logo

Foundations of Integrative Health

logo
Foundations of Integrative Healing Manual
logo
Foundations of Integrative Healing Manual
PART 2: PRACTICE

Hydration & Oxygenation

 

When people begin working on their health, it’s common to think of diet and exercise as the most important aspects. While these are essential ingredients in a strong health foundation, hydration and breath are even more fundamental than diet and exercise and essential to get right to initiate the body’s healing processes. 

You may have heard of the Survival Rule of 3 or “rule of threes,” which states a human can survive:

  • 3 minutes without air.
  • 3 days without water.
  • 3 weeks without food.

It’s essential to understand that optimizing hydration and breath are two critical keys to getting you to your health goals. Without proper oxygenation and hydration, your body’s cells will not be able to create energy, detoxify, and reverse disease efficiently. It’s common that many people are eating correctly and staying active but not seeing any results because they aren’t adequately hydrated and oxygenated. 

Water is the universal solvent, and almost every biochemical reaction in the body is dependent on water. Dr. Gerald Pollack, a senior water researcher, proved that 99% of the molecules that make up the human body are water molecules, H2O. With such an incredible amount of water in the human body at any moment, it’s no surprise that water quality and hydration status are essential determinants of health. 

You can reach optimal water consumption by drinking roughly half of your body weight in fluid ounces a day. So an adult female that weighs 135 lb should be drinking approximately 65-70 fluid ounces of water a day, roughly 9 cups of water a day. 

You might be saying; I get pretty close to that… I drink slightly less than my optimal amount. That might not be a big deal over the course of a single day or a week. However, consider how this adds up over the course of a year or decade. That’s 146,000 oz of necessary hydration that you’d be missing in a 10-year timespan. That dehydration might show up in the long-term as high blood pressure, asthma, or arthritis, and we likely wouldn’t put the link together that the root cause is chronic dehydration. Dehydration is often the hidden factor in many health issues. 

A number of things can go off in the body if we’re not hydrated properly.

  1. Digestion can begin to slow down or stop. Our bodies need between 2 and 3 L of water to digest every meal.
  2. Dry Skin.
  3. Chronic Fatigue.
  4. Respiratory conditions such as asthma
  5. Decreased kidney function, kidney stones & urinary tract infections.
  6. High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
  7. Intestinal failure.
  8. Decreased exercise performance.
  9. Diminished cognition and mental performance.

 

Most people believe that we are dehydrated if:

  1. Our pee is yellow.
  2. Our mouths are parched.

Actually, neither of these is a good baseline to measure your true hydration levels in your body. These are both signs of rather severe dehydration. 

 

Optimizing Hydration

75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This is due to a combination of:

  1. Not drinking enough water.
  2. Drinking poor quality water. 
  3. Overconsumption of dehydrating beverages (coffee, alcohol, soda)

Dehydration often goes unnoticed because short-term (acute) dehydration symptoms only surface in extreme situations like heat exhaustion or excessive physical activity. The signs of short-term dehydration include extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and headache. These symptoms can easily be reversed by drinking water and resting.

The larger problem that plagues most people is chronic dehydration. Chronic dehydration is much more sneaky and insidious. Many chronic health conditions, including asthma, constipation, or arthritis, are affected by chronic dehydration. *

In his book “The Body’s Many Cries for Water,” Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, an Iranian physician details how many of the unexplained chronic health symptoms that plague millions are actually symptoms of chronic dehydration. His book details how he reduced more than 3,000 patients’ chronic health symptoms by simply hydrating them. 

“We have made the mistake of assuming that because water is freely available and costs nothing, the body cannot fall short of it. I believe that most physical pains are signals that the body needs rehydrating — and that we ignore these signals at our peril,” said Dr. Batmanghelidj.

 

How Much Water Is Optimal?

Optimal water formula:

Lean Body Weight (lbs.) ÷ 2 = the minimal amount of water your body needs daily in ounces. 

 

If you are in a healthy weight range for your height, divide your weight by two and take that number in liquid ounces as the ideal baseline for daily water consumption. For example, a woman who is 5’7 and weighs 130 pounds requires a minimum of 65 ounces of water every day (130 / 2, converted to ounces). If you carry some extra weight, you can calculate your daily water needs based on your estimated lean body weight. Find your estimated lean body weight by looking up the healthy BMI range for your height, and use that figure instead of your current weight.

For example, a 6-foot tall man weighing 300 lbs does not need to drink 150 ounces of water/day. Instead, you’d reference a BMI calculator to get the healthy weight for a 6-foot tall man between 140-177lbs. In this instance, we’d take the average and aim for drinking 85 fluid oz a day. Please note that this is the minimum amount of water your body needs to function optimally. If you exercise or sweat a lot, you will need to drink more. 

