We are made up of 66% water and studies show that we may lose nearly 3 litres a day through urine, sweating, breathing and pooing!
This means we need to be replacing lost fluids by drinking water and eating food containing water.
But what is all this water used for in our body and what happens if I don’t drink enough?
Below are a few areas where not drinking enough water could lead to common health problems – do any of them sound familiar? If so, follow the tips at the end to help you increase your water intake.
Have you heard the phrase ‘get your digestive juices flowing?’, well without water this is impossible. Good hydration is needed make all these important digestive secretions such as saliva and stomach acid to allow your body to breakdown your food to access the nutrients it contains.
If you have problems with gas or trouble digesting food check to see how much water you are drinking each day.
Tip – try to avoid drinking large amounts of water during a meal as this can swing the other way and cause the digestive secretions to be too diluted and not as effective.
Removal of waste products
How do we get rid of unwanted chemicals and waste products from our body? Either through faeces or urine, both of which need adequate water to work effectively.
For example, someone who is dehydrated may not wee as often and the colour of their wee may be dark orange – this is a warning that they need to drink water. Additionally, a person who suffers from constipation may find that increasing their water intake can help to soften stools and make them easier to pass.
You may be surprised to learn that your bones are made up of a third water.
Keeping hydrated can help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Water helps your bones rebuild by delivering nutrients, such as calcium to your bones and also forming a large component of the marrow inside your bones.
Did you know that your red blood cells are made in your bone marrow? Poor production of red blood cells can lead to tiredness and fatigue which are both symptoms of dehydration.
In addition to good bone health, in order to maintain a healthy spine and other joints it is important to ensure the discs and cartilage are kept moist so they can perform their job of ‘shock absorbing’ and cushioning joints from the daily activities and exercise.
Tip: Try drinking a glass of water when you wake up to help with any morning stiffness which may be due to dehydration during the night.
The brain is one of the most important organs in your body and it is made up of over 80% water but it has no way of storing water. So, it is key to rehydrate frequently throughout the day.
When your brain is dehydrated it does not run at full speed and you may experience brain fog and issues focussing. Studies have shown that only a 1% reduction in hydration can have a 5% decrease in cognitive function.
When you are well hydrated you are able to think faster, be more focused and have greater clarity and creativity so keep a glass of water close at hand whilst you work.
Some people find that when they are dehydrated they experience more headaches, often described as a pulsating ache on both sides of the head. Most people find that this type of headache completely clears within 1-3 hours of drinking water.
Tip: it is best to drink water regularly in smaller amounts to avoid headaches rather than large amounts once or twice a day.
But do I really need to drink 8 glasses?
How much each individual needs depends on lots of factors including age, level of exercise and diet but in general 8 glasses or 1.5 – 2 litres is widely accepted to be ideal.
Can I drink too much?
YES – it isn’t an urban myth – you can drink too much which puts pressure on your kidneys and can actually lead to overhydration which in extreme situations, for example 10 litres in a few hours, can be very serious.
Remember, the way to check if you are drinking enough water is to look at the colour of your wee – it should be a pale straw colour – darker indicates you need a bit more and lighter indicates you are perhaps drinking a little too much!
Easy ways to increase water intake
- Use a water bottle throughout the day – this will provide a good measure of how much you have drunk.
- Soups – this is a great way to boost your fluid and vegetable intake at the same time – a win-win!
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink throughout the day – this could be every hour getting up and drinking a glass of water.You would also be ticking off regular movement with this method!
- Try adding a slice of lemon or lime in a glass of water if you find the taste bland.
I am often asked if tea and coffee count towards water intake. Caffeine does lead to a loss of water but generally not more than the total amount of water in the whole cup – unless it is a very strong espresso!
And what about alcohol? This would be a definite NO from me as a way of keeping yourself hydrated, as alcohol has a large dehydrating effect. By all means enjoy a glass of red wine but ensure you are fully hydrated before you pour it!
However, I would still advise drinking filtered water as the main source of water in preference to tea, coffee or sugary drinks and juice and definitely alcohol.
If you would like any help assessing whether some of your health symptoms could be due to dehydration please contact me on 07734111347 or via email Fiona@nourishfromwithin.co.uk and I would be delighted to speak with you.