We are constantly being told to drink our 8 glasses of water per day, but how important is it?
The majority of people are dehydrated and don’t even know it as they are not in tune with their bodies, and don’t know the association that water has with normal bodily functions. Drinking enough water each day is extremely important to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, produce saliva and tears, acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord, delivers nutrients to cells, and keeps organs functioning properly. (www.hsph.harvard.edu) 75% of our solid body mass is water, 85% of brain tissue and muscle is water, the liver is 82% water, and the bones 22%.
So how do we know if we are dehydrated?
Chances are you’re probably thirsty right now, which is the first indicator that you are dehydrated.
Here are other signs and symptoms to look for:
-dark coloured urine
-digestive disturbances such as heartburn and constipation
-urinary tract infections
-chronic fatigue syndrome
-poor lubrication of the joints, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis
Staying hydrated ensures that the body can carry out all of its critical functions. In addition to assisting in key body functions, drinking plenty of water can provide a number of health benefits including:
- Supporting digestion: Drinking water with a meal promotes the secretion of gastric acids that help break down the food we eat. Water also helps dissolve water-soluble vitamins, including vitamin C and the B vitamins, and transport them to the rest of our body for use. Additionally, making sure we get enough water can help prevent and relieve constipation.
- Supporting metabolism: Water intake has been associated with increased fat cell breakdown in the body, called lipolysis. Lipolysis is the conversion of fat tissue to fuel. Water also gives the sensation of feeling full which discourages overeating. Sometimes the sensation of hunger is actually our body trying to tell us that we need more water!
- protecting cognitive health and stabilizing mood: Even mild dehydration can have a negative impact on your mood and cognition. (22)(24) Specifically, insufficient water intake can have detrimental effects on concentration, alertness, short-term memory, math skills, perception, and psychomotor skills. “The brain uses electrical energy that is generated by the water drive of the energy-generating pumps. With dehydration, the level of energy generation in the brain is decreased. Many functions in the brain that depend on this type of energy become inefficient.” (Batmanghelidj)
How much water should you drink?
The old rule of thumb used to be that adults needed to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. However, your water requirements is not quite that simple. Gender, climate, and activity levels all play a role in determining how much water you need daily. Age also plays a huge factor. Older adults need more water than younger individuals because as we age our thirst mechanism works less efficiently but more importantly over 1000 prescribed medications cause dehydration and xerostomia (dry mouth) that can lead to a multitude of digestive disorders. A great way to determine your hydration level is to examine your urine. A well hydrated individual will have a light straw coloured urine. With dehydration, urine is dark yellow and can sometimes be a brownish colour in severe cases.
What is the best kind of water?
Tap water: It’s convenient, and comes right out of your kitchen faucet. In Canada, we are fortunate enough that the government has very strict guidelines for the quality of our drinking water to eliminate harmful bacteria, viruses, and radioactive nuclides. Unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid some harmful contaminants such as OTC drug remnants such as Birth Control Pills and Statin drugs. Of course, the Fluoride in drinking water debate is also something to consider. There are many great peer-reviewed research articles available on the web.
Bottled Water: Drinking water from plastic bottles is not the best idea. Plastic bottles contain a chemical called Bisphenol A or most commonly listed as BPA that leaches into the water. BPA is a hormone disruptor that has been linked to serious health issues such as hormonal imbalances, altered behavioral and learning patterns, hormonal cancers (breast, prostate, reproductive), and early puberty. Another good reason to avoid bottled water is the environmental impact the plastic waste has on our ecosystem.
Filtered Tap Water: The most economical and environmentally sound choice you can make is to purchase and install a water filter for your home.
- Reverse Osmosis systems are inexpensive, and remove contaminants like chlorine, and its by-products, and fluoride in your water.
- Carbon Filters (ex. Brita) improve water quality, eliminate odors, and remove chlorine, but are not sufficient enough to eliminate heavy metals, fluoride and toxic organic compounds.
- Berkey Filters: can remove contaminants such as viruses, bacteria, pesticides, chlorine, fluoride, pesticides, and more.
Supplements to keep you hydrated:
Klean Electrolytes by Douglas Laboratories : Replenishes important minerals that can be depleted during or after exercise, physical stress and during periods of extreme heat where profuse sweating has occurred.
Batmanghelidij, Dr. F, Your Body’s Many Cries For Water 3rd Edition. Global Health Solutions Inc., 2008
Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality, www.canada.ca
Institute of Holistic Nutrition, Nutrition and the Environment Course Notes, 2019
Thornton S. N. (2016). Increased Hydration Can Be Associated with Weight Loss. Frontiers in nutrition, 3, 18. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2016.00018
Blog Written by: Kacia Mongeau
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