Many people think hydrating is just a matter of drinking more water. However, optimizing hydration is not just a matter of drinking enough water; it is also imperative to drink high-quality water

 

Water Quality

When we fill up a glass of water, what ends up in the glass besides H2O? Most people drink tap water that comes from a municipal water supply. We’re fortunate to have a safe source of drinking water, but water is often not as clean as we think it is. 

Municipal water treatment facilities do an excellent job of removing potential pathogens (viruses, bacteria, protozoa) that can cause gastroenteritis, a significant health issue in developing countries. In most developed countries, the issue is not pathogenic organisms in the water, but other toxic agents including heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, lead), microplastics, disinfection byproducts (trihalomethanes, halogenic acetic acids, haloacetonitriles), herbicides/pesticides (glyphosate), chlorine, fluoride, as well as dissolved pharmaceuticals.

According to federal water safety standards, these impurities in the water supply may exist in “negligible amounts” or “within normal limits.” However, considering how often we drink water, even trace amounts of toxic solutes can accumulate in the body and contribute to serious health effects. 

Outside tap water, different types of water has become a contentious topic in the health world. Many people have adopted ‘ultra-purified’ water, alkaline water, or even distilled water as an advanced health practice. 

The principle of original nature teaches us to look back at how we would have drank water throughout our evolutionary history. We can trust nature’s design rather than needing fancy, expensive equipment to create “enhanced” water. The best natural water source is fresh spring water, filtered through the earth. Spring water is free from toxins like heavy metals and microplastics while naturally rich in dissolved essential minerals that promote deep cellular hydration. These dissolved minerals are in really tiny amounts, but they are super important to your hydration!

Humans evolved only by drinking water from fresh streams with naturally occurring dissolved minerals. Having the right concentration of dissolved minerals is essential for hydration. It’s actually the dissolved minerals in water that communicate with the minerals in our cells to tell the water where to go in the body. When we drink water stripped of its minerals, the hydration doesn’t get delivered into the cell. If you drink water stripped of all minerals, it can even pull water out of the cells into the extracellular space (interstitium). Each time you drink low-quality, generic bottled water, this is what’s happening.

You don’t need to go through elaborate measures like drinking highly alkalized water, or Kangen water as minerals like magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium, naturally alkalize the water, maintaining a slightly alkaline pH.

Natural spring water also has more electrical energy, which you might say more “life.” Dr. Gerald Pollack of the University of Washington discovered “structured water” is water where the water molecules exist as H3O2 rather than H2O. The enhanced electrical charge of “structured water” appears to have many beneficial effects on human physiology and cellular biology. The H302 structure of water is lost when water goes through municipal filtering plants and is carried through miles of pipes. 

 

Deep Cellular Hydration

The human body is roughly 60% water, and about ⅔ of that water is found within your body’s cells. The remaining ⅓ of body water is distributed between blood, plasma, lymph, and tissues. 

What’s important is not how much water we drink but how much water actually ends up in the cells. When you drink water, does it end your cells, or does it simply move through you and into the toilet? Have you ever drank a water glass and noticed yourself using the bathroom almost immediately? That may be because the water lacks the minerals necessary to carry water into the cells. Drinking mineralized water leads to optimal cellular hydration, while unmineralized water is more likely to stay within extracellular spaces. Again, the mineral content within the water is what drives water molecules into cells.

Minerals serve many unique functions within the body, though maybe their most important role is creating and maintaining electrical energy across cellular membranes. Specifically, the sodium and potassium balance across the cellular membrane creates the electrical potential energy supporting life. However, all essential minerals contribute to the cell’s energy structure balance, and this is why you hear minerals called”electrolytes.” 

Without proper cellular hydration, toxic byproducts accumulate within cells that interfere with health and contribute to aging. Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Alexis Carrel once said, “The cell is immortal. It is merely the fluid in which it floats that degenerates. Renew this fluid at regular intervals, give the cell what it requires for nutrition, and as far as we know, the pulsation of life can go on forever.”

 

How to Properly Treat Your Water:

Most people don’t have access to actual natural spring water. So you can buy spring water in the store or deliver it to your home. But truthfully, most of these are treated and don’t have optimal mineral content. Also, it may not be economically or environmentally feasible to drink long-term. The second best water source is well water, though you must test it for impurities and runoff materials to ensure it’s safe as a primary water source.

