Hydration Station

Why water is such an important part of my diabetes life

kalimah bioBy Kalimah Johnson

December 2012 — Water is the elixir of life. My mother taught me this throughout her days living here on earth, as evidenced by her bathing rituals, drinking habits, and her cultural use of water during our family celebrations and religious events. Without water the world would be nil — we would not have growth, rejuvenation, moisture, healing, or existence. It is the essential H2O, defined by most as a clear, colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid, that supports most plant and animal life. While this description may sound a bit boring, water should be viewed as quite exciting in my opinion. I hope my discussion of this life-sustaining liquid can inspire readers to engage, indulge, and take advantage of clean water. It is equally important to appreciate water as an American, because in most cities and states, water is free and available. On another note, water around the world and abroad is a different, and sometimes sad, story. I live in, work in, and love the city of Detroit. Coincidently we have one of the best water treatment plants in the world — we could literally bottle it and sell it right from the kitchen sink! Don't believe me? Read about it here.

In my opinion, water plays a very significant role in all of our lives, especially for those of us who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Those of us who have sugar should make water a priority in diabetes lifestyle. It can help us manage our numbers, relieve stress, hydrate our cells for better reproduction, and most importantly, serve as a great replacement for the sugary drinks such as juice and soda that raise our blood sugar levels.

Most of us first discovered our type 2 diagnosis from the all-too-familiar symptom of extreme thirst due to an excess of glucose in our bodies drawing water from our cells and tissues. It is a good thing to drink water — even when we aren't thirsty — to help our bodies cope with heat, exercise, and exertion. As a type 2 diabetic I would like to share with you the many uses of water in my life that directly impact the management of my disease. I will borrow lessons from my mother as I share with you the integration of water in my life.

Bathing Rituals

In dealing with my disease, I think it is critical to keep my body clean and to check my feet daily after a bath or shower to look for any significant changes. I am also a very busy person and I usually take showers because they are quicker. However, running bath water and soaking in a tub after a long day at work helps me manage stress. Just listening to the water run and fill the tub relaxes me. Add some candles and good smelling bubbles and you have magic! Managing stress in my diabetic life helps my numbers stay on the lower end of the spectrum when testing. I encourage you to try taking a bath every so often if you can. Please make the time. 

Drinking Habits

My mother used to drink a glass of water every morning immediately after rising from bed. I usually do the same thing, however, there are times when I am rushing and I forget. The rule of thumb that I go by is to try to drink at least 64 ounces of water throughout the day (or 8 ounces of water 8 times a day). I do this by taking bottles of water with me into the classroom. I also have a 32-ounce water bottle in my office and my bedroom to always remind me to get it in!

I used to have the bad habit of drinking carbonated high fructose drinks, but I have started to flavor my water with low or no calorie powdered drinks to assist when water gets boring. (I know what I said earlier in this article, and yes, it is okay to flavor it up — in case plain water gets boring!) Slicing cucumbers and letting them sit in cool, refrigerated water is quite refreshing also.

Cultural Use

In my family we conduct what some would call a Libation Ceremony where we acknowledge our ancestors. We thank them for lessons, sacrifices, recipes, culture, practice, and life teachings that sustain us in the here and now. It is an African traditional practice that has been passed down through generations and actually survived slavery in that it is still practiced today. Some use alcohol and that is okay, but my mother would just use water. Before any event, our family gathers around the dinner table, around the casket, around the living room, or wherever we find ourselves, and we take a few moments to reflect upon our blessings and the gifts that our ancestors have brought or taught us. Some people in hip hop culture refer to this as "pouring a little out for the homies," to remember those who have already lived and died.

This practice with water is important to my type 2 diabetes life because I can reflect upon how important life is. When I reflect upon how water sustains life, it also reminds me of how our lives and family are sacred and precious and should be revered.

Water can be very spiritual. It is my belief that having a spiritual force and faith within myself can help ensure that I take good care of my diagnosis.

Got water, Sugar?


Read more of Kalimah Johnson's columns, Get it Together, Sugar, here.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: July 12, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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