You’re probably thinking ‘not another article on drinking water’ – yet despite the compelling facts and information across the health sector, it’s still not one of many people’s priorities.
At the time of writing we are just into the New Year and perhaps for many, nursing a hangover from dehydration, with every good intention to replace poor habits for healthier eating, exercise and stress relieving techniques – so this seems a good time to list up just why drinking enough water should be your ‘New Year’s Resolution’ and one you keep for life – literally for a healthier, longer life!
Some fast facts on drinking water
- Adult humans are 60% water and our blood is 90% water.
- Every day, the kidneys filter around 120 – 150 litres of metabolic water, of these 1 – 2 litres are excreted as urine and the rest is recovered back into the blood stream.
- Water is essential for the kidneys and other bodily functions.
- If the kidneys don’t function properly, waste products and excess fluid can build up inside the body and if left untreated can quickly lead to kidney organ failure.
- To function properly, all the cells and organs in the body need water.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common type of infection stemming from poor water consumption. If these infections spread to the upper urinary tract, including the kidneys, permanent damage can occur. Drinking water is the simplest way to reduce risk of developing UTI and to help treat existing UTI.
- The leading cause of kidney stones is lack of water.
- Dehydration happens when we lose more water than the body takes in and this can lead to an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals such as potassium, phosphate and sodium and these help carry electrical signals between cells. The kidneys keep the levels of electrolytes in the body stable so our bodies can function properly.
Here are some reasons our body needs water
- Given this is New Year it’s a timely reminder that it reduces the chance of a hangover! Alternate alcoholic drinks with water and a slice of citrus fruit. Making sure you drink enough water before bedtime helps too.
- Water lubricates the cartilage, found in joints and the discs around the spine – they are around 80% water. Long term dehydration reduces the joint’s shock absorbing ability, leading to pain and possible surgical intervention.
- Water cushions the brain, spinal cord and other tissues. Water is involved in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters and prolonged dehydration can lead to problems with thinking, reasoning and speed of reaction. It is worth noting that our brains loose up to 30% of their water content while we are asleep, so every reason to start the day replenishing with pure water first.
- Water boosts skin health and beauty. Without water our skin becomes more fragile and prone to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
- Water forms our saliva and mucus. It helps us to digest food and keep our mouth, nose and eyes moist, and it’s also needed for vaginal lubrication. This prevents friction and damage to all these. It can also help reduce tooth decay.
- Our digestive system depends on water to work properly. When we are dehydrated, we may experience problems with constipation, or an overly acidic stomach increasing the risk of heartburn and stomach ulcers.
- Water regulates our body temperature; it’s stored in the middle layers of skin and comes to the surface when we sweat when the body heats up. As it evaporates, it cools the body. It is therefore essential when playing sport, running or HIIT training.
- Water flushes out our bodily waste in the process of sweating and evacuation of faeces and urine. The waste is comprised of bacteria, dead skin cells, insoluble fibre and waste that has the potential to cause infection. I have an analogy I tell clients to encourage greater water uptake, and that is to ask them if they would place a new bunch of flowers into a vase of stagnant water? We need plenty of fresh water to flush out our ‘stagnant water’.
- Our diet will include many minerals and vitamins to help ‘run’ our bodies to our healthiest state. Many of these are water soluble and are carried to where they do their work via the bloodstream, which is 90% water.
- Our blood, being 90% water, is the conduit through which our oxygen travels. Without oxygen we can die in minutes so having a well regulated system is critical to life.
- Our airways need water as much as our nose and mouth. When we become dehydrated the airways become restricted by the body in an effort to minimise loss. This can make our asthma and allergies worse.
- Water helps maintain blood pressure. A lack of water can cause the blood to become thicker, increasing blood pressure.
Ways in which we can introduce more water into our systems
- Drinking water, whether from the tap after filtering, or a bottle, are the best and most immediate sources. Water in its pure form does not have to pass through the digestive system to be absorbed and it passes through the stomach directly to the bloodstream. It has an instant take up. Weak herbal teas are the same.
- Milk and juices, if tolerated, are also good sources but in moderation given their sugar content. Drinking water instead of commercial soda drinks like Coke, lemonade, ginger beer etc, can also help with weight loss over a period of time.
- Tea and coffee in moderation but as well as, at least a litre and a half of pure water.
- Eating foods that contain a high water content, such as soups, tomatoes, oranges, pakchoi etc.
When drinking water, consider taking in at least a litre and a half for everyday performance unless you are also exercising, have a bout of sickness and diarrhoea, suffer with menopausal hot sweats or have skin or airway conditions when more would be needed to replenish the loss these bring.
Its best to drink your water over the course of a day taking regular sips, this allows for uptake and absorption otherwise drinking 250ml in one go will result in faster loss through urination.
Think of the skin as a sponge needing to gradually soak up the water to reach its inner depths for lasting plump skin and organ and pathway functions. Drinking water at blood temperature is helpful too; cold water can ‘shock’ the stomach, which is made of muscle, into constricting rather than absorbing and this can also lead to a stomach cramp.
Its simple to keep a glass or bottle at hand on your desk or kitchen worktop, or with you in the car to keep up the habit. Some clients have said they can’t afford to drink too much if they are away from toilet facilities and can’t ‘spend a penny’. The bladder is just another muscle; it can hold more water than we think because it will get used to being fuller and respond with stronger muscle tone over time, so the ‘urge’ to go will be less frequent than one might imagine. Responding to the urge only to have a trickle is when bacteria can take hold leading to UTIs and over time incontinence.
Water is your preventative medicine too!