We all know that drinking sufficient water is essential to our health, yet so many people don’t drink enough water and are dehydrated. This can lead to a number of health issues including:
Water is the main constituent of cells, tissues and organs, making up approximately 70% of an adult’s body weight. If you are not drinking enough water you can become dehydrated and your body will struggle with digestion, detoxification, energy production and cognition.
Even mild dehydration, just 1 or 2% of your total body water, can impair your cognitive function, alertness and capacity for exercise.
Nutritional factors that influence your hydration
Electrolytes are minerals in your body with an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine, tissues and other body fluids. These charges are crucial to many body functions including the operation of your brain, nerves and muscles and the creation of new tissue. They signal water in and out of a cell and the correct electrolytes levels are key to optimal hydration.
Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get these minerals from the foods you eat and the water you drink. Supplementation is often necessary if your levels are low or out of balance.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids play an important role in the production of cellular tissue and hormones which have a range of functions including regulating cell hydration.
Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids include
Omega 3 supplements include fish oils, cod liver oil and evening primrose oil.
A body composition test, such the Metagenics VLA Body Composition & Cellular Health Assessment which we use at Elemental Health, can identify dehydration at an intra- or extra-cellular level, allowing us to evaluate your true hydration status and correct this via dietary changes and nutritional supplements if your hydrations levels are inadequate.
Thirst v. hunger
The first sign that your body is dehydrated is thirst. If you are thirsty, you are already lacking sufficient water. Many people, especially children, confuse the sensation of thirst for hunger. If you feel that familiar sensation, try quenching your thirst with a glass of water with a slice of lemon or lime before going for a snack.
How much water do I need to drink?
As a general rule adults should drink at least 2 litres or 8 glasses of water each day. However, some people need more water than this.
What impacts your hydration needs?
Where you live. The body needs more water in hot, humid, or dry areas. You’ll also need more water if you live in the mountains or at a high altitude.
Your diet. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks are diuretic and promote fluid loss via increased urination. If you drink more than 1 coffee a day, you should increase your water intake accordingly. A diet high in salty, spicy, or sugary foods also increases your body’s demand for water while a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is naturally hydrating.
The season. You may need more water in warmer months due to increased perspiration. Water plays a vital role in body temperature regulation.
Your environment. If you spend more time outdoors or work outdoors in the sun or hot temperatures, you will sweat more, therefore you will need more water, and probably also electrolytes, to restore hydration.
Exercise. If you have an active lifestyle or participate in high intensity exercise you will need to increase your water intake accordingly.
Your health. If you have an infection, a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, you will need to drink more water. Health conditions like diabetes and kidney disease also increase your need for water and some medications like diuretics increase urination.
Pregnant or breastfeeding. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you will need to drink extra water to stay hydrated. Breastfeeding is particularly demanding on your hydration requirements and essential for adequate milk production.
What should I drink for optimal hydration?
Drinks like fruit juice, cordial, black tea, coffee and soft drink, including diet soft drink, are not adequate substitutes for water. These drinks contain sugar, salt, caffeine, and/or chemicals and preservatives which can contribute to dehydration and poor health.
Ideally you should drink filtered tap water. Change it up with sparkling water, or water infused with fruit, vegetables or herbs. Adding lemon or lime to your water aids digestion and detoxification, cucumber and mint is another popular flavour. Avoid water purchased in plastic bottles and invest in a stainless steel or glass drink bottle to carry around so you always have water handy.
Herbal teas can be included in your daily water intake. They make water more interesting and have a number of valuable therapeutic benefits. Enjoy them hot or cold.
Maintaining optimal hydration is essential for your health and energy levels and is one important aspect that is addressed in a nutrition or naturopathic consultation at Elemental Health.
If you are struggling with your energy levels or any other aspect of your health, book an appointment with Jean and get your health back on track.