Water, Hydration and Brain Power for Recovery with Kelly Miller aka The Addiction Nutritionist

The what, why and how to stay hydrated in recovery and sobriety. Make drinking water your first line of defence against cravings, urges and fatigue. Daily hydration is essential, especially for those in recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Kelly says our brain is where our recovery skill set lives. We want 100% access to our brain at all times and need it to be firing on all cylinders in early recovery when we’re battling temptation and making significant changes in our lives. Water is essential and hydration is the key! Read why and how to stay hydrated in alcohol recovery to boost your body’s performance, improve energy and beat cravings.

Does water hydration help alcohol recovery?

Yes! Good consistent hydration throughout the day is essential to keep your body and brain feeling the best they can in recovery. Hydration is what all adults need, and yet it is often neglected. This article shines a light on how you can use hydration as a practical tool for overcoming addictions, improving self-care, promoting well-being and anyone recovering from depression or illness. Kelly joins me once again to discuss the topic of hydration, an essential daily self-care practice for anyone and everyone.

Super Fuel Your Recovery With These Addiction Nutritionist Tips from The Addiction Nutritionist  

If you are cutting down on excessive drinking or start recovery from alcohol or substances, even process addictions or are in your first year of active recovery it’s a great idea to work with a nutritionist for a few months. A clear daily nutrition programme will replenish your body with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients, enhance energy, and boost your mood and improve sleep quality – all essential for recovery. Unsure if you have a problem with alcohol and drinking, here are my 30 signs of problem alcohol use.

Stay hydrated and glow from the inside out

Now I am obsessed with the medicinal power of diet and nutrition on mental health and well-being, especially for those working on recovery so I hope you find this as interesting as I do. My own health and nutrition coach Jenny always says ‘Whole foods and hydration are nourishment for the brain and fuel for the body – and your body will pay you back.’ Start connecting the dots and create a mindset linking the power of diet and nutrition to a healthy hydrated brain for a strong recovery mindset.

My insider tips on hydration throughout the day

  • Start the day with a hot cup of fresh water, lemon and a slice of ginger. Great for getting the metabolism going before breakfast!
  • Buy yourself a Head Plan Daily Drench 1 Litre Bottle which is a handy visual tool and motivation to stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • First thing in the morning, fill a large jug of fresh water and add freshly chopped lemons and limes. As it warms to room temperature it is easier to drink.
  • Keep a glass of water on your nightstand so you don’t get thirsty during the night and first thing in the morning.

About Kelly Miller aka The Addiction Nutritionist

Kelly Miller is a Nutrition Therapist, Certified Recovery Nutritionist and Recovery Coach specialising in addiction recovery nutrition. After years of struggling with addiction and disordered eating, she founded The Addiction Nutritionist, a virtual coaching and consulting business, and RecoveryU, a digital hub for education and community for those looking to optimise their health and wellness after addiction.

I empower people to learn the language of their own bodies, so they can quickly identify their unique needs and nourish themselves accordingly.’ – Kelly Miller

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The Addiction Nutritionist Podcast

The Addiction Nutritionist Podcast

Kelly also hosts an amazingly interesting podcast called The Addiction Nutritionist all about nutrition and wellbeing in recovery which you can listen to on your favourite podcast platform. Tune in to over 28 episodes with Kelly and special guests on topics such as the pillars of recovery, the importance of digestion, creating natural highs, weight loss in recovery and stress management. Add podcasts to your weekly recovery practice and keep learning and growing.

Check out the podcast episodes here

Many people in recovery experience a strong disconnect from what their body needs, often unsure of when they are experiencing true hunger and satiety. It is very common for people during active use and early recovery to consume a diet that includes highly processed foods that are nutrient-poor and high in sugar. These foods create chaos in the body and can lead to increased cravings, disease and further disconnection. Read my recent article featuring Kelly discussing the role of nutrition in recovery.

How much water should I drink a day in recovery?

The daily recommended general intake is 8 x 8 oz glasses or 2 litres. To make this simple, you can drink 2 full-litre bottles a day of plain fresh water. If you are exercising you may need to increase this amount.

Some health advocates suggest aiming to drink half your weight in ounces each day. So, for example, a 150 lb man would aim for 75 oz.  These are very general recommendations and would need to be adjusted to the individual and their geographic location, climate, elevation and activity level can affect hydration levels dramatically. 

The best way to monitor your hydration is to observe your urine. You would want to aim for a twinge of light yellow. Not clear, medium or dark yellow, and definitely not brown! A twinge of yellow suggests you are properly hydrated. 

Want to learn more, take a read of the HSE Adult hydration guidelines here.

Why is hydration with water an important consideration particularly for people in recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and those giving up excessive drinking?

Only a 2% loss of hydration can cause significant symptoms, like brain fog and exhaustion. Water accounts for about 70% of the adult human body. Most of this water resides inside of our cells. The brain has a very high demand for fluids, this may be why one of the first signs of dehydration is a slight headache. Your brain is literally dry! 

Our brain is where our recovery skill set lives. We want 100% access to our brain at all times and need it to be firing on all cylinders in early recovery when we’re battling temptation and making significant changes in our lives. Alcohol is a diuretic and excessive use can cause a person’s body to have fluid imbalances.  

Get the facts about alcohol and how it affects your health and wellbeing on DRINKAWARE.IE

It may take a little time for a person’s body to come back to a place of balance in that sense so they may feel increased dehydration in the beginning stages. 

During active addiction, it is very common to overlook basic needs like drinking enough water. If a person has unknowingly suppressed thirst, the same way that many suppress hunger to make more room for alcohol, the signals the body sends to drink water may be weak. In recovery this is one of the first signals we want to restore, recognizing the body’s need for water. 

