It is very common in my nutrition clinic to come across people who don’t drink enough water or don’t drink any at all. Many of these people are constipated, suffering from regular headaches, tired all of the time and suffer from many ailments. Many older people live on a diet of tea and toast, and are chronically dehydrated, when they start to get constipated, (due to their poor diet) , they often increase their fibre without increasing their water consumption, fibre and water work together. Anyone who has attempted the above would know that fibre without water = cement!!
Why do I need to drink water?
Water is the most essential element, next to air for our survival. Water makes up more than two thirds of the weight of the human body, and without it, we would eventually die. A relatively small drop in our body’s water supply can trigger signs of dehydration: headache, fatigue, fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic maths and difficulty focusing on small print like a computer screen. Mild dehydration is one of the most common causes of fatigue and headaches.
Water is essential for survival, you need water for most bodily functions including:
- as a lubricant in the body
- carrying oxygen and nutrients into the cells of the body
- saliva is partly made from water
- formation of the fluids that surround and cushion the joints
- regulation of the body temperature – cooling and heating is distributed through perspiration
- healthy bowels: prevents and alleviates constipation by moving food through the intestinal tract and thereby eliminating waste
- detoxification: helps cleanse your body of toxins
- helps you to feel full
- regulates metabolism and is therefore essential for weight loss
Fruits and vegetables are the most water-dense food. Like the human body, most fruit and vegetables are more water than anything else. Most people eat a diet based on dry foods like rice and pasta, forcing them to rely on drinking water to meet their needs.
When you eat mostly dry foods, the body must use its fluid reserves to carry out the chemical breakdown of food. Dry foods generally have a dehydrating effect, while fruits and vegetables generally provide more water than is needed for their digestion.
How will I know if I am drinking enough water?
Many people are dehydrated due to their lack of water intake through food and their over consumption of dehydrating substances like caffeine and salt.
Sometimes when you think you are hungry you are actually thirsty so have a drink of water first. If you feel a headache coming on drink a glass of water straight away, you may be dehydrated.
One easy way to tell if you are dehydrated is by the colour of your urine. Except for the first thing in the morning – the first time you go to the toilet, you only properly hydrated if your urine is relatively clear. B vitamins will also make your urine go yellow soon after taking them. Otherwise if your urine is not virtually clear, you are dehydrated.
Do I need to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day?
This depends on many factors: your size, the weather, your level of activity and what you eat and drink. If you exercise a lot or live or work in a very hot environment you will need more fluids. The same goes for people who eat mostly dry foods , salty foods and lots of caffeinated drinks such as soft drink, energy drinks, tea and coffee. If you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, you will probably not need to drink as much water.
If you don’t like the taste of water, start by adding a slice of fresh citrus fruit (lemon, lime or orange) to add a little flavour. If that still doesn’t work for you add 5-10ml of 100% pure fruit juice for flavour. The more you eat fresh foods the more you will start to enjoy the taste of water, when you are used to eating and drinking only sweet and salty foods – water does not taste good so if you don’t like the taste, it is probably a sign that you are eating a poor diet.
It is possible to drink too much water but is highly unlikely for most people, you have to drink a huge amount of water for it to be detrimental.
Please note, if you find that you have an unquenchable thirst and are consuming huge amounts of water/liquid – please see your doctor as soon as possible – this can be a sign of diabetes.