had to come clean. My morning routine had to be changed. The results were astonishing. I’m still getting my head around the fact that this is the simplest hack towards better health. Then, why are we not taught these things at home or in school? Why don’t doctors stress hydration more than pushing pills? It’s so fundamental, so very easy and basic.

Are you dehydrated?

With a daily stream of coffee and tea rounds, we are all clearly quite dehydrated. Sadly, most of us may not even be aware that our water balance is off. Some people don’t feel thirst. Others may be drinking excessively. Here are some general indicators. If you’re experiencing these physical and mental-emotional symptoms on a regular basis, you are probably dehydrated:

  • Constipation
  • Dark urine
  • Headaches
  • Dry skin
  • Irritability
  • Easily angered
  • Impatience

So what can we do to improve our water balance in the body?

Here’s my working guideline for a correct way of water intake. For me this method of drinking water is part of a daily ritual to maintain a good energy level and clarity of thought.


In my water protocol, I’ve discovered that time and temperature play a fundamental role. Time and temperature are variables that are pretty much within our power and when we get these right, the body absorbs water more efficiently at tissue or more precisely, at the cellular level. Of course, quality of drinking water is just as critical but that can be a little out of our control.

Let me share my water regime.

Morning intake

In the morning, on an empty stomach, take two glasses of cool or room temperature water. Yes, I said cool water and not cold, hot or warm water. I confess that for the longest time, I thought drinking hot water on awakening was a good practice. It flushed out the toxic residue from the digestive system and helped relieve yourself. It felt good to be light in the morning. But here’s the catch. Warm to hot water at this time will flush out all your important minerals as well. Also, it loosens the bowels, taking out more moisture than needed. Over a course of time, this is damaging to the body because at cell level, the game is all about maintaining mineral balance. As we lose this balance, the body becomes less and less functional. Aches and pains become routine. Some continue suffering, other’s get onto medication. The result is that we become increasingly debilitated – both physically and mentally and eventually even our spirits become deflated.  Very soon after, it’s game over.

Some years ago, while teaching an undergraduate course on The Art of Healing in Medieval Islam, I came across in the Canon of Medicine that Avicenna frowned upon the drinking of warm water in general as it weakened the stomach. The only exception for drinking warm water, according to Avicenna was right after exercise and that was also just a few sips. Blinded by my fixed idea about the greatness of warm water, I thought this must be some editorial oversight. It didn’t fit my tried and tested viewpoint. Nonetheless, some doubt did creep into my mind. So, over the years, I set out to investigate and came across fascinating literature including Batmanghelidj’s research and talks by Barbara O’Neill. But as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding itself. Having identified that the ‘tried and tested’ habit over time was the culprit behind a dry mouth, excessive thirst, chronic headaches, I was the one in error.

So I changed my water regime. The fine-tuning of this practice came from the book called the Medicine of the Prophet. It explains how proper drinking etiquette benefits the body physiologically. It prescribes: always sit down when drinking water; do not gulp down your water, instead sip it slowly so that the body better absorbs the water. Pauses, therefore, are beneficial.

Honey Water

Another wonderful hack for improved hydration is honey water. This book greatly commends the drinking of water mixed with a little honey. But there’s a strict warning. Never, ever, ever mix honey in hot water. Honey’s most beneficial properties, the Medicine of the Prophet stresses, come out when stirred into cool water.

So further revision to my water regime: first glass of water in the morning has ¼ teaspoon honey, the second glass is just plain room-temperature water. Or, you can just add this amount of honey to a tall glass of water. I’ve felt a massive difference in hydration just with this little change. Local, raw honey is the best as it will contain just the right mix of vitamins and minerals for your body. I’ve not experienced any blood sugar spike from honey water. But if you’re concerned, start with even lesser honey and tune in to how you feel and monitor your blood glucose.

The 30-60 Rule

This practice is non-negotiable though it can be slightly flexible if the need arises. Always treat water as separate from your meals. Use the 30-60 rule. No water 30 minutes before a meal, and 60 minutes after a meal. This gap allows better hydration and most importantly, it doesn’t hinder the digestive process. The worst thing for the digestive system is drinking water during meals and even during or right after snacking. If you feel desperate, take only a few sips of warm water. But this is the exception than the rule. Just following this simple guideline will put you on the road to recovery especially if you suffer from heartburn, bloating and other gastric disturbances.

Learning the Body’s Language

Ironically, many people think bloating, gas and heaviness after meals is normal. It is not. Routinely then they will take an antacid or a laxative or use some home remedy for the problem. This becomes their new normal. But let’s not fool ourselves. Your body’s a lot smarter than you think. If it’s sending a signal in the form of bloating, gas, constipation, heaviness, it’s telling you in plain words, that something you’re doing is just outright wrong. And why are these signals so immediate? Because the wise body wants you to make it top priority – give it urgent attention. The body knows that this is your core – the engine that makes all systems work smoothly and optimally. If something goes wrong here, that means system breakdown. This decline is gradual and insidious and spreads in different parts of the body especially affecting vulnerable organ systems.

The body speaks to us all the time. Ignoring discomfort and pain signals is one level. With medicines we actually suppress these signals, basically telling the body to shut up. Bad decision. From this onwards, as the alarm bells become desperate and intense, our medication gets stronger. Fortunately, the body keeps communicating. That’s because it is programmed not just for survival but for sound preservation. We on the other hand, lose the sense of understanding its language. We keep making bad decisions. Then one fine day we get a test result that shocks us numb.

Let’s relearn to listen to our body before we reach that point of no return.


Inspired by Batmanghelidj’s story, a couple of months ago when I started feeling the signs of a headache whose course was to develop into a full-blown severe migraine, I drank a small glass of room-temperature water. The first glass didn’t do much. I persevered. Fifteen minutes later, I took my second glass of cool water. There was a considerable release of heaviness and tension. But the pain was still lurking around. After another fifteen minutes, the third glass finished it off completely.

This UK trained physician devised a simple technique for treating thousands of prisoners especially with acute gastric episodes while he was a political prisoner himself during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. He was in prison for three years and during this time cured some 3,000 cases of ulcers, just with water. He would give two glasses (0.5 litre) of water at a time. Most often, the third glass resolved the case. Later, he continued to use his water therapy and treated all sorts of illnesses including many so-called incurable degenerative diseases.

This has been my experience so far. I’ve also realized that while there may be many triggers for my migraines, water alone can resolve the problem especially if I nip it in the bud. I also suddenly noticed that I no longer was waking up to a scratchy throat, runny nose and sneezing. My on-going mission, now, is to keep myself well-hydrated.

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