It is important for our health and wellbeing that we are well hydrated. Our body is made up of 60% water and needs water in order to function well.
What are the benefits of drinking regularly?
- It keeps you alert and gives you more energy.
- Helps to flush out your liver and kidneys, getting rid of toxins.
- Helps to improve digestive health.
- Your skin looks better.
- You feel less hungry and are less likely to snack.
What causes dehydration?
- Not consuming enough fluid
- Sweating. Exercise, high temperatures and fever can cause excess water to be lost.
- Vomiting. Water is not staying in the body long enough to be absorbed.
- Diarrhoea. Water is not being absorbed in the digestive tract and is being lost from the body.
- Some medications.
Urinary incontinence is another factor. This can be a menopause symptom and if you suffer from this you may be less likely to drink fluids. If this is a problem, then it is advisable to cut down on alcohol and caffeine. Sipping liquids little and often, makes it less likely that you will have a sudden urge to go to the toilet.
Who is most likely to suffer from dehydration?
Elderly – your sense of thirst weakens as you get older.
Dementia sufferers – they are 6 x more likely to suffer from dehydration.
People suffering from diseases such as diabetes.
What are some of the symptoms of dehydration?
- Dry mouth
- Feeling tired or thirsty
- Dark urine
- Muscle cramps
- Dry skin
Symptoms of severe dehydration
- Extreme thirst
- Little or no urination
If you experience any of these symptoms, then you must seek medical attention.
Long term dehydration may cause constipation, urinary tract infections and high blood pressure.
If you rarely feel thirsty, then it is important to monitor how much you drink. Have a drink, even when you don’t feel thirsty.
Hydration and Exercise
You lose fluid in your breath and sweat when you exercise. Everyone is different but the amount of fluid you lose is dependent on:
- The amount of exercise you do
- For how long
- The ambient temperature
- Your body size
- Your level of fitness
The European Food Standards Agency recommend that women drink 2 litres of water a day and men 2.5litres (EFSA, 2010) but you should adjust your intake accordingly.
During exercise drink according to how thirsty you feel and this will prevent you from drinking too much or too little. You will know that you are drinking too much if you weigh yourself before and after training and have gained weight. Water is a suitable method of hydration if you are doing a moderate amount of exercise for up to an hour. A suitable alternative may be necessary for longer or more intense periods of exercise.
Make sure that you are well hydrated after exercising. Some of the symptoms of dehydration are:
- Feeling too hot
- Suffering from fatigue or sluggishness
- Lack of appetite
- Dark coloured urine. You should aim for light straw coloured urine.
Alcohol is not suitable for rehydration. Drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week is not recommended. When taken in excess it can cause hangovers which include symptoms such as nausea, thirst and headaches which are partly caused by dehydration.
Water is the best source of hydration. If you don’t like water, what can you drink instead?
- If you enjoy drinking tea or coffee, try some decaffeinated varieties.
- Add slices of fresh lemon, lime or ginger to iced water.
- Try carbonated water.
- A glass of semi-skimmed milk.
- Herbal teas.
- Dilute fresh fruit juice with water.
Watch out for sugary drinks. They can lead to weight gain and tooth decay.
Additional Sources of hydration
Vegetable smoothies, soups and stews. These are useful if you struggle to drink the recommended amount. It is important to still have whole foods such as fruit, nuts, whole grains and vegetables in your diet. Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables will also improve your hydration status. They include electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium which are involved in balancing body fluids and helping to prevent dehydration. An added bonus is that they help to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Hydrating foods include:
- Bell peppers
For any health concerns, please contact your GP.
If you would like further advice on hydration and how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, please feel free to contact me.