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Alarm rings and I wake up and scratch my face and hello! That feels like a spot! Oh no and I’ve got a day in public ahead! An immediate trip to the bathroom mirror reveals a red patch and a deep-seated, angry seed of humiliation and pain, conveniently and deliberately positioned on my chin. Rather than shy away from its prevailing obviousness…I embrace it. I need to know what causes these buried poisonous mines…
Why? Why? I ask of literally everyone. Everything from being run down, times of lunar activity and pollution is blamed. Water seems an issue. Hmmm…I’ve not had as much as I should, I guess, recently, I mean, I have been rather busy and I’ve…hold on a minute! ‘As much as I should…’?!?! What does that even mean?!? So with my Miss Marple beret on, I begin to try to find out…
And this is what I discovered…
I clearly know nothing about the necessary human consumption of water! Nothing I tell you! Everything I thought I knew is now rocked with uncertainty. So I’m going outline it all to you and see if between us we can make some sense of it and find a path through it all? Because, all we want is a definitive instruction to follow. A rule. Right?! At least a set of parameters for Neptune’s sake!! That’s not too much to ask, is it?!? Jeez…
Ok, so TOP FACT is – eight glasses of water a day, right?
Er…well, no. (After all, what size glass? Do you know?) And then it turns out that not everyone needs that much water – you get some of the water you need from food; climate effects the amount you need, as does your weight and the exercise you do (or don’t do!) etc. etc…eh?!?
Crikey. Right, basic anatomy is that we are about 60-70% water. Blood is mostly water, and your muscles, lungs, and brain all contain a lot of water. You need water to regulate body temperature and to provide the means for nutrients to travel to your organs and tissues. Water also transports oxygen to your cells, removes toxins and waste, and protects your joints and organs.
We lose water when we sweat, when we breathe and in body waste. Diuretics like caffeine and alcohol also contribute. It’s estimated that an adult loses up to 4-5 pints of water per day normally! An athlete can lose up to 3 pints of water in just one hour of continuous activity. Dunno if this applies to swimmers though? I’ll pop Becky Adlington a note through. Because if it is true then another reason to avoid public swimming pools…anyway I digress…
Our bodies can survive without some nutrients for months, but we can only live for 3 – 5 days (extreme estimates go as far as 10 days) without water. Inadequate fluid intake leads obviously to dehydration which in turn leads to lots of noticeable bad things like constipation, tiredness, dry skin, bad breath and headaches. The real damage comes from ongoing dehydration or chronic dehydration which has been linked to kidney damage, blood pressure issues, joint pain, digestive disorders and high cholesterol. Recently links have been suggested between chronic dehydration in the elderly and the on-set of brain diseases like dementia. Water is vital in nearly every function of your body – so make sure you are getting enough!
So look out for signs of dehydration, please. The best being the colour of your wee! Before you flush have a gander. If it’s anything darker than a pale yellow then it’s a sign you could do with some water. Although some medication causes changes in colour and smell and, of course, Vitamin B2 Riboflavin gives you an alarming radioactive looking wee! (I aim to have one crystal clear wee every day! I’m SO rock and roll…)
Learn to read your body because pains in joints and muscles, lower back pain, headaches and constipation, along with strong odour (uff!) and colour to your wee are all possible indications that you may not be getting enough water.
But let’s get real here too…thirst itself is an obvious sign of dehydration! You may well say, ‘well obvs‘, but bear in mind the fact that you need water long before you feel thirsty. Couple this to the fact that the body does not distinguish between hunger and thirst messages (it’s very cavalier in this way) so when you feel hungry you might just be very thirsty.
Right, OK, now we are getting somewhere. We know facts. We know figures. We know things about our bodies…so we should now know how much water to drink every day. Right?
Recent studies have revealed that, ‘there is no set requirement of water per day and as every individual has different water consumption requirements it is difficult to apply a general rule. You should drink when you are thirsty.’ (Hoorah we worked that out too! That means we are clever like ‘experts’…)
Some of these cuddly experts believe you can estimate the amount of water you need by taking your weight in POUNDS and dividing that number in half. That gives you the number of FLUID OUNCES you may want to drink each day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you might want to drink at least 80 ounces of water or other fluids per day. And the ubiquitous eight glasses theory? Well, experts (again…but not so cuddly, more frown-y) say that you should drink at least eight glasses of water every day. They go on to explain that a ‘glass of water’ is about half a pint or about 285 mls – so that would mean around 2 – 2.5 litres a day. This estimate, however, assumes that your environment is normally cool, you are about 150 pounds (about 68 kilograms or just over ten and a half stone in old money), and exercise in some form, about 20 minutes a day…AND btw men and women need different amounts…! See? That’s not a cuddly, embraceable fact. That’s a generalised, useless statistical fact…
We are also warned (by the frown-y ones again) to keep in mind that at least twenty percent of the water you need comes from the foods you eat (fruit and veg mainly – don’t think Dairy Milk counts…sadly. I’ll check though…) The rest comes from what you drink.
Water is probably the best choice because it’s cheap (ish) and has no calories or added ingredients. BUT (you knew there’d be a but didn’t you?) tap water comes under a lot of flack from health type experts because it can potentially contain lots of things we don’t really want to be guzzling back. Chlorine kills any bugs in the water making UK water some of the safest in the world but is also criticised for it’s subsequent killing off of the friendly bacteria in our digestive tracts! So, if we don’t have your house fitted with a reverse osmosis or some such filtration system then are we ruining our gut microbiota?
Many turn to bottled water. That’s an understatement! It’s currently the world’s best selling soft drink! BUT (ditto with the but thing) bottled water has many critics. For a start it is about 500 times more expensive than tap water and is currently more expensive to buy than milk! How can this have happened?!? Especially when, as a conservative estimate, 30% of bottled water is simply repackaged tap water. Plastic bottles are super environmentally bad (not just the recycling nightmare but the transportation etc.) and are thought to leach toxins into their contents.
Sweetened soft drinks and sodas have added sugar that adds extra calories. Sports drinks contain minerals that may help keep your electrolytes in balance, but look out for added sugar and calories that you may not want. Fruit and vegetable juices are good because they have vitamins and minerals – read the labels, however, as vegetable juices may be high in sodium.
(If you have any kidney or adrenal problems, or your doctor has you taking diuretics, you need to consult with your doctor about how much water to drink each day, obviously.)
There is a huge question mark over caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee, whether they count. Too much caffeine can make you feel jittery and it is a diuretic, so, I think it shouldn’t. Same with those ‘carbonated soft drinks’ which are bad and wrong anyway…! There is some dissent in the ranks regarding fizzy water too, so I think exercise a level of common sense? After all, carbonated water is better than dehydration but plain, fresh and clean water is still tops. Our watery experts say that our piped, fresh, clean water to our homes is some of the purest and healthiest in the world. (I’d love to get into a mass…er…huge debate about bottled water vs tap but I’ll save that for part two!)
AND experts (nutrition-y ones with glasses, I think…) say don’t drink the water you need per day all at once. Divide the amount you need and drink several glasses of water throughout the day. This is especially important if you engage in lots of heavy exercise. Avoid drinking too much liquid with food and slow down the rush of water through your system by adding a few dashed of lemon or fruit juice!
I keep a bottle of water (plastic and refilled from the tap) by me at all times and just have a swig from it every time it catches my eye!
So…hmmm…is it true that all we need to do to be hydrated, have glowing skin, and an round regular constitution is to listen to your body (it knows what it is doing so trust it!) and make firm friends with water, use common sense and sip, sip, sip?!? I’m still not certain (and I’m no expert…) but it’s a good place to start. AND as I always say…why risk it?