How to Stay Hydrated When You Don’t Like to Drink Water

Proper hydration is key to good health, especially with neuromyelitis optica

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

by Jennifer van Amerom |

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You’ve probably heard that we need to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. How many of you successfully hit that target? Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to meet that quota, or, ahem, meet it with coffee instead.

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I am not a fan of drinking water. I have a whole list of grievances against it. I know staying hydrated is important for many reasons, especially for those with neuromyelitis optica (NMO), but it has always been a struggle for me.

What’s that floating in my glass?!

I’m a germaphobe, partly because I was raised to believe that being clean is a form of respect toward yourself and others. It’s also because germs can lead to infections, which doesn’t bode well for those of us who are immunosuppressed.

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I’ll admit a dirty secret, pun intended: I can spend several minutes examining, then hand-washing, an already clean glass before I’m satisfied. Because water is translucent, I can freak myself out with the tiniest speck of dirt. I’ve invested in several cups with lids (equivalent to grown-up sippy cups), like those made by the Corkcicle and Yeti brands, so dust doesn’t land into my open cup.

And please don’t get me started on ice. When was the last time the ice box was thoroughly emptied and washed? Freezer ice-cube trays should be eliminated. I know I’m being extreme, but potentially dirty or contaminated water feels counterproductive to my health.

What’s really in my water?

My mother likes to complain that the tap water here in Toronto tastes different from the water in her small community an hour and a half away. She’s not wrong, though. What exactly ends up in our tap water?

This year, my city is repairing the water mains on our street, but they’ve highlighted that older homes like ours  built before 1955 may have lead pipes connecting to the city’s water system. The Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guideline for lead is 0.01 milligrams per liter. Anything higher than that can cause various side effects, including nerve disorders, fatigue, kidney damage, and digestive problems.

I’m researching whether a reverse osmosis water filtration system would be suitable for us. In the reverse osmosis process, contaminated water tries to move into the pure water, but it must pass through a semipermeable filter first, trapping contaminants like dirt, sand, chlorine, lead, and fluoride.

NMO and H2O

One reason NMO patients need to stay hydrated is that we never know when we might need an IV. It’s tough to get a needle into a collapsing vein, and even tougher to push any treatment through them if the veins aren’t large and plump.

But is the recommended six to eight daily glasses of water necessary?

The Mayo Clinic recommends the following:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men.
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.

It’s important to note, though, that the recommended amount of fluid can come from drinks besides water, and about 20% can even come from foods like watermelon and spinach.

While I’m not a fan of water, I would never take it for granted. The nurse practitioners I work with always recommend I drink at least a glass with my medication, as it will help my body absorb what’s needed and flush out unnecessary toxins.

Ways to make water more interesting

When we suffer from dehydration, we’re really dealing with an electrolyte imbalance. Our bodies need seven main electrolytes: potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, and phosphate. These minerals direct fluids, including water, to where our bodies need them most.

There are popular electrolyte drinks like Gatorade and Propel, but many professional athletes and patients have started to rely on powdered electrolyte additives that are mixed into a glass of water, such as DripDrop and Hydrant. Most of these products have zero or low sugar, or use sugar alternatives, and thankfully, they’re made with fruity flavors I enjoy.

If I’m feeling like my body needs a bit of a detox, I might add cucumber or lemon slices to my water for the day. Pro tip: Don’t let the slices sit in your water bottle for too long.

I love relying on technology to make my life easier. My family is used to seeing my Fitbit watch light up or my phone alarm go off regularly as a reminder that it’s time to drink water. There are even fancy bottles like the HidrateSpark, with a bottom that lights up to remind you to drink, or the LARQ bottle, which has its own UV-C light filtration system.

If all that fails you, consider seeking support from your friends and family with a daily water challenge. Being accountable to others might help you make the lifestyle change you need.

Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).


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