Here we go again, another person telling you to drink more water but do they tell you WHY? The benefits of drinking water are numerous and if you are not incorporating water into your everyday routine, many symptoms you have will feel worse.
This article is intended for those of you who do not drink water or enough of it (and there are plenty of you out there!). Perhaps it is because you just do not like it, you forget to drink it (because it is not a habit) or you believe you are getting enough hydration from drinks such as tea, coffee, alcohol or fizzy drinks. You are likely to prefer to carry your mobile phone everywhere as opposed to a bottle of water!
The benefits of water is understated by many as a necessary component of your wellness. Low water intake can manifest itself in your body as signs of feeling tired, headaches, joint and backache issues, poor concentration and digestive problems. Whilst these are not solely linked to lack of liquids, in most cases water can help in reducing these symptoms (I see this with my clients regularly). If you are to make one change to your lifestyle, start with how you view water in your everyday diet.
DID YOU KNOW – You actually lose fluid daily through normal breathing when humidified air leaves your body, sweat which you do without noticing, as your body automatically cools itself and also through your urine and bowel movements?. You do need to replace these lost fluids and water is the best liquid for this.
If you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, you should be getting at least 20% of your liquid hydration from that. Foods which contain high amounts of water are melon, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, pineapples, plums as well as apples, oranges, pears and blueberries. Did you know that spinach, cabbage and swede also contain good amounts of water?
However, if you are like some people I know, you may not always eat fruit and vegetables and may drink more caffeine and alcohol than water. These beverages do actually add to your water intake but it is important to consider that caffeine and alcohol become diuretic * in large amounts, not to mention the chemical reaction of these toxins in your body.
What is Water?
Sounds like an odd question but do you really know what it is? You will have heard the term H2O which means water made up of 2 parts Hydrogen atoms and 1 part Oxygen. The health benefits of drinking enough can have a positive result on how you look, feel and smell. Your body weight is made up of around 75% water and cells within your muscles, bones and blood need fluids, energy and oxygen to survive. Why is this relevant? Well, Hydrogen is energy, the counterpart to Oxygen. Water carries this hydrogen energy, oxygen and nutrients to your organs and cells for energy – Water is in a way fuel whilst caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a sedative and the sugar influences your central nervous system and memory – makes sense doesn’t it?
Benefits of Drinking Water
Firstly, Water alone will not address underlying issues of inflammation from an imbalanced toxic diet or lack of movement on your part. However, my aim is to show you how water can work within your body and how much is adequate to hydrate you.
Painful Joints and Muscle Cramps – Painful joints and muscle aches or cramps may be a sign of water shortage. Muscle cramps are caused by the link between the brain and motor neurons within the spinal cord leading to muscles. Abnormal activity or interruption to these mechanisms can cause spasms.
Spasms are also linked to lack of magnesium and calcium and other factors but hydration can play a large role. Surprisingly, bone is also made up of around 22% water and dehydration can damage cushions that support the weight of your body, thus enhancing pain.
Kidney & Liver Support – Your kidneys and liver filter waste from your blood which is received from your heart and digestive system. Increased concentration of certain salts in your urine increases the risk of kidney stones – in most cases this risk can be reduced by simply diluting your urine. Lower back pain can sometimes be linked to the kidneys.
Nervous System – Your nervous system is a conductor of electricity and nerve impulses. If you are not drinking enough fluids, the chemicals may be imbalanced, causing you to slow down or feel irritable. Your body loses acidic wastes through urine and perspiration. Acidic waste can accumulate in the body and coagulate blood, causing poor circulation. Water helps to balance your electrolytes ** a major component of blood and lymph fluid and a vital part of your immune and digestive systems.
Poor Memory and Concentration – Whilst I advocate that a healthy diet and exercise is the vital component of an active brain, your brain is sensitive to water loss (even in small amounts) which can narrow your blood vessels and eventually cause damage. Do you experience headaches or tightness in the tendons from your neck to your ears when you don’t drink water? Although ‘brain-fog’ can be attributed to stress (which affects focus, energy and alertness) and blockages in your neck or poor diet, lack of water can be a contributing factor which can easily be tested and addressed by you.