Fear not! We can easily “revitalize” your water to get close to what we’d get from natural spring water. Even if we don’t have access to spring or well water, we can still source pure water with the help of a high-quality filter. Many filtration technologies and brands exist, each with potential benefits. Filtration removes impurities while keeping in essential minerals, and some filtration systems are effective. 

Be aware that filters vary greatly in their efficacy. Some of the most popular brands offer minimal filtration benefits. On the other hand, some filters are incredibly effective at filtering out impurities, but they also filter out beneficial minerals. The trendy reverse osmosis technology does an excellent job at removing everything from water besides H2O. However, the water you are left with at the end is water devoid of the minerals necessary for deep cellular hydration. Please refer to our list of recommended products for suggestions.

 

Here are our recommended lists for best filters:

You can easily remineralize your water by adding trace mineral drops to each glass or bottle of water. Many trace mineral brands are available and are becoming easier to find in local grocery stores. Most companies source their trace minerals from the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Even if you have a filter that leaves in the minerals from your municipal water source, adding additional minerals to your water is likely still worthwhile. Tap water is usually already deficient in minerals before going through your filter. 

If you for some reason, don’t have access to trace mineral drops, you can get the same effect by dissolving a high-quality sea salt or himalayan salt into your water. All you need is a tiny pinch. For a bonus, try an ancient Ayurvedic recipe we call “Ayurvedic Gatorade,” which is water with half a teaspoon of Himalayan salt + a squeeze of lemon or lime. 

We can also obtain great mineral-rich and structured hydration from the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat. Fresh fruits and vegetables such as celery, cucumber, tomatoes, melon, berries, citrus fruits, are more than 90% water by mass. These foods also contain fiber that fuels the microbiome to promote a healthy gut and helps draw water from the colon into the bloodstream to aid in hydration status. 

Other great sources of super-hydration are coconut water and maple water. High-quality sources of coconut or maple water are expensive but worth the price. 

Processed foods require a higher input of digestive juices (enzymes, bile, hydrochloric acid, etc.) that can further dehydrate the body. The chemicals in processed foods often throw off the body’s mineral content, a vicious cycle that makes it increasingly tricky to hydrate the body. 

 

Drinks Other Than Water

One common question many people have is whether or not their other drinks, such as tea, juice, and carbonated waters, work to hydrate the body. This is somewhat of a complex question.

Almost all tea is a diuretic. Teas like green tea, white tea, and black tea tend to be more intense diuretics and will pull more water from your body, while herbal and non-caffeinated teas like mint tea or chamomile tend to be less severe diuretics. 

The only two common sources of tea which are not diuretics are licorice tea, and marshmallow root tea. These can be excellent staple tea options but should not replace your regular water consumption.

 

To Chug Or Not To Chug?

Research shows we are best hydrated when drinking small amounts throughout the day instead of all at once. When we drink throughout the day, urine excretion is 6x lower when compared with drinking the same amount of water in larger quantities but less often. When the body receives more water than it can absorb, it will release the excess water shortly through the urinary system. While chugging water at the end of the day is tempting, it won’t give you the hydration your cells need throughout the day. It’s not about how much you drink per day; it’s about staying hydrated for the maximum duration of your life. 

One of the best ways to set yourself up for success in regularly drinking throughout the day is to carry a reusable water bottle with you and to keep it visible. This means keeping it next to you at your desk while you work or beside you as you drive. Make a habit of taking small sips of water every 30 minutes for optimal hydration.

 

Summary:

Hydration depends not only on how much water we drink but also on the quality of the water. Get a source of natural spring water or a filter system + mineralize your water with trace minerals or a high-quality salt. Drink water slowly throughout the day, rather than chugging it all at once. 

Hydration Action steps:

  1. Obtain a clean source of drinking water, whether from a natural spring, tested well, or a good quality water filter. 
  2. Drink half your lean body weight in water per day
  3. Add trace mineral drops to your water.

 

 

Breathing For Health

Breathing is an autonomic function, meaning the body can breathe all day without conscious effort. Because breathing is so effortless, it’s not typically something we consider a factor in our health. It’s easy to take trees for granted- they’re everywhere. It’s only when they’re removed that we’re forced to reconcile their importance. The same is true of oxygen. 

Every one of the body’s trillion cells needs oxygen to generate energy and excrete waste. The amount of oxygen in our bodies is not a peripheral health measure; it’s perhaps the most critical measurement of our health. You know that little clamp-like device they hook up to your finger when you are in the hospital? This is a pulse oximeter, and it measures the level of oxygenation in your blood. When oxygen levels are chronically low in the body, all sorts of health problems can occur. 

