We all know that we should be drinking more water, right? Your doctor tells you to drink water instead of soda or juice. You’re told to drink water before, during and after physical activity and you may have even been told to drink water to flush the toxins from your body after a massage.
Hold on. Nope. Myth alert!
It turns out that a tall glass of water does not flush toxins from your body. That’s not how any of this works. Besides, expecting a one hour massage and a couple glasses of water to negate years of bad habits is unrealistic.
It’s true that certain cleaning chemicals when inhaled are not good for us, eating too much bread or refined sugar and carbohydrates might make you bloated, and smog is bad for the environment. But your liver and kidneys do a fantastic job of keeping you healthy, I promise.
If toxins built up to such a degree that your body could not naturally get rid of them, you would be very, very sick and in need of medical attention.
I don’t know exactly how the water flushes toxins myth came to be, but let’s look at it from a historical perspective.
Detoxing & Cleanses
The history of detoxing dates back as far as the 1830s and was widely popularized when John Harvey Kellogg (yes, the cereal guy) started the Battle Creek Sanatorium in 1866. Kellogg believed that things like water enemas and vegetarian diets--including corn flakes is what made us healthy. Not unlike many of the destination health spas today.
It then gained a huge resurgence in the 1970s when Stanley Burroughs wrote the book The Master Cleanse. Burroughs claimed that by depriving your body of food and consuming nothing but a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper would purify the body.
People believed this because they would experience benefits such as increased energy, clearer thinking and even weight loss. When in reality, what was happening is they were giving their organs a break from digesting and filtering processed foods and high amounts of sugar and fat. And the weight loss they were experiencing was actually dehydration and water weight that came back once they started to consume the foods they had been avoiding.
Finally, thanks to the multi-billion dollar diet industry the natural byproducts of metabolic waste became synonymous with toxins.
Products offering us proof of toxins being pulled out of our feet while we sleep or bowel movements that resemble an anaconda that are responsible for our illnesses are being touted by everyone from your neighbor to big box retailers.
So, if none of this stuff is true, why should you drink water after a massage?
For starters, you’re thirsty.
Thirst is your body is telling you it’s not in homeostasis and needs some balance. Humans are the only species on the planet that need to consistently take in water since we have no way to store reserves. Small sips throughout the day are much more beneficial in allowing the body to absorb water than guzzling a whole glass or two at once.
And in case you need more, here are 5 other reasons you want to drink water (anytime, not just after a massage).
It helps maintain normal organ function - Drinking water is essential for proper organ function. Your brain is made up of 60-70% water so being even mildly dehydrated can lead to fatigue, concentration issues and even headaches. Your kidneys and liver use water to filter different minerals, nutrients and other metabolic byproducts to either be used by the body or eliminated. Your intestines use water to help “move things along.” Not drinking enough water can cause your colon to absorb too much water and lead to constipation and chronic constipation can lead to more serious health concerns.
It can lower your blood pressure - When you are dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker and less able to move fluidly throughout your body. Thicker blood can also decrease circulation. This can cause your heart to have to pump harder and faster and less blood to be circulated into the brain which can lead to fatigue issues and headaches. So next time you have a headache, try drinking a glass or two of water before reaching for the ibuprofen.
It protects your skin from cuts - An old Hollywood trick they use to make actors and actresses look more toned is to dehydrate them. Dehydrated skin sticks to muscle tissue, making it thinner because it needs to stretch to cover more surface area which can also make you more prone to cuts. However, I would not go trying this any time soon. Not only is this foolish, but it is dangerous. Prolonged dehydration can also lead to more serious health complications like kidney failure, seizures, coma and death.
It lubricates your joints - Your joints have something called synovial fluid in them (think engine oil). It’s what makes them able to move properly through full range of motion without rubbing against one another causing friction and pain. The cartilage in your joints also contain water so being dehydrated can lead to more joint inflammation and possibly joint damage
It helps you sleep better - Your body needs water to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. Decreased levels of melatonin can lead to a disruption in your circadian rhythm which makes it more difficult to stay asleep.
You’re probably wondering, ok if it doesn’t flush toxins, I still need to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, right?
The equation for how much water one should drink is a bit complex, but we often overlook the water we get through our diet. Fruits, vegetables and other foods we eat increase our water intake incrementally.
And we know that drinking other liquids including coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages can count toward our daily water intake as long as we are cautious of additives like sugar which have other side effects.
So, the next time you feel the need to drink some water, go ahead and know that you’re doing your body good.