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The Head Plan Daily Drench 1 Litre Water Bottle from www.headplan.com

As a simple daily measure, how can individuals introduce water into their day?

The goal is to work towards the daily recommended water intake of 2 litres per day. It’s important to start where you are! This allows for progress and creates less barriers for making improvements. First, you’ll want to observe how much you’re already drinking. You can start by simply creating awareness of what you’re using to drink water and when. Take a note in your recovery journal or diary.

Are you drinking from the kitchen sink? A refrigerator-filtered water supply, are you buying water bottles? Do you drink a full glass at one sitting, or do you just sip throughout the day?

Once you have determined your current drinking patterns, simply increase by one glass to get yourself started. It will be easier for some and harder for others to make these small changes but they are worth it. Think of it as daily recovery self-care

If you haven’t already, I recommend getting a designated water bottle and filling it up the night before or first thing in the morning, and having it with you at all times. The visual cue of seeing the water bottle can be a great reminder to drink water.

Next, I suggest people find a way to track their water intake. The easiest way I have seen is to place three rubber bands on your water bottle. Simply remove a rubber band when you get to the bottom of it. At the end of the day hopefully, you went through all three rubber bands! You can place however many rubber on your water bottle you need depending on its ounces.

What are the physical signs of dehydration?

Kelly, in our previous article together ‘Addiction Nutritionist Kelly Miller Talks Nutrition and Recovery‘ you mention that common disconnect from the body that those who drink heavily or who live with alcohol use disorder experience. Can you share some of those common easy to identify signs of dehydration?

Some signs of dehydration can be obvious, like dry mouth or feeling lightheaded. But dehydration can also cause less obvious signs like salt cravings, heart palpitations, a hollow feeling in the stomach, headaches or low energy levels. In this scenario, someone may think they need an energy drink or a high-calorie snack when they may only need to drink a glass of water. 

This is a great test to determine your body’s needs. If you are confused about whether you are hungry, thirsty, or experiencing a craving, your first action should be to drink water. If the feeling resolves in a few minutes, you probably only needed water.

If hunger or cravings return quickly, time to move on and get something to eat (I recommend a snack or meal that includes protein). 

There is also the observation of urine that would help here. Each time you urinate, monitor the colour of your urine. Again, a slight twinge of yellow suggests you are properly hydrated at that moment in time. 

Tell us about how water and staying hydrated can help with cravings.

Drinking water and eating the right foods can be beneficial for managing cravings, urges and surges particularly in that first year of sobriety and recovery. I do consider drinking water as a first line of defence against cravings and urges. It might be a habit that takes some time to form but it is effective. It can cause a powerful physiologic shift that can move our attention away from cravings for substances and help us get better connected to the body. Carry a water bottle with you at all times for convenience.

What tips can you share about how drinking water can be used to reconnect with what our bodies need during recovery and when giving up alcohol? 

Sure! Because people in recovery can spend a great deal of time getting reconnected to their body and what it needs, I recommend people aim to drink most of their water in between meals, rather than drinking water with their meals.

Drinking water with your meal can disrupt true hunger and satiety signals.
We have stretch receptors in our stomach, as well as specific hormones that help monitor our true hunger and satiety.

If we drink a full glass of water at the beginning of our meal, it may allow for less room for nutrient-dense foods we desperately need to help nourish ourselves during this important recovery period. We may feel fuller faster.

This is a trick that the weight loss community will often use to help people feel fuller faster (thus eating less) but I don’t think it’s the best practice for those in recovery looking for true nourishment and hormone balance.

I also recommend drinking room temperature water. There is no harm in drinking water that is too hot or too cold, but the body doesn’t need to spend less energy in regulating the temperature of the water if it comes in at room temp, and because it involves fewer senses, you’ll be better at identifying if it was truly water that you needed.

Any other expert addiction nutritionist tips to consider when it comes to water and hydration?  

I often tell people to drink 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of coffee, simply to neutralise the dehydrating effects of coffee. People in recovery love their coffee but forget to drink water!

I highly recommend filtered water that filters out fluoride and especially chlorine. Chlorine is added to the water as a safety precaution to kill potentially harmful bacteria, for public health its important.
The problem is we were not meant to drink chlorinated water.

Our gut houses our microbiome which contains 3-5 pounds of live active bacteria. Some of those bacterial strains are incredibly important for mental health because they help us to produce serotonin and GABA, the neurotransmitters that help us feel happy, content, and calm.

Drinking tap water with chlorine has an antibiotic-like effect on healthy gut bacteria, which we want to protect in recovery. Spring water or filtered are great options.

Lastly, water with lemon first thing in the morning is a great liver detox!

Water is life, and life is for living. Get in touch with me on info@orlaghreid.ie or book an online therapy session today on the online therapy page.

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Connect with Kelly Miller

Website www.theaddictionnutritionist.com 

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Podcast: The Addiction Nutritionist

YouTube: @theaddictionnutritionist

Check out her new RecoveryU network


Email: kelly@theaddictionnutritionist.com


Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy

Orlagh Reid

Orlagh Reid is an IACP accredited Counsellor & Psychotherapist, Addiction Counsellor, Gottman Couples Therapist and Fertility Counsellor in private practice based in Co. Kildare, Ireland and worldwide online via DOXY. She specialises in addiction, recovery, well-being and clinical sexology. To find out more or to book an online consultation visit www.orlaghreid.ie

Orlagh Reid Psychotherapy MIACP Therapy Ireland

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