Hydration: The Forgotten Factor

Feeling lethargic? Getting regular headaches? It could be your body’s way of telling you it needs more water. Dehydration affects the body in so many ways. Dr Libby Weaver talks us through the benefits, to you and your family’s long-term health, of staying properly hydrated.

Water is the basis of all life and that includes your body. The muscles that move your body are 75% water. Your blood, responsible for transporting nutrients throughout your body, is 82% water. Your lungs, that take oxygen from the air to provide your body with oxygen, are 90% water; while your brain is 76% water. Even your bones are 25% water!

When it comes to water, most people believe they need to drink more than they currently do but, without a conscious effort, this never seems to happen. The wonders of water are well-documented, ranging from glowing clear skin and eyes to the prevention of kidney stones. Yet, as with most nutritional information, there is so much conflicting information out there, it makes it difficult for consumers to truly know how much is enough.

the science

Without water, a human will usually only live for a mere three days. So essential is this liquid to our survival, that we need it more than food. Science currently tells us we need 33mL of water for each kilogram of our body weight. A 25kg child therefore requires 825mL of water a day, and a 70kg person requires 2310ml (2.31 litres) a day.

That seems a lot of water to drink but don’t forget that many plant foods have a high water content (almost always over 70%) and this contributes to our overall water consumption throughout the day. Herbals teas and soups also add up.

However, foods and drinks containing caffeine and alcohol draw water out of the body; and naturally, the perspiration and increased breathing rates generated by exercise increase the need for water, but the specific amounts necessary are difficult to determine. Trust your thirst when it comes to this. Thirst is nature’s way of letting you know you need to drink! However, most young children need reminders to drink as they are not yet used to listening to their bodies and can get dehydrated easily, causing headaches, irritability and inability to concentrate in particular.

thirst and hydration

Some people rarely feel thirsty; while for others, their thirst never seems quenched. Some people resist increasing their fluid intake as they tire of frequently running to the loo. Yet for others, increasing their fluid intake makes them feel swollen and uncomfortable. So what’s behind these differences and what can you do about it?

Just because you drink water does not necessarily mean the cells of your body are being hydrated. Imagine every cell of your body ideally looks like a grape. This is the case when your cells are hydrated. A dehydrated state means your cells appear more like a sultana and this can be the result of an inadequate water intake, a lack of minerals or poor adrenal gland function, often due to chronic stress, trauma, excess caffeine or alcohol.

To absorb the water you drink into your cells, you need calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. Some of these minerals make their home inside the cell, while others reside outside the cell wall. These minerals all talk to each other and if one is present in higher concentrations than another or alternatively if one of those minerals is lacking, it can be difficult for water to enter the cell. Physically, when water stays outside the cell, it manifests as a feeling of fluid retention (which for some adults is so noticeable that their clothing will cut into them as the day progresses). You can change this by improving the mineral balance of your diet and taking care of your liver.

One of the best ways to improve your mineral intake is to base your family’s diet on what I have come to call low Human Intervention food – low HI food. Most plant food gets its minerals from the soil in which it is grown, so food that comes from

organic, biodynamic or composted soils tends to be superior in its mineral profile. Green leafy veggies have a broad mineral profile and include calcium, magnesium and potassium. Nuts and seeds are a great addition to any meal or eaten as a snack and they pack a powerful mineral punch. Coconut water, fresh from
a young coconut, is also a wonderful way to amp up the mineral content of your family’s diet and it can also assist with
fluid retention.

minerals

Adults with low blood pressure often feel better with a little less than the required amount of water, as more water can dilute their blood levels of minerals. Increasing your intake of all of the minerals above, can however make a significant difference in that low blood pressure feeling. A pinch of pink (Himalayan crystal rock) salt or Celtic sea salt into your water a few times a day may help in this situation.

It is also possible to drink too much water, and one of the first symptoms that typically presents in this situation is dizziness (note: dizziness is a symptom of many conditions and not always related to consuming too much fluid). Again, this will occur when the concentration of minerals in your blood become too diluted. So it seems, as with most things, moderation is the key.

Your body uses minerals to (among other things) create electrolytes. Often described as the sparks of life, electrolytes carry electrical currents through the body, sending instructions to cells in all body systems. Electrolytes are also necessary for enzyme production, which are responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients, muscle function and hormone production. Dehydration therefore, affects all body systems and functions.

the basis of life

Our health is highly dependent on the quality and quantity of the water we drink. Unintentional chronic dehydration can contribute to pain and inflammation in the body and can even be involved in the development of many degenerative diseases. So, help your child’s body and your own to prevent such ills by increasing water intake on a regular basis. Make drinking enough natural water a habit in your lives. It won’t take long to feel the benefits, and is a wonderful investment in your family’s long-term health.

Tips for drinking water

  • Set up rituals in your day to flag your memory that it is time for you and your child to drink.
  • Try starting your day with a glass of warm water with lemon juice (this is great for digestion and balancing PH levels as well).
  • Aim to drink water separately from meals because water can dilute the power of your stomach acid which is necessary for the optimal digestion of food.

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