The most important nutrient for the body is water, and its consumption is vital for our existence. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones have a surprising 31% water content.
An average man weighing 75kg is 45 litres water. Two thirds of this is within the cells of the body, sustaining the chemical reactions that are essential for life. Water loss of as little as 1-2% of body weight can impair mental and physical function. Losses of 7% will disrupt physiology and result in total body collapse. Dehydration of a muscle by 3% can result in a 10% loss of contractile strength and an 8% loss of speed.
One of the first signs of dehydration would most commonly be a headache. It can often be relieved by having a big drink of water rather than reaching for the pain killers. Other common symptoms of dehydration are anxiety, fatigue and hunger. Our hunger and thirst receptors are situated in close proximity in the hypothalamus. Often, the response gets confused so we can feel hungry when actually we are thirsty.
Thirst is a poor indicator of dehydration. Strangely, when we are more dehydrated, we are less thirsty. It`s almost as if our body has given up trying to get us to drink as its thirst prompts have been ignored for too long. Interestingly, as we begin to hydrate again, we often feel really thirsty. Thirstier than before. The brain recognises the beneficial effects from re-hydrating and tells us to drink more.
Most people operate with low-grade dehydration, with a bulk of their fluid intake being ones that are dehydrating – caffeine and alcohol. These drinks cause a greater loss of water than the amount they replace. Sugary drinks are also dehydrating as they upset the cellular balance of electrolytes and encourage magnesium to leave the cell and be urinated out. Wherever magnesium goes... water follows.
Urine colour is a sensitive indicator of fluid balance - dark yellow or foul smelling urine can be indicator of dehydration.
How much water should I drink?
Adults should drink at least 1 1/2 - 2 litres of pure, non-carbonated bottled or filtered water per day, and more when exercising or when the weather is hot. You can work out how much your child should drink each day by using an online water intake calculator. It is important not to over-hydrate as this upsets the delicate electrolyte balance of the body and can be very serious.
How to re-hydrate
When you are trying to re-hydrate, it`s important to go slowly. When your body isn`t used to receiving large quantities of water, initially it doesn`t quite know what to do with it. You will find you are urinating very frequently and may feel frustrated that you are urinating all the water out. Initially, you can also feel bloated. Persevere, after a week or two, your body will adjust and remember how to store the water and you may start to see visible signs that your body is re-hydrating well. Your skin may look healthier and you may feel more energised.
Drinking cold water can be quite a shock to the system, unless it is a very hot day. It is better to dink your water slightly warm. A pint glass filled with half cold water and topped up with boiling water and a squeeze of lemon is a very pleasant and comforting drink.
Adding healthy options to your water like lemon, cucumber, berries or even a tiny amount of pink Himalayan salt can add essential minerals to your water, keeping your electrolytes balanced.
When initially trying to re-hydrate, try the following:
1 8 oz glass of water half an hour before a meal
1 8 oz glass of water 2 hours after a meal.
Don`t drink with your meal or you can dilute your digestive juices.
Water should be sipped regularly rather than gulped down in large quantities.
Try drinking Linseed tea. It is one of the most re-hydrating things you can do as it has a unique combination of water and oil. (Recipe here)
What does water do?
We know that we can survive much longer without food than we can without water. Without water, we can live for between 3 and 10 days. Our bodies make many bi-products simply by functioning that we need to remove. Their elimination is via our urine and bowel movements. Without any water to flush them through, they will build up and poison the body, resulting in organ failure. These days, not only are our bodies having to remove our own bi-products of existing, but they are bombarded with environmental toxins also.
So what else does water do?
Helps avoid constipation
Helps digest foods
Helps absorb nutrients
Keeps the brain working efficiently (largely water based)
Improves blood oxygen levels
Helps produce saliva
Protects tissues and joints
Keeps the appearance of your skin healthy
Unfortunately, high quality clean water does not always mean tap water, which on average contains 500 parts per million contaminants. Regular ingestion may contribute to a myriad of unwelcome symptoms. There are 60,000 recognised chemical contaminants in water and tap water is likely to harbour at least 1000 different ones including xeno-oestrogens.
Xeno-oestrogens These are a group of pollutants which come from an external source to the body, but have the ability to mimic the action of oestrogen (a female hormone). Because these are man-made they are not easily broken down. They have been suspected of promoting a number of cancers and other diseases. Xeno-oestrogens make their way into the water from pollution, plastics, agricultural chemicals and the contraceptive pill. They tend to be stored in body fat and have a prolonged influence on hormonal function. This can lead to hormonal disturbances of the female reproductive system and diseases of the breast and prostate.
90% of excreted drugs can remain biologically active. A German chemist (Ternes) found traces of 30 out of 60 commonly used pharmaceutical drugs to be present in treated water, sewage and rivers.
The bottled water industry is largely self-regulating and some products may contain as many contaminants as tap water. Water in plastic bottles is likely to contain xeno-oestrogens that have leached from the plastic. Those that are labelled as ‘Natural Mineral Water’ have passed the most stringent tests. Bottled water should be drunk within 24hrs of opening and stored in a cool dark place, do not leave it to stand in sunlight. Filter jugs offer some benefit, but must be kept clean as they are susceptible to bacterial contamination.
Plumbed-in systems are the best and most practical approach, with Reverse Osmosis being able to reduce the contaminant levels from 550ppm (parts per million) to 20-40ppm.
I use a Berkey system which is a freestanding system that is not plumbed. I have purchased the additional fluoride filters for my system also and everyone always comments how lovely my water tastes. It was an expensive investment, but will last a lifetime (normal filters are only changed every 10 years and flouride filters each year). I am in no way affiliated to this product, I am just sharing this information as I have been so impressed with it. More information can be found about berkey here: berkey-waterfilters.co.uk/