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Drink More Water: How hydration affects our health

We need water. Living on a planet that is covered 71% by water, we have a long history of depending on water to grow crops, transport ourselves and most importantly stay hydrated. Much like the earth we live on, we are mostly made of water, around 60%. Water is essential for human survival, we can survive up to three weeks without consuming food, but only three days without water. Our bodies utilise water for a huge range of processes from regulating our body temperature, clearing out our kidneys and digestive systems and keeping our joints lubricated and supple. But we are not drinking enough water, A recent report by the National Health and Nutrition found that up to 54% of those surveyed could be classed as chronically dehydrated. In this blog, I’d like to explore why staying hydrated is so important to our physical health, fitness levels and mental health.

The importance of hydration

 Water provides a wide range of benefits and functions to the human body. Our blood cells are made up of around 50% water and therefore are essential for transporting oxygen around the body. The majority of the water we drink is absorbed into our bloodstream, the remaining water travels through our kidneys and intestines, which can aid digestion and support the removal of toxins through your kidneys. We lose water through bodily processes such as sweating when we use the toilet and even in the air we breathe. Our bodies don’t store great amounts of water and need to be consistently replenished which is why it’s so important to regularly stay hydrated.

How much water do you need?

Although the amount of water that is recommended to drink varies for different people, most adults should try to drink at least 2 to 2.5 litres of water or fluids per day, which is about eight glasses. Most of the water we absorb is through drinking but foods such as soups, stews, fruit and veg can also help keep us hydrated. We lose around 2 litres of water per day through waste (urine and faeces) and generally lose around 500 ml of water through our sweat. People in hotter climates may find they have to drink more water to stay hydrated as they stand to lose more through sweating. When we exercise or increase our body temperature to the point of sweating it’s important that we rehydrate to fuel our bodies, which in turn will help you to cool down.

The benefits of hydration

Staying regularly hydrated helps our bodies perform several functions. Water can help to lubricate our joints keeping them supple and flexible. Our cartilage which is found in our joints and the discs of our spine are made of up to 80% water, therefore regular dehydration can lead to inflammation and joint pain. Water also helps to cushion our internal organs such as our brains and spine providing a layer of protection, this helps to explain the correlation between being dehydrated and struggling to think or use reasoning. Water also plays an important role in our digestive system. Water can help your digestive system to break down nutrients and absorb them, along with helping dispose of waste on the way out.

The impacts of dehydration

I’m sure at some point we’ve all experienced dehydration and will be aware of its symptoms. When we get dehydrated our brains and other soft tissues in the body contract, which can put pressure on pain receptors around your brain, causing the classic dehydration headache. Anyone can suffer from dehydration but babies, children and older adults may be more susceptible to it. Water helps our bodies to maintain our skin and keep it healthy, when we are regularly dehydrated our skin may become flakey or dry. Long-term or chronic dehydration can cause some more serious conditions and problems. Dehydration can lead to urine with higher levels of minerals and waste, leading to crystals forming in your kidneys and potentially kidney stones or other complications. 

How best to stay hydrated

Keeping ourselves dehydrated is simple, but not always easy. Statistics seem to suggest that far too many of us drink far too little water, so it’s important we find ways to make consuming fluids part of our daily ritual. Try and start your day with a glass of water, this will compensate for any water that you sweated out overnight. This will also provide a natural boost to your body, making you feel more awake, aware and ready to face the day. It’s a good idea to try and drink a glass of water before every meal of the day. Not only does drinking before a meal aid digestion but studies have also found it can help reduce your calorie intake and help control weight gain. 

If you’re the kind of person who finds the taste of water somewhat bland, experiment with different temperatures and tastes until you find something that works for you. Infusing your water with lemons, cucumber, green tea, mint or orange can not only make your water taste more appealing but can also help balance your body’s PH level. 

Most fluids will rehydrate you, however drinks that are high in sugar content can dehydrate you. When we consume large amounts of sugar our bodies increase the amount of fluid it sends to our bloodstream to balance out the excess sugar, which can lead to dehydration. Alcohol also has a similar effect as it is a diuretic. This causes your body to remove fluids from your blood through your kidneys, ureters, and bladder, at a much quicker rate than other liquids. 

Conclusion

There is a lot to gain by increasing the amount of water you drink per day. Good levels of hydration help our bodies to perform their basic functions and also protects us from a range of conditions that can cause us harm. Even an extra glass of water a day has the potential to leave you feeling mor awake, aware, happy and healthy. It is a simple adjustment to make to your day to day routine that can offer some great benefits, so in short: drink more water. 

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