Posted by: corneliadavies | December 2, 2018

Does the traditional British cuppa count as part of our daily hydration quota?


Does tea count as part of our daily hydration quota?

You bet it does! (Though I might have issues if the tea is very strong or laced with sugar.)

So why do about 80% of my new patients say, looking slightly guilty, “I probably don’t drink enough water”? And why does this comment bug me?

Advice from NHS Choices seems to trigger people into guilt if they don’t drink 1.2 litres of water per day.

However, what NHS Choices actually says is, “we should drink about 1.2 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated.” NOTE: it says fluid, not specifically water. I think most people have this information second hand and interpret it as advice to drink masses of cold water.

So (preferably sugar-free) weak to medium strength ‘builders’ tea’ is a perfectly good way of hydrating, as is Earl Grey, green tea, jasmine tea etc., numerous herbal teas and our old buddy, water. But please don’t add artificial sweeteners to any of these drinks, as there is increasing evidence that these substances ‘confuse’ our body chemistry, and there’s even a suggestion nowadays that they may contribute to obesity.

Many people drink warm/hot water, maybe with some added lemon juice first thing in the morning, which is a great way to kick start the digestive system as well as beginning the day’s hydration.

If you drink pure juices they will hydrate you, but do remember that fruit juices are high in fruit sugar, which, though different from added sugar, still isn’t great in large quantities. Also, too much fruit juice is not good for your teeth. Vegetable juices are good and a moderate amount of coconut water would be OK hydrating choices.

How much fluid is enough?

I can’t tell you exactly how much fluid you should drink, because that will vary depending on you, your constitutional health, your situation and the climate/weather. However, a good rule of thumb is to drink when you’re thirsty, provided you’re not ‘out of touch’ with this vital brain-body signal. If you work in a hot or air-conditioned environment you’ll probably need more fluid, and if you have a full-on job like nursing you will probably need to remind yourself to drink more frequently.

In summer I expect you’ll naturally drink more water, and more fluid in general, which is appropriate. You may also eat more raw foods, which have quite a lot of fluid in them, too.

In winter you’re likely to drink more hot teas, and to eat more stews and soups, which will also increase your hydration level.

The great British climate

Our ‘temperate’, i.e. mostly cold, climate is a big player in our hydration choices. We live more of the year in colder conditions than we do in warmth or heat. Therefore, it’s natural for us to gravitate towards hot drinks. Indian tea found its way here several centuries ago and it seems to have kept its place in the British heart (and stomach).

Most of us would probably prefer not to surprise our stomachs with too much cold water except in warmer weather, so there’s no need to. It’s great when we can follow our bodies’ signals.

What about coffee?

Coffee doesn’t really have the same hydrating effect as tea or water, as it’s mildly diuretic. One or two coffees per day would be fine for many people. Half a dozen would be questionable (for all sorts of reasons). So if people drink coffee I’m always glad when I hear that they also drink the more truly hydrating things like teas or water.

Soft drinks

Don’t get me started on highly sugared or artificially-sweetened and/or caffeinated soft drinks! That’s another whole topic, but unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years you will have heard the big debate that’s raging about these drinks.

The bottom line

NHS Choices is simply trying to herd a lot of different people with different backgrounds and lifestyles into a healthier place. I don’t envy them this job!

To sum up, drink a reasonable amount of hot/cold, yummy/bland, not-too-sweet fluids and you should be fine. And if you happen to like the British cuppa it can stay in the frame as one of the good guys in the hydration story.

Inspiration and thanks

My thanks to acupuncturist colleague Sandra Bird, who inspired me to write this blog. She posts photos of cups of tea from wherever she is… in the clinic, at a seminar, visiting China! It occurred to me that these cuppa photos seem like natural punctuation marks in her days, and what better way to hydrate the long ‘daily sentence’ than that?

© Cornelia Davies 2018

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