Lifestyle

Drink Up! Why Water is Vital to Your Health

by and

Did you know your muscles and brain consist of about 75% water, and that your blood is about 82% water? That’s why it’s important to keep your body sufficiently hydrated to ensure it functions at its best. But how much water do we need to drink on a daily basis? And how much is too much? Shawn Nisbet makes it crystal clear!

According to some studies, about 75% of us are chronically dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can affect our metabolism, the rate at which we burn calories, and compromise our health.

Our bodies cannot transport nutrients effectively without enough water. Water maintains skin tone, flushes out toxins and enables the kidneys to filter wastes effectively. Water boosts the body’s ability to digest food and convert it into energy. Adequate hydration also helps to regulate internal body temperature, and some studies say it can ease back and joint pain. When hydrated, the body does not have to work as hard to pump blood and deliver sufficient oxygen to the muscles.

Symptoms of Dehydration

Are you dehydrated? The symptoms are many and varied, ranging from increased thirst, headaches, muscle cramps, sluggishness, fainting and inability to sweat to a dry mouth, swollen tongue, weakness, palpitations, confusion, dizziness and decreased urine output. While everyone should remain properly hydrated, it is vital as we age. Given today’s ageing population, that is an increasingly significant factor.

If you are presently drinking only a couple of glasses of water daily, increase the amount you drink slowly, adding a couple of glasses a day. If you are going to the bathroom too frequently, your body may be low in nutrients, especially minerals, so it cannot absorb water as it should. Cut down on junk and processed foods, and eat more vegetables.

What Causes Dehydration?

Apart from the obvious reason – not drinking enough liquids – dehydration can also result from sweating through illness, excess heat, exertion or hot flashes, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, food poisoning and stress.

To process water, your body needs a sufficient supply of electrolytes. Increased water intake boosts the demand for electrolytes. The combination of too much water and not enough sodium or electrolytes can cause problems, such as a condition called hyponatremia. This occurs when sodium levels in the blood are abnormally low. The body’s water levels rise and cells begin to swell, which can cause various health problems – from mild to life-threatening.

Those at highest risk of hyponatremia are endurance athletes, crash dieters, those on low salt or no salt diets, binge drinkers, diabetics, those with kidney problems, and those over 65.

Will Drinking More Water Make You Healthier?

For those who continue with detrimental lifestyle choices such as poor quality sleep, lack of exercise, too much exercise, poor diet, lack of fruit and vegetables, too much processed foods and excess alcohol, simply drinking more water will not be sufficient to reap positive results. But it is a good start.

You may need to increase your fluid intake if you develop certain conditions, including bladder infections or urinary tract stones. On the other hand, some conditions such as heart failure and some types of kidney, liver and adrenal diseases may impair water excretion and even require your fluid intake to be limited under medical supervision.

Women who are expecting or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. The Institute of Medicine recommends pregnant women drink 2.3 liters (about 10 cups) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume 3.1 liters (about 13 cups) of fluids a day.

Your kidneys filter and purify your blood, regulate blood pressure, balance electrolytes and other ions in your blood system, and eliminate toxins – and flushing toxins out through your kidneys is an important part of healing. Kidneys are among the most hard-working organs, and since all kidney functions involve filtering blood through tiny tubes, drinking adequate water and keeping your body hydrated makes filtering easier.

Healthy Habits to Help Hydration

Drink one or more glasses of pure water upon rising and try not to eat for at least 20 minutes. Add a little organic squeezed lemon for a mild daily detoxification method.

Also, check your fluids. If your urine is unusually strong smelling or dark, you may be mildly dehydrated. Urine should be straw yellow in colour. Check for any changes in how much water you pass. Low urine volume over the course of a day is usually associated with dehydration. Some say you should visit the bathroom every three to four hours during your waking day.

Keep a pitcher of flavoured water in the fridge for easy accessibility, and flavour it with: lemon, lime, orange or cucumber slices; basil or mint leaves; frozen or fresh fruit; or chilled herbal teas.

While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect, meaning they may cause the need to urinate, they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration, but caffeinated drinks may also cause headaches and insomnia in some people.

Can Higher Water Intake Boost Weight Loss?

Yes and no. Sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate between thirst and hunger. If you try to quench your thirst with food you may end up over-eating, so drink at least 20 minutes before a meal. There are many ways to lose weight, but simply increasing your water intake will not have great results on its own.

Tap or Bottled Water?

If you choose bottled water, check the source. Natural mineral water is a healthier choice. If you are concerned about the quality of your tap water, think about getting a water filter. In general, the best water filters involve blocks of carbon (rather than granulated carbon) and are often combined with reverse osmosis filters. Under-sink filters are typically more effective (and expensive) than those that attach to the faucet. A carbon block or reverse osmosis filter is preferred over distilled water because too many desirable minerals are lost during the process of distillation.

Remember, water is your best choice to stay hydrated: it’s calorie-free, caffeine-free, inexpensive and readily available. Experts rank water second only to oxygen as essential for life. Take your hydration seriously and start feeling better today!  

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