H2O is the Way to Go!
Water – the elixir of life!
We all know how relaxing or invigorating water feels on our bodies – a nice warm bath or a dip in the sea to cool off. Even being physically near to water and hearing it swirl or gently ripple soothes our brains.
The real challenge we humans have is drinking enough of it. Life can just get in the way and you easily forget to drink if you’re juggling a million and one jobs at work or at home.
Drinking enough water is vital for your health and wellbeing. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already somewhat dehydrated and this can affect all sorts of functions in the body and the brain.
Sometimes, the body gives you a little signal to rehydrate even before you feel thirsty, but us humans are not very good at reading signals and so a little reminder can really help…
If you’re getting tired, grouchy or just feel off, the first thing you need to do is drink a large glass of water. Rehydrating helps you to destress and pausing to drink can also help you to reset mentally.
At NCIM, we’re not afraid to admit that we need to re-visit our hydration habits from time to time. We’re only human after all and life can get in the way for us too! Thinking about the ‘why’ of water can make it easier to find ways to drink more.
Water for health
Intuitively most of us know that water is essential for our health, but why?
Your body is about 60% water and you need to be hydrated for so many important functions. Not only that, but your wellbeing is affected by how hydrated you are and being properly hydrated can improve your health.
Let’s consider a few examples:
Brain health – dehydration will negatively impact focus and memory and can cause ‘brain fog’. When your neurons detect dehydration, they also signal the part of your brain regulating mood. Disturbances like tension, depression, fatigue, vigour, confusion, anxiety and anger are improved when you rehydrate. Consider them a warning signal prompting you to drink up! Regular hydration also aids the production of melatonin in the brain which helps you to sleep.
Digestive health – water helps to create saliva which you need to break down food and kick start digestion; it also helps with nutrient absorption by dissolving the nutrients in the food.
Water helps you to produce a healthy stool and avoid constipation.
Immune health – water helps to oxygenate your blood which means that your cells can work at full capacity, which in turn keeps your muscles and organs healthy. When you feel your best in this way, your body can fight off germs much more effectively. Water also supports the production of lymph fluid which carries unwelcome bacteria to your lymph nodes to be destroyed. Water helps your kidneys work properly to flush out toxins and lubricates your eyes and mouth which means that infection is less likely to access your body.
General health – water helps to regulate your body temperature through sweat, it can help to keep your skin hydrated and it protects and lubricates joints, tissues and the spinal cord. Dehydration can cause fatigue, especially in women (in men higher testosterone levels temporarily override dehydration to boost energy) – but it does affect strength and endurance in both men and women. Drinking enough water can also help you to lose excess weight by regulating the signals from your brains that sometimes misfire with a hunger message when you’re dehydrated.
Signs of dehydration
If you’re not drinking enough the physical signs are quite easy to spot: your urine is dark or concentrated (‘normal’ is the colour of straw) and you’re not going to the loo regularly, i.e. every two to three hours. Another sign, but perhaps more subtle, is that you might be susceptible to a streaming or congested nose.
You might also feel drowsy in the afternoon or your mood and energy levels are not as they normally are. Your blood pressure might be a bit low if you’re dehydrated and you feel dizzy. You might be more hungry than usual….
How much should you be drinking?
Food contributes only about 20% of water to your daily intake. The rest you need to drink. Pure water, coconut water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee, all count.
Six to eight glasses a day is a general rule of thumb and easy to remember. For average or moderate activity levels you can also calculate a more accurate amount based on body weight using this formula: weight in kilograms x 0.033 [e.g. 60kgs (approx. 9.5 stone) = about 2 litres per day; 90kgs (approx. 14 stone) = about 3 litres per day].
Of course, we all have different body types, environments, lifestyles and activity levels and therefore need different amounts.
It is possible to drink too much water, for example with certain health conditions such as thyroid disease or kidney, liver or heart problems or if taking medications that make your body retain water, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opiates for pain relief as well as some anti-depressants. You should check with a doctor if you’re not sure about the right amount.
How you can retrain yourself to drink more water …
Two litres seems like a lot, and you might wonder if you’ll be dashing to the loo all day and night if you drink that amount! The good news is that your body can quite quickly adapt to drinking the right amount your sleep needn’t be disrupted.
Here are some tips and tricks to try:
– Keep a reusable water bottle handy – this will help you to drink on the go and have a visual reminder to drink more
– Time-based habits can also serve as a reminder – for example drink a glass before each meal, before bed and soon after waking up
– Use fresh fruit and herbs to flavour the water to add some variety – try strawberry and mint, blueberry and basil, lemon/orange and rosemary
Apart from drinking more, you can also eat more water-rich foods such as cucumber, spinach, celery, apples, blueberries, watermelon, strawberries. Every little helps!