Water, Water Everywhere – Not Just a Mirage for Good Health
Hydration with Water – Why it’s important
H2o is an essential element that we can easily take for granted. Many people did not grow up prioritizing drinking water. A few years ago, athletes were the ones who would carry around water bottles. Nowadays, people of all ages and stages of life carry around reusable water bottles and are more focussed on keeping hydrated.
With the summer heat comes the real risk of dehydration.
For older adults, the thirst receptor response may be blunted. If the feeling of thirst starts, it may indicate you are already dehydrated. This is why being thirsty isn’t necessarily the best indicator of needing to drink something. Other than obvious symptoms of dry mouth, there are many other indicators of dehydration. Headache, fatigue, lightheadedness, cramping, flushed skin, dizziness, nausea and loss of appetite are all possible signs of dehydration.
Take a look at your urine. If it’s concentrated and odorous, there’s a strong possibility that your body needs more fluid. Losing 1% of body weight from fluid can indicate dehydration. When this happens, your body’s ability to function properly declines. For a 170lb man, 1% would mean almost 2 lbs of body weight from fluid. Daily, a human body loses approximately 10 cups (2.5 Lts) of water naturally over a twenty four hour period.
How Fluid Keeps The Body Running
Some necessary bodily functions that water is involved in, include regulation of body temperature. Fluid in perspiration allows the working muscle to release heat more readily that builds up during exercise/movement or work. Water helps to carry nutrients throughout the body and supports excretion of waste molecules. Water is an important lubricant that moistens eyes, cushions joints, protects organs, tissues, in addition to critical higher functioning brain and spinal cord. The amount of water in the bloodstream also helps to regulate blood pressure and heart function. Approximately 60% of the human body is made up of water. In the body, fluid is lost through sweating, breathing and excretion in urine and stool
When ill with a fever, diarrhea or vomiting, fluid requirements are increased to replenish those lost fluids.
Sport and Exercise – Replenish Lost Fluids
When exercising or participating in endurance activities or sports, water requirements are also increased. For those people who participate in active sports (for more than 45 minutes) and either sweat a lot, wear heavy uniforms and equipment or find themselves in a hot and/or humid environment for extended time periods, extra water and sports drinks can offer a way to prevent dehydration, muscle cramps and getting tired too quickly.
Sports, Energy and Other Drinks
Sports drinks contain sugar and electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium to offer the right balance to replace lost perspiration. Sipping on a sports drink, such as Gatorade, Powerade or homemade orange juice with salt every 10 to 15 minutes will help to offer rehydration without causing cramps and bloating that could happen with sugary drinks, such as pop, fruit juice or energy drinks.
Energy drinks that claim to “make you more alert and boost your energy” generally contain caffeine and herbal stimulants that are not considered safe for children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. These drinks, such as Monster, Redbull, Full Throttle and Amp should not be confused with sports drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade. Energy drinks containing stimulants, such as caffeine and herbal additives can accelerate dehydration and lead to
other side effects. Fruit juice and fruit beverages (fruit punch, fruit drinks, fruit cocktail) should be kept to a minimum and limited, since they contain a high level of sugar, which can lead to unwanted weight gain (excess fat storage), elevated triglycerides and fluctuations with blood sugar, if diabetes is a concern. Even the ‘all natural’ fruit juice offers high levels of sugar and lacks other nutrients. These sugary drinks offer very little in the way of nutrition and are loaded with sugar and flavouring.
Carbonated beverages, like pop, Big Gulps and Slurpees are also full of sugar and flavouring. Regular intake of these types of drinks do not fit into a healthy lifestyle and can easily lead to excessive calorie intake. Keeping hydrated is very important in the heat and helps the body maintain function and optimal physical ability. Going for a run, bike ride, long hike or playing sports like tennis, hockey, soccer, rugby, basketball, football, or partaking in heavy labour in a hot environment will all be circumstances which increase risk of dehydration. Drinking at least one to two cups (250 ml to 500 ml) of water up to four hours before exercise and drinking another half to 1.5 cups (125 to 375 ml) of fluid about two hours before playing a sport are some guidelines to follow, especially if you have not produced any urine or if urine is dark yellow (indicating the possible start of a dehydration state). Additional signs of chronic inadequate fluid intake may include constipation and urinary tract infections (UTIs). If there’s not enough fluid to help keep stool soft and easy to pass, sluggish bowels and constipation can result. The kidneys excrete fluids and waste substances and if fluid intake is less than optimal, UTIs can result.