With each inhale, we draw oxygen into our lungs. We exchange carbon dioxide for the newly received oxygen in the blood in the lungs. The lungs exhale the unneeded carbon dioxide, and the oxygen swiftly gets carried around the body via the blood. The oxygen-rich blood moves from the lungs to the heart to the aorta, making its way into smaller and smaller blood vessels until it reaches the capillary beds within a tissue. The oxygen passes through the capillary walls and is successfully delivered to the tissue and into the cells. Once inside the cell, oxygen has a critical role in aiding the creation of energy (ATP). The end result of cellular utilization of oxygen to create energy is the formation of carbon dioxide, which makes its way back into the bloodstream, ultimately to be eliminated by your next exhalation. Without oxygen, cells quickly die due to a lack of energy production and the toxic waste build-up of the cell. 

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can utilize during exercise. It’s a combination of how much oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump and the heart and lung efficiency at using the oxygen. An untrained adult male typically has a VO2 max range of 35-40 ml/kg/min. An elite trained athlete can have a VO2 max more than doubled that, which means elite trained athletes have twice the amount of utilized oxygen during their exercise. 

Optimizing oxygenation status depends on:

  1. The quality of the air we breathe. 
  2. The quality of our breath.

 

Optimizing Air Quality

9/10 people on earth breathe unhealthy air. Air pollution is now the largest environmental risk for early death, causing more premature deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Air pollution is responsible for more than 6 million premature deaths each year. Studies have even shown pollution to negatively affect stock market behavior!

Air pollution is made up of a mixture of particulate matter, gasses ( ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides), organic compounds (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and endotoxins), and heavy metals (cadmium, nickel, and arsenic). While we often think about outdoor air in urban environments as the most significant air quality threat, indoor air quality can be equally or more toxic. Conventional cleaning products, artificial fragrances, and off-gassing chemicals from furniture, household products, and building materials contain formaldehyde, benzene, acetaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, and phthalates. These can be extremely harmful, especially when we factor in a lack of ventilation and the amount of time spent indoors.

Air pollution irritates the airways and increases the risk of developing lung conditions, but there’s a hidden, more insidious effect. Pollution also severely impairs the cardiovascular system. Pollution causes oxidative stress and inflammatory compounds to rush through the lungs and flood into the blood. People living in polluted areas have significantly higher levels of heavy metals in their blood. Toxins from pollution can also often cross the blood-brain barrier to present a risk for Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions. 

While it may seem like air quality is out of our control, depending on where you live, there is actually a lot you can do to optimize your air, both in and out of the home. Fresh air is always much closer than we may think. Trees are nature’s air purifiers, so wherever there are trees, there is cleaner air. One of the simplest ways to dramatically increase your body’s oxygen is to exercise outdoors near trees. 

Pro Tip: Run in the forest; double your oxygen.

Runners and cyclists often exercise near busy roads or in gyms. This can decrease your total oxygen content and expose you to unsafe airborne toxins. Gyms typically have very toxic air due to all the cleaning products. You can often quickly double your oxygen intake by simply moving your morning walk into a forest or nature park.

 

Home Products

It is always a great practice to replace chemical-based cleaning products, air fresheners, etc., with natural alternatives to optimize indoor air quality. Investing in a HEPA-certified air purifier and HEPA-certified vacuum is a great way to decrease the particulate matter and allergens inside. Additionally, having an open window, fans to circulate air, and/or an indoor air purifier will help remove chemicals and particulate matter indoors. 

House plants are a beautiful way to bring in even more fresh air, as they are known to help remove toxins. Diffusing essential oils indoors is another good way to bring natural fresh scents indoors while promoting respiratory health. While taking steps to mitigate chemical exposure and keep indoor air clean, it’s no replacement for being outdoors. 

 

Our favorite home cleaning products:

All-Purpose Cleaners

Glass Cleaners

Dishwashing Soap

Dishwashing Detergent

Laundry Detergent 

Bathroom Cleaners

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Shower, Tub, Tile Cleaners

Floor Cleaners

 

Optimizing Breath

Like the heartbeat, digestion, and hormone secretions, breathing is a subconscious behavior controlled by the autonomic nervous system. We keep breathing all day, every day, without any conscious input. However, unlike other autonomic functions, breathing can be overridden by conscious input. Breathing is typically on auto-pilot, but we can turn the knob back to manual drive at any time. Ancient yogi’s considered the breathe the bridge to experiencing the unconscious mind. This is why so much emphasis is put on the breath in yoga and meditation. Go ahead, try it right now! 