Bad Breath can be a result of low water intake. This is because saliva is reduced and saliva is 98% water! Therefore, a dry mouth can be one reason for bad breath.
Digestive Issues – Your large intestines draw water from the food you eat. If we are not getting enough, the stool becomes hard and dry thus making it difficult to pass. We know this as constipation! Water softens the stool, making it easier to pass. Equally, if you have a bout of diarrhoea, you will have lost more water so it is important to hydrate after any episodes of this. Also, blood from your digestive system carries nutrients to your liver – it already has to do so much work so help it out! Drinking freshly-squeezed lemon or lime juice in warm water helps stimulate the liver and digestion (if you use sliced lemon, make sure you buy unwaxed where possible!).
Heart Problems – Staying hydrated may help reduce the risk of clogging of arteries of the heart. If your arteries have narrowed or the blood is too thick it has to be forced more against your artery walls and this extra pressure may cause damage. Again, other factors play a role but have you ever noticed heart palpitations at night when you drink too much alcohol?
Water Retention – If your body is not getting enough water, it will hold onto what is has (especially if you eat a lot of salt). I see this in many of my clients who love salt and it can show up clearly in their ankles. It is important to note that water retention can also be a result of poor circulation and hormonal changes so you should know what you are doing to help that.
Water keeps your skin in good condition – In the process of sweating, it removes impurities and gently cleanses it. Dehydrated skin cells can appear as flaky skin and dry lips, so your whole body will feel softer with more water. I would advocate more water for clearer skin as opposed to a chemical based moisturiser alone and give it time to notice the difference as you lose the dead skin cells.
Water can suppress appetite – Since water does not contain calories, it acts as an ideal *filler* in your stomach and gives you a sense of feeling full – vegetables and fruits which contain water can also be filling – so eat up.
My answer to that is Forget the Hype and Keep It Simple. Read your own body and give it what it needs. According to the NHS, The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink 1.6 litres and men should drink 2 litres of fluid per day. If you are eating enough vegetables and fruit, as I have previously mentioned, and hydrating teas, you will NOT need to drink this amount!
Also, if you not drinking much water already, this may just put you off as it seems like a lot. It IS important to replace the fluid you lose daily but the amount will depend on things such as:
A. How Active You Are-Exercising produces more sweat
B. Your Health – Do you Feel Well – Are you ill or stressed?
C. Your Current Diet-Do you drink alcohol regularly or eat enough foods containing water?
D. Where You Live – Hot weather encourages more perspiration
How You Can Read Your Own Body
• Do you have any of the symptoms already mentioned? If these are not caused by serious medical conditions, lack of hydration may be key.
• What colour is your urine? – yes, do look. It should be a light yellow or clear and not dark yellow* or green or brown. If your body is hydrated well, it will release excess clearer water through your body * (Vitamin B supplements can turn your urine more yellow so just be aware if you take them)
• Does your urine smell strong? – keep an eye on that-you will smell coffee in your wee when you drink too much of it.
• Is your skin dry or flaky? – one of the best moisturisers is water from the inside out.
• Do you have dark circles under your eyes? increased blood pressure on the thin blood vessels around your eyes which can force these vessels closer to the surface of your skin, so dark circles appear more prominent
• Do you wake up in the middle of the night thirsty? excluding Diabetes, it may just be that you are not be getting enough fluid during the day.
You may find that 2 or 3 glasses a day will improve your symptoms as a loss of just 5% of fluid is considered mild dehydration!
If you do not like cold water aim to drink room temperature or hot water – that can work a lot better for many people and it can be very cleansing the body.
Ensure you understand the difference between thirst and hunger – it is amazing how many people think they are hungry when all your body wants is water.
Thank you and happy hydration – If I can help in anyway please contact me.
This article is not meant to replace advice from a medical doctor and does not take into account medication such as blood thinners or diuretics.
(* A diuretic is any substance that promotes the production of urine)
(** Electrolytes are the ionized or ionisable constituents of a living cell, blood, or other organic matter)