Water is something we take for granted. This article highlights why something as basic as drinking water is so important for our physical and psychological health.
Why is hydration important?
Hydration is important for good health. Water accounts for approximately 60% of the volume of our body and 73% of the human brain. Every living being requires water. It is an essential ingredient for life.
Your body constantly loses water through perspiration, urination, body wastes and respiration. This water must be replaced, especially in hot weather, when exercising, sick or have a fever.
Dehydration results when you have expelled more water than you have consumed. Water is imperative to many bodily functions. Dehydration can be very dangerous.
How Do You Know if You’re Dehydrated?
Signs of dehydration include:
Dry mouth or lips,
Lack of desire to urinate,
Dry skin and poor elasticity,
Headaches and dizziness,
Overheating and high temperature,
Lack of tear production.
Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms are experienced, you are already dehydrated!
TIP: your urine should be yellow in the morning and clear the rest of the day. If it is not, you are dehydrated and need to consume more water.
What are the benefits of hydration?
1. Improved brain function - Consuming water maintains the healthy state of the brain and optimises cognitive speed, alertness, memory and mood. Hydration can also prevent or help resolve headaches.
Dehydration will lead to cognitive fatigue, inability to focus, reduced memory performance and loss of concentration.
2. Maintain important chemicals in the body - When you sweat, your body loses magnesium, potassium, and sodium. If you don’t replenish lost minerals you can experience fatigue, muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms. Water assists breakdown food, dissolving vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Water also transports these substances through organs, tissues, and other bodily systems. This helps maintain health.
3. Maintain circulatory system health - Maintaining hydration helps maintain healthy blood pressure and improves the elimination of waste from cells. Dehydration, on the other hand, causes low blood pressure and increases in your heart rate.
4. Regulate body temperature - Hydration plays a fundamental role in regulating body temperature, as it supports sweating which is a function of our natural cooling system.
5. Help eliminate toxins - Hydration maintains the health of the liver and kidneys, which are responsible for expelling toxins and eliminating impurities and other substances from the body.
6. Improve digestion and bowel movements - If you suffer from constipation, drink more fluids! Constipation occurs when solid waste does not move quickly enough through your large intestine. Poor hydration can make stools hard, slowing the passage and elimination of waste through the intestines. This can result in bloating, pain and difficulty passing stools as well as other bowel related complications.
7. Hydration prevents illness - Most people suffer from chronic dehydration, ultimately increasing their risk of illness. Our busy lives, lack of knowledge and poor self-care results in us neglecting hydration which is necessary to remain healthy. Maintaining hydration can help prevent illness.
8. Boosts energy - Drinking water can activate your metabolism and boost your energy level. Drinking 500 mls of water was found to boost the metabolic rate by 30 percent and the effect lasted over an hour.
Maintain hydration daily. Approximately 6-8 glasses of water a day is enough for the proper function of your body. If it is hot, you are sweating, sick, or exercising, you will have to increase your intake of water. Hydrate before, during and after exercise.
Drinking excessive amounts of water can cause other health problems and should be avoided.
Establish a healthy routine. Drink water when you wake, at regular intervals during the day and before sleep. Strategies to ensure water is readily available include: placing a jug on your office desk; or carrying a bottle of water. Establish a daily habit of carrying a litre of water.
If you do not like plain water, use natural flavourings (such as a slice of lemon, mint, cucumber, apple, or basil, etc.) to improve the flavour.
Why is hydration important when you are sick?
Unfortunately, people who are sick are often at greater risk of dehydration, especially when experiencing nausea, due to reduced fluid intake. Staying hydrated is an important factor for preventing viral infections and recovering. Dehydration can reduce the ability of proteins, that fight sickness, to travel efficiently through the body. Hydration can also help reduce headaches, body symptoms and strengthen the body’s immune response. Hydration improves oxygen flow, flushing out harmful toxins. Maintaining hydration can also improve the ability of the eyes and mouth to remain moist and block contaminants that can cause infection. Staying hydrated ensures the optimal removal of waste from the body and can eliminate vomiting that occurs when the liver must expel waste in the alternate form of bile.
The Best Fluids for Hydration
Water can be consumed in many forms but, under normal circumstances, water is the healthier choice. Where we sweat excessively, such as when exercising, or losing body fluid due to a temperature, vomiting or diarrhea, electrolyte solutions are ideal as they promote hydration. Re-balancing electrolytes and blood volume are two important factors for recovery from a cold, flu and illnesses.
A Warning About Diuretics
Diuretics increase the passing of urine. Some substances have diuretic effects including coffee, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, dandelion tea, green tea, lemon juice, lemon water and alcohol. It is important to know the danger associated with diuretics. If you spend a night drinking alcohol, the alcohol is a diuretic and will result in you passing more water than you have consumed. This is why people develop 'hangovers'. A hangover is due to dehydration. When consuming diuretics, always complement intake with plenty of water.
The content in this publication is presented for information purposes only. This information is not intended to be prescriptive, or act as a substitute for health professional advice based on your specific circumstances and health conditions. If you have concerns, consult your local doctor.