By Helen Duffy Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist
We all know that we should drink more water, but just why is it so important?
The last few weeks have seen us experiencing the hottest September temperatures for nearly 90 years, and we all know how important it is to drink when it's hot outside. But keeping hydrated is something that we need to be conscious of each and EVERY day to keep our bodies and our brains working at their best.
How much do I need to drink?
Well it all depends on how big you are and what you're drinking! A rule of thumb for the average adult is 1.5-2 litres per day, but this also depends on your activity levels. More activity = more fluid loss.
I often recommend to people to drink 8 medium sized glasses/cups a day, or 1.5 litres. A good idea is to measure the volume of your favourite glass and mug and then work out how many of these you need to drink during the day to make your 1.5 litres. It might surprise you how few it is.
How do I know if I'm drinking enough?
Once your body has lost only 1-2% of its water content it will signal to you that it needs some fluids and you feel thirsty. So drinking when you are thirsty would seem to be an obvious thing to do, but unfortunately many of us ignore this signal and studies show that 2/3 of us are dehydrated and need to drink more.
Importantly there are other signs to look out for:
*fatigue or mood swings
*infrequent urination; dark urine; constipation
*hunger even though you've only just eaten
*dull, dry skin, often with pronounced wrinkles (no expensive wrinkle creams, just drink more water!)
A good rule of thumb is to look at the colour of your urine. It should be a light yellow colour. If your urine is dark it indicates that your kidneys are holding on to fluids and as your urine contains toxins that your body is trying to get rid of, this isn't such a good thing. Not having gone to the loo for several hours is also an indicator that you need to drink more. Many people, especially the elderly, put off drinking exactly for this reason as maybe going to the loo is inconvenient or difficult. A healthy person should be urinating 7-8 times a day. If you are going more frequently than this, feeling the urge and not producing much when you go or experiencing any kind of pain when urinating these are also important signs that need to be followed up with your GP.
Symptoms of dehydration are thirst, dark coloured urine, dry skin and fatigue. But research has also shown that common symptoms such as heartburn, constipation, urinary tract infections and high cholesterol are also signs of chronic dehydration. By simply increasing your water intake you could be making such a huge impact on your health!
If you are carrying a few extra pounds, you might find that increasing your fluid intake actually helps you to lose weight. Many people mistake the sign of dehydration for hunger as your body is desperately trying to get fluid from any source, and some foods can supply this However, if you've only just eaten your body doesn't need the extra calories it will get along with the fluids so these unfortunately will be stored just where we don't need them. Next time you're hungry and it's not long since you last ate a meal, try having a herbal tea instead (peppermint and licorice is great if you need a boost mid afternoon) and wait 20 mins - it should take you that long to make it and drink it! If you're still hungry then it probably is genuine, if not, it was your body telling you it was thirsty.
But I don't like drinking water?
This is something many people say to me, so what kinds of drinks should we be drinking in order to be hydrated? Well, unfortunately normal tea, coffee and fizzy drinks don't count as hydrating as they contain caffeine, fructose or sweeteners which either have the opposite effect on our bodies, that is dehydrates them, or has other negative health effects. So if you do want your daily cup of tea or coffee, have it with a large glass of water along side it.
Herbal and fruit teas are hydrating, so tea like chamomile, peppermint, fennel, etc are a great alternative and often have many therapeutic benefits. Pukka have an excellent range of organic blended teas. Experiment with these as iced teas – they can be really refreshing and are great for children's drinks!
What about squash? Well, the reasons not to drink squashes with 'No-added sugar' needs to be another whole blog article on its own! Personally I don't choose these and if I need to have the occasional squash I go for the organic brands like Rocks which is made of fruit and sugar, then make sure it is diluted really well and only have it with meals.
An even healthier alternative to squash is to use an infuser bottle. These are water bottles with a small container inside them that you fill with frozen fruit, mint, ginger, lemon, anything that takes your fancy! These flavours then infuse into your water, so not only do you have refreshing delicious tasting water, but you get some added vitamins as well. You can find infuser bottles in supermarkets and online. Try to choose one that is BPA free to avoid adding unnecessary chemicals.
There's no doubt that drinking enough will have a positive impact on your health, the amount however, is something that is personal to you so look out for the signs and symptoms, not only on the scorching hot days of late, but EVERY day.
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