Long-term Complications of Chronic Low Fluid Intake
There are long-term complications of inadequate fluid intake, as the body needs enough to function smoothly. Risks of certain diseases and conditions increase if the body’s continually compensating for lack of adequate fluid
Intake. Bladder and colon cancer, heart disease, kidney stones and obesity can be a result of chronic low fluid intake. Researchers at Harvard found that men who drank at least 6 cups of water per day were half as likely to develop bladder cancer than those who drank less. Inadequate fluid intake can impair the activity of important enzymes in the liver that remove cancer causing
Substances. In the Pacific Northwest, there was a study in Seattle, Washington that concluded women who drank a minimum of 5 cups of water per day had a 45% lower risk of colon cancer than those women who drank 2 cups or less per day.
In the same study, men who drank a minimum of 4 cups/day of water had a 30% reduced risk of developing colon cancer than those who drank less water. With death from heart attack, in a Loma Linda University study with 20,000 7th Day Adventists men and women, those women who drank 5 cups of water per day were 41% less likely to die of a heart attack than those drinking less water.
Drinking water may act to thin the viscosity of the blood to help prevent clots. In the same study, there was a 54% reduced risk of men dying of heart attack, if they drank a minimum of 5 cups of water per day. Men have a higher risk of developing kidney stones. Drinking water increases the volume of urine and oxalate stones can develop from concentrated urine. Risks increase for people who migrate from moderate temperature climates to hotter climates, as their body may not be able to regulate if the water intake doesn’t increase accordingly. For those ‘snowbirds’ who retire to more comfortable, warm environments, development of kidney stones is a real kick in the pants reminder to drink more water. Drinking sweetened beverages over water more of the time can lead to excess calorie intake from sugar, which can lead to weight gain and obesity in the long-term.
Encouraging kids to drink water more often can help them to develop a taste for naturally replenishing fluid instead of the flavour of sweetened drinks. The body doesn’t recognize calories from drinks to indicate fullness. People who drink pop, juice, or other sweetened beverages often may be consuming more calories than they need, as it’s generally in addition to their daily meals and snacks. Overtime, this can lead to overweight and obesity. As the Slovakian proverb says, “pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine”. Maintaining adequate water intake can help prevent long-term complications of dehydration.
For the average male, 3 Liters (12 cups) a day is a good rule of thumb for fluid requirements. For women, 2.2 Litres (9 cups) and with children 1 Litre to 1.8 Litres, depending on age, size, activity level and climate. Through the hot summer months, drinking water every hour by carrying around a water bottle is a practical strategy to help remember to drink more water. Replacing extra cups of coffee or pop with water or herbal tea can offer another solution to help increase water intake. Each time you go into the bathroom or kitchen, reaching for a glass of water can be a useful way to drink more, in addition, when taking medications or supplements, take a full cup of water instead of just a sip. Naturally high in water content, fruits and vegetables can offer fluid-rich content in a healthy form through food.
20% of our water requirements can be derived from food intake. Vegetables, fruits, soups, jello, dairy and plant-based milk alternatives all offer the body some additional opportunities for more fluid intake. Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body and can accelerate the risk of dehydration. Many times, the morning hangover effect can be linked to inadequate fluid intake to offset the dehydrating effects of excessive alcohol, including spirits, wine and beer. When drinking alcohol, aim to drink a full glass of water with each alcoholic beverage to help maintain hydration. As Leonardo di Vinci said, “Water is the driving force of all nature”. Humans need this essential, undervalued element
and drinking enough of it daily can help support optimal health and prevent disease. Plan to bring water to drink, since prevention is key.