Water – the Elixir of Life

Are you drinking enough water?

You've probably heard this over and over again but as it's National Hydration Week I thought I'd remind you again, because water is a basic requirement for good health.

It's recommended you drink 6-8 glasses of water a day by the NHS but a better way to calculate is 30ml per kilo of body weight. So if you are 50kg you would need six 250ml glasses of water a day. However, if the temperatures skyrocket this summer (I know, wishful thinking in the UK) you'll need more. 

Many people wait until they feel thirsty to have a drink but here's the thing, by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. So instead make sure you drink water at regular intervals regardless of whether you feel thirsty or not. 

Our body is around 60% water. If levels decrease by even a few percent we become dehydrated, which effects digestive function and chemical balance. 

Here are some signs that you may be dehydrated:

  • Thirst
  • Sluggishness
  • Dry skin, mouth and lips
  • Dark urine and decreased urine output
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling of an empty stomach – quite often we mistake thirst for hunger

So what's the big deal about water? Why should you go out of your way to make sure you get enough?

Well, here are a few vital reasons you why you need it:

  • You'd only survive about 4 days without water
  • It provides the right environment for all living cells for things such as metabolic reactions to happen
  • It's the main constituent of saliva
  • It helps regulates body temperature
  • It's a major component of blood and tissue fluids
  • It dilutes waste products and toxins in the body
  • It facilitates excretion of waste through urine and faeces.

We lose approximately 2.8 litres a day though the processes of sweating, urinating, breathing and through faeces but if its hot and we don't take in enough water to make up for it can lead to excessive dehydration which is highly dangerous.

Sometimes people ask me if other drinks count towards their daily recommended water intake so let me clear that up for you. Alcohol counteracts hydration so that definitely doesn't count. Caffeinated drinks cause some loss of water but also inhibit calcium absorption as do fizzy drinks that contain phosphorus. Juices and other sugary drinks are likely to make you more thirsty because your body wants to try and dilute glucose in the blood. I recommend my clients stick to just plain old water or herbal teas.

Now, I can hear some of you saying "but I don't like the taste of water". So if that's you try and infuse your water with flavour. I don't mean by adding sugar or even worse, artificial sweetener laden diluted squashes but with real fruit and herbs. For example add some slices of cucumber and mint leaves into a jug of water or some chopped strawberries. Experiment and see what you like.

So many peoples woes could probably be fixed just by increasing their water intake appropriately.

If I told you dehydration is certain to cause sleepiness and fatigue and that a few glasses of water could be the difference between your 3pm exhaustion and vitality, would you drink more water?

If you suffer from constipation and I told you that drinking more water may resolve the issue, would you try this simple fix?

Or, the reason you're constantly snacking is your brain confusing the thirst signal and the hunger signal and if you had a glass of water instead of reaching for a snack between meals, it could help you overcome your weight loss challenges, would you give it a shot?

What I'm trying to say is, sometimes we look for complex solutions to a simple problem. So just give it a try and see the difference it makes.

I'll be the first to admit that in the past I wasn't the best at drinking water so I found a few strategies to help me and over time it just became a new, positive habit.

Here are the things I did to help me increase my water intake:

  • Keep a bottle of water on your desk and sip it though out the day rather than trying to gulp down big glasses in one go
  • Make your water interesting, jazz it up with some fruit or a slice of orange or a sprig of mint
  • Use an app to remind you to drink, there are quite a few free ones for both Apple and Android
  • Stock up on your favourite herbal teas

Oh, and a couple of other things to consider, opt for filtered water or mineral water in glass bottles rather than plastic bottles. This way you're getting the goodness that pure H2O provides without the toxins and chemicals that come along for the ride in tap water and from plastic water bottles.

Drink the majority of your water earlier in the day. If you start guzzling pints of water in the evening to make up for the fact you didn't drink enough during the day guess what? Yep, you'll be getting up in the middle of the night for a pee and know one enjoys disturbed sleep.

Don't over do it. Yes that's right, you can have too much water. Drinking excess amounts of water taxes the kidneys and can lead to something called hyponatraemia. The kidneys can excrete up to 7 gallons (28 litres) of fluid per day but they can't excrete more than 1 litre per hour so pace yourself.

We tend to take water it for granted in developed countries but the best thing about it is that it's an easy fix in many cases and it's free. So challenge yourself to up your intake if you know you're not getting enough.               

It goes without saying but if you have any prolonged symptoms you must go and have it checked out by your GP to make sure there are no other underlying issues.

Prabha xo

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