Water – The Elixir of Life
12th Mar 2019
Why is so much fuss made about drinking enough water?
Are you a ‘drink a large glass of water with lemon in the morning’ sort of person? Or are you a ‘don’t drink water with your meals’ type person? Are you someone who doesn’t like the taste of water at all? Or maybe you’re somebody who says ‘I drink lots of tea, coffee and wine’!
It’s a well-known fact that a person can go without food for up to 40 days without it affecting their life. With water it’s a completely different story. The body can only survive for three days without water. Why is this? The body is made up of 75% water, with the brain needing 85% water in order to function optimally. Water is vital for even the most basic of cellular processes. It transports nutrients around the body and toxins out of cells and organs for elimination. We continually lose water through sweating, breathing and stools and this fluid needs to be constantly replaced. In my opinion, most people in the UK are suffering from mild to moderate dehydration (when more water is moving out of their body than they are taking in).
Observing my little Miniature Schnauzer recently I have noticed that his bodily processes operate at an optimal level. Why do I say this? He knows exactly, almost to the minute, when it’s time for food! Having eaten, he then goes straight out into the garden and, like clockwork, does a poo! He likes freshwater to drink during the day, and will turn his nose up at water that has sat in his bowl overnight. When I empty the stale water out and fill the bowl with fresh oxygenated water, he drinks almost half of it immediately. He will often ask for fresh water in the evening.
For many of us, our thirst mechanism is very inefficient and we mistake the signals that our bodies give us when we need water. Many people mistake thirst for hunger, and reach for something to eat when in fact they should be drinking a big glass of water. Thirst should be satisfied at all times. With an increase in water intake, our thirst mechanism becomes more efficient. Dr Batmanghelidj who wrote ‘Your body’s many cries for water’ has written extensively about how he has treated thousands of patients with just water. “Water is the cheapest form of medicine to a dehydrated body,” says Dr Batmanghelidj.
When we aren’t drinking enough water everyday, our bodies prioritise the organs which need the most water. Feeling thirsty signals that we are already dehydrated and a dry mouth is the last sign of dehydration. Mild, moderate or severe dehydration lead to inflammation in the body, which leads to the production of histamine. If you suffer from hay fever, try drinking plenty of water before the hay fever season starts and see if it makes a difference!
Dehydration can lead to the following symptoms:
- low energy levels
- reduced cognitive function
- mood swings and irritability
- dull and tired looking skin
- impaired kidney function( the kidneys need water to filter out waste from the bloodstream which is then excreted via the urine)
- formation of urinary tract stones
- muscle cramps
A good measurement of your level of hydration is the colour of your urine. Pale urine (the colour of straw) indicates adequate hydration, while darker coloured urine is a sign that your body needs more fluids, and quickly.
How much is enough and how do I drink more?
1. Aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water a day (6-8 glasses). This includes herbal teas (not green tea), and fresh juices but not coffee, tea or alcohol as these dehydrate the body. Try adding slices of cucumber, lemon or lime, or berries and herbs to your water if you struggle to drink it plain.
2. Eat water-rich foods. The good news is that only 70-80% of your daily hydration needs to come from water; the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) states that up to 30% of daily water intake in the daily diet of Europeans comes from food. All whole fruits and vegetables contain some amount of water, but choose these high water ones for maximum benefit:
97% water: cucumbers
96% water: celery
95% water: tomatoes, radishes
93% water: red, yellow, green bell peppers
92% water: cauliflower, watermelon
91% water: spinach, strawberries, broccoli
3. Keep a bottle of water to hand and then you’ll be more likely to sip during the day. My advice is to invest in a BPA, phthalate free one and then you won’t be adding to landfill!
4. Use apps to track your water consumption. These are good at reminding you to drink!
5. Drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol.
Does it matter what type of water I drink?
Choose good quality water. Tap water, particularly in cities, is full of chlorine, medication residues, antibiotics, chemicals and some heavy metals. Bottled water, unless in glass bottles, can be full of BPAs as these chemicals often leach into the water. These chemicals are known as xenoestrogens and mimic the action of our natural oestrogen, disrupting our hormones.
A water filter which removes impurities from your drinking water is a good option, but note that they don’t remove certain heavy metals. You may want to invest however in a more expensive but effective under the sink filter. As a naturopath I opt to drink distilled water which has all the nasty stuff removed although some argue that it’s too pure! It all comes down to personal preference in the end.
On a side note, invest in a shower filter and smell the difference when you are showering! No more chlorine smells!
Can I drink too much water?
Absolutely! Although your kidneys are extremely efficient at excreting excess water, over hydration can be extremely dangerous and also, although rare, fatal. This is because the level of sodium in the body drops to dangerously low levels.
Every living thing on our planet needs water, even the earth itself. Drink more water and get back in touch with the rhythms of life!
This is a guest post by Sue Potgieter, NT ND mANP CNHC rGNC.
Sue is a Nutritionist in private practice at Brighter Spaces Guildford.