Cortisol, Stress, and Why Your Therapist is Constantly Telling You to Drink Water

If you’re a past or present client at Coherence, chances are pretty good that you’ve heard the end of session refrain, “Remember to drink plenty of water!”. We are often met with jokes, groans, and replies of understanding. But, sometimes questions still remain; like how much is plenty exactly, and Why? It’s not just that we want you to have great skin and be hydrated, that’s for sure. Water plays an integral role in how the body functions, can help the body heal from physical and emotional stress through flushing cortisol from our systems, and can even assist in regulating mood as well as our sleep wake cycles  (Pross N, Demazières A, Girard N, Barnouin R, Metzger D, Klein A, et al., 2014).

When we think of stressors, a list of things like finances, children, romance, relatives, health issues, etc. may come up. I bet you didn’t think of dehydration as a stressor (if you did, GREAT job!), but the fact is that being just half a liter dehydrated can increase your cortisol levels (www.stresspandemic.com, 10/17/2012). So how much water are we talking? Well, it really depends on a host of individual factors including your size, activity level, stress level, diet, etc. To give you an idea of how much water we should be drinking per day, the Mayo Clinic recommends using the 8×8 rule – 8, 8oz glasses of water per day – this is roughly equivalent to half a gallon of water per day. Other sources say that you should consume .5-1oz of water for every pound that you weigh. For most people we are talking about 75-150 oz. of water per day, a little over a gallon. The amount of water to keep you feeling good goes up under stressful situations.

When a stressful event occurs, our bodies release a flood of Cortisol which prepares the body for fight or flight, sending energy to large muscle groups and away from areas like the stomach (digestion!) which are not critical to survival. If you experience a flood of cortisol, it is recommended that you counter that with a healthy amount of water, the .5-1oz for every pound that you weigh rule would suffice. This will allow your body to remove the cortisol and return to a healthy balance.

Building a routine into your day that includes increasing your water consumption is a great way to lower stress levels and contribute somewhat passively to a greater level of health. So, do yourself a favor and practice some simple self-care with great benefits and go have a glass of water!

Reannon Kerwood, MA, LMFT 93397


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