Water and Your Body
If you could see your body the way a health scientist does, you would discover that not only is up to two thirds of your body composed of water but that 20 percent of your blood is water, that 73 percent of your brain and heart are comprised of water, 83 percent of your lungs, 79 percent of your muscles and kidneys, your skin comprised of 64 percent water, and your bones are comprised of 31 percent.
Thinking about water in that way makes the importance of hydration seem valid. After all, if a doctor were to ask you, which body part do you want to cut short of water, your heart, your liver, your brain, your blood, your skin or your bones, you’d shout back at her, “none of them! They all seem pretty vital to me! Keep in mind the healing power of water.
Functions of Water in Your Body
The functions of water within the body are many, I’ve listed a few below:
- Water is the essential building blocks of cells.
- Water, through perspiration, is the primary regulator of your body’s heat,
- Water is the primary component of saliva, which helps you digest and metabolize food.
- Water lubricates the joints within your body.
- Water surrounds your brain, spine, and organs and serves as internal shock absorbers.
- Water is used by the body to eliminate toxins and waste through the urinary system.
- Water carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells.
So, you see, water is very important to many of our body processes.
Signs You are Not Drinking enough Water in A day
The main symptoms of mild dehydration are feeling thirsty more than usual, you might experience more headaches, feel lightheaded, have difficulty concentrating or you might feel more sleepy during the day.
You get thirsty after you fail to replenish the lost water in your body from urination, sweating and breathing through your skin. Yet health experts caution you should not wait until thirsty to drink water. You should make drinking water a habit. Around six coffee mugs per day are the minimum. When consciously starting out to drink more water, you may find yourself frequently going to the restroom, even at night, but that’s good. The consequences of keeping unwanted toxic substances in the body can lead to many health problems.
What about Dehydration in Older People?
Older people are more at risk of dehydration for many reasons. For example, older people have a fading sense of thirst or memory problems and therefore forget to drink. They may drink less due to fear of incontinence or other medical conditions, like poorly controlled diabetes or swallowing difficulties may increase the risk of dehydration.
People who have dementia, diabetes or who’ve had a stroke are more at risk from dehydration?
People with dementia may forget to eat and drink, have a reduced sense of thirst or appetite, they may get distracted more easily or have problems holding cups and therefore have reduced intake. They may need more help and support with eating and drinking.
Diabetics need to stay hydrated
People with poorly controlled diabetes have high blood glucose levels which cause the kidneys to increase urination to remove the excess blood glucose, leading to dehydration and the classic symptoms of diabetes – thirst and going to the toilet more frequently.
What’s the best way to check whether you’re getting enough fluid each day?
The best way to tell if you are getting enough fluid, each day is to check the color of your urine – not very pleasant, but it’s the best way. Urine should be very light in color most of the time. If it is on the darker side it means urine is more concentrated and therefore there isn’t enough water in the body to dilute it, i.e. you’re dehydrated. The darker the color of your urine the more dehydrated you are. Drink more fluids if your urine is darker in color. If it is persistently very dark or smelly, it could be a sign of a urine infection or something else, and it’s worth getting it checked out by your GP.
What about drinking fluids other than water?
It doesn’t have to be just water, but in terms of other health concerns, water has no sugar or calories, so is better for weight management. Tea and coffee do count toward fluid intake and will help maintain hydration; however, caffeine can have a mild diuretic effect meaning it will may you go for a pee a bit more often, but generally speaking you still receive enough fluid to stay hydrated. Hot drinks can be a good source of fluid and nutrition in elderly people.
Research shows that other fluids do not provide the same health benefits of water. And many are actually harmful.
Water and your weight
If you are overweight and trying to lose weight, have you stopped to think about the calories in the drinks you have during the day? The calories in your drinks can add up and stop you from losing weight.
Fruit Juice. Take fruit juice, for example, a convenient way to make up your ‘five-a-day’ and get some healthy vitamins and antioxidants but don’t forget to watch the calories – a 200 ml carton contains about 100 kcal, whereas a piece of fruit might contain 60 calories, plus you get some fiber as well. You don’t get any more benefit by having lots more fruit juice throughout the day, but you could quite easily stack up the calories.
Fizzy drinks. These drinks contain plenty of sugar and therefore calories: a typical 330 ml can, could contain about 140 calories. Diet or light fizzy drinks are made with artificial sweeteners that don’t contain any calories and therefore don’t affect your weight. However, having too much artificial sweetener might not be so good for you, but the odd diet drink would save those calories of the full-sugar versions.
Lattes and Cappuccinos. Then there are lattes and cappuccino’s – very popular forms of coffee. Are they made with calorie-laden full-fat milk? A regular sized latte made with full-fat milk could contain over 145 kcal and even skinny versions contain more calories than you might think – about 80 kcal for regular size. Do you have them with a cookie or muffin? It is worth considering just how many calories are coming from your morning or afternoon trips to the coffee shop.