Conscious breathing carries incredible power that shapes the state of our autonomic nervous system and baseline respiratory habits. We can take rapid shallow breaths or lengthen and deepen our breath by tuning into our conscious breath. We can also choose to breathe in through the nose or the mouth, into the chest, or deeper into the base of the lungs.

 

The nose is for breathing; the mouth is for eating. 

Try opening your mouth and taking a full breath. We often do this naturally when under strenuous physical activity to maximize the quantity of ventilated air to fuel metabolism. Breathing through the mouth on occasion or when truly necessary is no issue at all. However, chronic or ongoing mouth breathing can wreak havoc on our health. 

The nose is designed for breathing and should be used under normal conditions to optimize health. The nasal passageways do the following amazing things:

  1. Filter and humidify the air, serving as the first line of defense against any potential aerosolized foreign invaders. When we breathe through the nose, dust, toxins, pathogens, or particulate matter are more likely to be trapped within the nasal mucosa and discharged with the aid of the immune system. 
  2. Breathing through the nose helps maximize oxygenation in the body by increasing pressure within the lungs. 
  3. Nose breathing also helps to maintain an open nasal passage, both by filtering out dust and allergens and increasing nitric oxide release that promotes healthy dilation and opening of vasculature and airways. This helps to maintain a healthy respiratory system and prevent sleep apnea.

Mouth breathing is a common habit with significant consequences in all aspects of our health. The high prevalence of mouth breathers may be due to enlarged tonsils, nasal congestion, or anatomical reasons related to a tongue-tie or thumb sucking. While intermittent mouth breathing has no significant risks, chronic mouth breathing may lead to :

  • Dry mouth, 
  • Bad breath, 
  • Nasal congestion, 
  • Frequent infections, 
  • Misaligned teeth, 
  • Dental cavities/gingivitis, 
  • Facial deformities, 
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep disorders. 

There is even evidence suggesting ADHD symptoms in children could be due to mouth breathing. If you are a chronic mouth breather, please notify your Wisdom doctor for detailed instructions on how to recondition this pattern. 

Interestingly, nasal congestion is both a common cause AND a consequence of mouth breathing. Some researchers like James Nestor suggest one of the root causes of chronic mouth breathing is eating processed food. This might not seem related, but processed food creates excess inflammation and mucus build-up in the nasal passage, which can prevent healthy nose breathing. If waking with a dry mouth is common, it is likely that the night was spent mouth breathing, which is associated with sleep apnea and diminished quality of sleep. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the dangers of mouth breathing and learning practical measures to reverse it, check out James Nestor’s book Breathe.

 

How To Breathe Properly

Right now, take a breath and notice what part of your body expands? The easy answer is the lungs, but where does the air go within the lungs? An average breath is about ½ of a liter of air at rest. However, the average adult lung capacity is about 6 liters! So, does that air we take rest go to the top container of your lungs? Does it go to the middle? Or does it go to the bottom? For many people, the breath goes straight into the upper chest, filling the top of the lungs and neglecting the lower lungs. Over time the stagnation in the base of the lungs can potentially increase the risk of toxin accumulation and infection. 

With chest breathing, not only are the lungs only partially ventilated, the sympathetic branch of the nervous system is upregulated, which promotes physiological stress. The adage of “keep calm and breathe” holds provided that we breathe properly through the nose and into the belly before slowly exhaling. If this is a challenge for you, don’t stress, it’s very normal. 

A healthy breath at rest should activate and fill deeper spaces to circulate the contents of the lungs. This is the effect of diaphragmatic or belly breathing. This happens when we feel the belly inflate like a balloon with each breath and deflate with each exhale. In traditional yoga systems, practitioners are first taught to breathe into the belly. This simple habit can take months or even years of effort to properly repattern. Ancient yogis would train themselves to breathe slowly, evenly, and elongate their breath to reach their total lung capacity. Check out this crazy video on famous Indian Yogi BKS Iyengar demonstrating the superhuman capacity of his breath.

If you notice you are not breathing into your belly, it’s good to take note of it, but don’t stress about it as repatterning the breath takes a long time and is best to chip away at it over time slowly. We’ll give you some exercises to help your belly breathing, but you shouldn’t feel like breathing in the chest is “wrong.” Think of breathing into the belly as a gentle optimization to help you experience more calm and groundedness. 

 

Action Steps For Breathing:

  1. Take 1 step towards cleaning up your indoor air quality, whether investing in an air purifier, bringing in more indoor plants, or improving ventilation. 
  2. Plan one nature visit every week.
  3. Do your belly breathing practice video in your member portal once or twice a week.