We’re mainly water…
The human body consists of around 65 to 70% water and the body is in a constant state of balancing the amount of water necessary to maintain homeostasis. (Homeostasis is defined as the process of keeping the correct proportional relationship among all the body systems so that the body can survive.)
Water is a raw material that it is absolutely essential to our survival. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly.
Having enough water in our body increases energy production and helps maximize physical performance. Water is essential for the working of our kidneys and other bodily functions.
We use water to flush out the bad stuff
The lymphatic system is our body’s sewerage system and this system must have water in it to absorb the toxins that accumulate in our body from pollutants in the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, and the waste products that accumulate in our body cells after the cells have extracted and processed all the good nutrients that we have consumed.
After assimilation of even the best foods, waste products will remain and need to be eliminated, just as we can burn the highest quality timber but still have a waste ash remaining to be disposed of.
The lymphatic system can only do its job if it contains enough water in which to dissolve the toxins. Furthermore, the lymphatic vessels must contain enough water so that lymphatic vessels can create enough pressure to open and close and thereby move the dissolved toxins along the elimination pathways. Unlike the blood vessels, which have a pump (the heart) to move the blood through the body, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to move its fluids.
Drinking plenty of water assists the prevention and relief of headaches. Dehydrated muscles cause pain and many headaches are caused by simple muscle dehydration.
Water keeps us sharp too…
Water helps our mental state. A fluid loss of even just 1% or 2% can reduce motivation, increase fatigue, and impair mood, memory and concentration. So, if you want to feel brighter and more focussed, water can help with that.
If you still need more reasons for drinking water, research shows that a higher water intake helps to boost the immune system, improve skin complexion and aid weight loss. Water even helps recovery from hangovers, but it is far better not to consume too much of the beverages that cause the hangovers in the first place!
How Do We Lose Water from the Body?
Water can be lost from the body by four methods:
In a dry atmosphere, when we inhale the air has to be moistened, otherwise the necessary oxygen transfer will not work.
When we exhale to eliminate the carbon dioxide waste from the process of cellular respiration, most of the of water that was used for the inhalation is then exhaled. Just exhale onto a cold mirror and watch the moisture condense on the mirror surface.
The body sweats out water for the purpose of cooling the body surface during exertion and to eliminate water produced as a waste product of the process of cellular respiration.
The body has two basic types of sweat glands which eliminate water through perspiration. Eccrine glands produce perspiration that is 99% water and 1% salt. These glands provide a moisture barrier that eliminates heat and, by evaporation, cools the body. Apocrine glands typically also excrete bacteria with the water that can lead to body odour.
Our kidneys filter out nitrogen waste in the form of urea and uric acid. These wastes are carried out of the body in a stream of water from the kidneys to the bladder and finally eliminated through the urethra.
While the large intestine is responsible to try to reabsorb water from the solid waste of the digestive tract, there is still some water that is lost through defecation. If our faeces did not contain some water they would not pass through our bowels. When the colon is infected with a virus or bacteria, the waste moves through the large intestine faster than the water can be re-absorbed and is evacuated from the body with a higher concentration of moisture in the form of diarrhoea.
How Much Water Do We Need to Drink?
We need to drink water every day, and it is generally recommended that we need to drink an average of about eight 250ml glasses (two litres) per day.
However, that is just a guide and our individual intake may require to be varied by various factors:
- Men tend to require more water than women.
- The 2-litre guide can be reduced for very small people and increased for those who are taller and heavier.
- We need to increase our intake if physical activity is increased with sport or work. (I know of an electrician working in a confined roof space when the outside temperature was 450C and he had a 5-litre bladder of water with a mouth tube strapped to his back!)
- If we have a fever, we lose water through perspiration, and this water needs to be replaced.
Are There Any Viable Alternative Hydration Options?
Water can be found in fruits and vegetables (especially, watermelon, tomatoes, and lettuce), and in soup broths.
There is water in carbonated drinks, but the hydrating effect is more than offset by the high sugar content.
One thing I am often asked is whether coffee, tea and beer count toward our water intake. After all, these are all made by using water. Unfortunately, caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics, meaning they make you lose more water than they put in and will actually make dehydration worse. For every cup of coffee you drink, you need to consume two cups of water to offset the dehydrating effect of the coffee.
Sports people who have suffered injuries have been known to console themselves by drinking alcohol. This practice is not a wise move, because the dehydrating effect of the alcohol will hinder the healing process.
Water is much more beneficial for us and is healthier than all of these alternatives, which only give a very minor contribution to our daily hydration needs.
What About Sports & Energy Drinks?
Sports drinks can be helpful if you’re planning on exercising at a really high level for more than an hour. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that can increase your energy. They help your body to absorb water. However, some sports drinks are high in calories from added sugar. They also may contain high levels of sodium (salt). Check the serving size on the label. One bottle usually contains more than one serving. Some sports drinks contain caffeine, too. Remember that a safe amount of caffeine to consume each day is no more than 400 milligrams.
Energy drinks are not the same as sports drinks. Energy drinks usually contain large amounts of caffeine. Also, they contain ingredients that overstimulate you (guarana, ginseng, or taurine). These are things your body doesn’t need. Most of these drinks are also high in added sugar. According to doctors, children and teens should not have energy drinks.
If Staying Hydrated Is Difficult for You, Here Are Some Tips That Can Help
- Keep a bottle of water with you during the day
- If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.
- Drink water before, during, and after a workout.
- When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water. Drinking water may also contribute to a healthy weight-loss plan. Some research suggests that drinking water can help you feel full.
- If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. For example, drink water when you wake up, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and when you go to bed. Or, drink a small glass of water at the beginning of each hour.
- Drink water when you go to a restaurant. It will keep you hydrated, and it’s free. If you don’t drink enough water, you may become dehydrated. This means your body doesn’t have enough fluid to operate properly.
How Can You Tell If You Are Dehydrated?
Your urine can be an indicator if you’re dehydrated. If it’s colourless or light yellow, you’re well hydrated. If your urine is a dark yellow or amber colour, you may be dehydrated.
There are other signs that can signal you may be dehydrated. They include:
- Little or no urine.
- Urine that is darker than usual.
- Dry mouth.
- Sleepiness or fatigue.
- Extreme thirst.
- Dizziness or light-headedness.
- No tears when crying.
Always remember that when you start to feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated!
The bottom line is:
Make water your drink of choice
It is freely available
It helps you stay healthy
And it will make you look and feel even better!