Alcoholic Drinks. Alcohol is not counted as fluid and it can cause dehydration. The symptoms of a hangover are mostly due to dehydration. If you are struggling to lose weight then consider the fact that alcoholic drinks are not only high in calories themselves, but also alcohol is an appetite stimulant – a double whammy! A small glass of wine (125 ml) might be about 90 calories, so a large glass (250 ml) is double that. An average pint of standard strength lager or beer contains about 165 calories and a single shot of spirit (25 ml) is about 60 kcal – add to that the possible calories in your mixers and any snacks you’ve had to beat those ‘munchies’.
Protein Shakes. Some people are doing absolutely the right thing and increasing their exercise levels to lose weight. Some hit the gym, and some decide (or have been told) that it would be a good idea to have a protein shake during or after each workout – a convenient way to get extra protein if you are seriously strength training or want to build muscle. However, having the extra protein that is not utilized will be converted and stored as fat. So, if your aim is to shed those excess pounds, a protein shake may just stop you doing that.
Sports Drinks. Similarly, sports drinks might seem like a good idea, even trendy – but do you really need them? They contain sugar and therefore calories. They are great for re-hydrating during intensive training and useful for athletes, but for most people doing moderate exercising to lose weight simple water should be sufficient. Stay hydrated by having water or no-added-sugar squash instead and reduce those extra calories.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is great for your overall health: not only does it help with concentration and physical performance, but it may also prevent you eating more than you need – the body can often mistake dehydration as hunger. Some recent research even suggests that drinking a glass or two of water before the main meal may reduce calorie intake by up to 90 kcal. Trying to drink the recommended 2 liters of fluid a day can be tricky. The drinks mentioned here all count towards your fluid intake with the exception of alcohol but bear in mind the calories can soon add up.
There are alternatives which can help with weight loss, such as water, no-added-sugar squashes, low calorie flavored waters, and diet or light fizzy drinks. Try switching to a sweetener in hot drinks or gradually reducing any added sugar. How about having an Americano or a cup of tea with a splash of skimmed milk instead of those milky coffees? By making a few simple changes to your daily drinking habits you could cut back on those extra, and often overlooked calories and give your weight loss efforts a real boost.
Plan to Hydrate.
No doubt about it, planning is essential to good water maintenance. But a top quality, refillable water bottle. (Make sure it is BPA free.) Carry it everywhere. You’ll never have an excuse again when reaching for cola in an airplane for example.
Tap water is preferred. Most tap water is highly purified, and in point of fact, many bottled drinks of water simply tap water, re-filtered. Concerned about the taste? Try adding a dash of lemon or lime to it.
Make a water drink schedule for yourself and stick to it.
Should you aim to never feel thirsty?
It’s not a mistake to wait until you feel thirsty, that happens to everyone. It’s a good indication that you need to have some more fluid. However, it would be a mistake to ignore feeling mildly thirsty and wait until you are very thirsty before having a drink. A good way to think about it is to try to drink enough fluids so that you are not thirsty for long periods, and steadily increase your intake during hot weather or when exercising.
Just get in the Habit
Once you’ve gotten in the habit of drinking water routinely, you’ll look back and wonder how you ever got along without it. You should aim for 8 glasses of water a day and if you are overweight, then add an additional glass for every 25 pounds over the suggested weight for your gender and height.
A diuretic is a substance that removes water from the body. While there are many medical diuretics, most people lost vital water in their body through drinking and eating the wrong foods. Foods with high sodium, coffee, caffeinated colas, alcohol, deli meats, popcorn, and high sugar drinks can drain your body of life-giving water.
Tips on How to Increase Your Daily Water Intake
Here are some things you can do to help yourself drink more water each day:
- Make water more interesting by adding a slice of lemon or orange, even adding fresh herbs like basil or rosemary and letting it infuse over night in the fridge can make a refreshing change and water more interesting.
- Keep a water bottle on your desk or take a bottle with you when you leave the house, so you have a drink ready to go and seeing it will remind you to take a swig or too.
- Arrange regular tea breaks at work – an ideal chance to have a chat at the water cooler, or over a cup of tea and you can explain to your boss that not drinking enough and poor hydration leads to decreased concentration and productivity!
Is it possible to drink too much fluid in a day? What are the danger signs to watch out for?
Yes, it is possible to drink too much water – we see it happen to people who drink too much water during endurance sports, like running. Overhydration causes the blood sodium levels to plummet (hypernatremia) and can lead to seizures, coma and can be fatal. The warning signs are nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, muscle weakness or cramps – seek medical advice immediately.
This is when sports drinks, which contain some sodium, can be useful for hydration. Drink normally before the event, check your urine color as above so that you aren’t drinking too much, and drink a mixture of plain water and sports drinks during the sport to stay hydrated.
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