Since it is summer, I thought that talking about hydration was a good article to start the year. I mean, usually, it’s hotter, drier weather. Even though we have been getting what seems like more rain than sunshine this summer, the weather is still warm, which means you will still be sweating, so need to stay hydrated.
Why is staying hydrated so important? The human body is about 50-80% water. Water not only fills the spaces within and between all our cells, it also plays a vital role in many bodily functions, such as:
• the digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients
• removing waste products through urination, perspiration and bowel movements
• temperature regulation
• joint lubrication and tissue cushioning.
Maintaining water balance is essential for survival. You can go without for food for about a month, but without water you’ll only last a few days. For this reason, your body has a fancy mechanism for regulating when and how much you need to drink – thirst. When your total water content gets below a certain level, your thirst kicks in and, for most people, it is very reliable. However, in older age your thirst signal decreases and some medications may affect thirst, so you need to use other tools to check if you are drinking enough.
A couple of simple ways to check that you are adequately hydrated is noting whether you are going to the toilet regularly and when you do go, what colour your urine is.
• pale yellow = hydrated
• dark yellow = dehydrated
• looks like water = over-hydrated
You are constantly losing water from your body, in your pee, poo and sweat. To prevent dehydration (and constipation), you need adequate amounts of fluid. But what exactly is “adequate amounts?”
You’ve probably heard that you need to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. However, as with many things, there is no simple, single formula to suit everyone. What this advice doesn’t quite explain is that it doesn’t have to be water, and it also doesn’t have to be only from drinks. Many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain fluid that count towards that volume. Also, as with most things, the amount also depends on you as an individual. The amount of fluid needed varies according to your age, body size, the climate and how active you are, and also if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you want to keep things simple, then these three guidelines will apply to most people:
- When you’re thirsty, drink something.
- When you’re not thirsty any more, stop.
- Increase your fluid intake if you’re exercising or living in a hotter region.
And remember, other beverages including tea and coffee, can contribute to fluid balance, and most foods also contain water. So if you don’t have any water to hand, you can easily find something else to quench your thirst.