Summer is really hot, and the idea of a cold lemonade, ice tea or cold beer can be very appealing. These drinks can quench our thirst. But do they actually hydrate our bodies?
Why Is Hydration Important?Water is the most important macronutrient that our bodies need. It constitutes 55-60% of the human body's mass. Most of the volume of our cells and body fluids consists of water. Water is needed for the delivery of oxygen and nutrients delivery to cells. It removes wastes, flushes toxins, improves cell-to-cell communication and facilitates the body's natural healing process. Water eases breathing by moistening inhaled air, cushions bones, lubricates joints, prevents tissues from adhering (sticking together) and regulates the body's temperature, etc. Yes, water is that magical!
Are You Dehydrated? Here Are The Signs
Despite the importance of water to our health and wellbeing, many of us do not get enough of it. In fact, in my nutritional therapy practice, the most common nutritional deficiency that I encounter is a deficiency of water, or dehydration. This is despite years of nagging by our mothers to "drink more water!”
Our bodies will cry out for water if we are not getting enough. But it is easy to miss or ignore these signs. The early warning signs include fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression, cravings, cramps and headaches…. These signs can be present even before you "feel" thirsty! Another way in which the body signals that it needs water is through hunger. The next time you feel hungry, especially between meals, try drinking a glass of water and see if it helps with the hunger. This is why some people lose weight when they start drinking more water — hunger was their body's way of signalling a need for water rather than for food.
Prolonged dehydration may trigger symptoms such as heartburn, acid reflux, joint pain, back pain, migraine, chronic fatigue, constipation and colitis.
How Much Water Do You Need?
If you Google "How much water should I drink?", you will find many websites telling you to drink 8 glasses each day. That is a good estimate, but I always advise my clients and friends to calculate their water requirement based on two factors.
The first factor is the person's body weight. The bigger you are, the more water you need. A grown adult will need more water than a child, and a child will need more water than a baby.
The second factor is the other drinks the person has consumed on that day. Not all beverages are hydrating! Some drinks, such as alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, coffee, tea and some fruit juices, actually cause water to be expelled from our bodies. We call these drinks "diuretics". If you consume any of these drinks, you will need even more water.
For a normal adult, calculate your water requirement using this simple formula:
- Take your body weight in kilograms.
- Divide your weight by 30. This is the amount of water you need, in litres.
- For every cup of diuretic beverages consumed that day, add 1.5 cups of water.
For example, if you weigh 60kg, then you need 2 litres of water a day. If you have a cup of coffee in the morning, you will need 2 litres plus 1.5 cups of water that day.
If you are perspiring more because you’re working in a hot environment or you’re exercising, then you will need even more water to replace the sweat that you lose
What Else Should I Know About Hydration?
Sometimes, we can be dehydrated despite drinking lots of water. This means that our bodies are not absorbing the water that we drink. One possible reason is the absence of electrolytes in the water to help with its absorption. This often happens when we drink distilled water, which tends to have no minerals and electrolytes. In order to maintain the right balance of water versus electrolytes internally, the body would not be able to absorb the water, even though it is needed for other bodily functions.
The solution is to drink filtered water instead of distilled water. A good water filter removes chemicals and organic particles that are harmful to the body but preserves the minerals and electrolytes. Or you could add a pinch of salt to help the body to absorb the water. I recommend using a good quality salt such as pink himalayan salt or natural sea salt from a source that is not contaminated by plastic particles. Or add a squeeze of organic lemon juice, which will also gently detox the liver, and make the water taste better too!
One last thing. Try to use a glass cup for drinking and bring your own glass water bottles when travelling or outdoors. Many plastics will leach into the water and wreak havoc on your hormones. If you must use plastic, be sure to look for the "BPA-free" label. Reducing plastic usage is also good for the environment — we have too much plastic waste on our planet, and even recyclable plastics are often not recycled.
That's it. Let's drink to your health!