It’s winter. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that the weather is turning cooler and we are no longer constantly hot and sweaty. But without the heat encouraging us to drink plenty of fluids, it’s easy to forget, and it doesn’t take long for dehydration to kick in. We take a look at why water is vital for the body, and offer 9 tips to help you stay healthy and hydrated.
Water for Life
Around 70% of the human body is made up of water—it is essential to life. We cannot survive more than a few days without it. Not only is it the medium for most of the chemical reactions happening in your body constantly, it plays a vital role in many of your body’s functions:
- Forms saliva
- Lubricates joints
- Flushes body waste and toxins
- Keeps kidneys healthy
- Helps deliver oxygen throughout the body
- Acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord
- Keeps mucosal membranes (eyes, nose, mouth) moist
- Helps the brain to make hormones and neurotransmitters
- Regulates body temperature
The Dangers of Dehydration
Dehydration happens when your body does not receive enough water. One of the first signs of this is a feeling of thirst. But by the time you are thirsty, you’ve already lost between 1-2% body water, enough to increase your body temperature and impair your concentration. What’s more, your brain can override the feeling of thirst, which means you may be dehydrated even though you don’t feel thirsty.
Not drinking enough is dangerous – even mild dehydration can lead to an increased risk of renal stones, lethargy, mental confusion, headaches and constipation.
Are you dehydrated? Take a look at these common signs to see if you need to drink more water:
- Headaches and migraines
- Feeling lightheaded or confused
- Not passing urine
- Passing dark urine
- Dry skin that sags slowly back into position when pinched
- Lack of energy
- Dry skin, mouth, lips, eyes
How Much Water?
The amount of water you need each day varies depending on your body weight (you need more water if you’re heavier), level of activity (you need more water if you are very physically active), your environment (you need more water if it’s very hot or humid) and your gender. The general guidelines, according to the Institute of Medicine are:
- For women: 2.2 litres of water a day
- For men: 3 litres of water a day
How does your fluid intake compare to these guidelines?
Tips to stay Healthy and Hydrated
Drinking enough water doesn’t have to be hard, it’s all about having strategies in place to help you remember to drink. Here are 9 tips to make staying hydrated this winter super easy:
- Keep a bottle of filtered water with a squeeze of lime or lemon in your fridge.
- Have a bottle of water handy when you’re at work, watching TV, commuting, walking, exercising etc.
- Drink a large glass of water when you wake up – this is the time when your body needs it most, as it’s had several hours without anything.
- Have hot or warm water with lemon or fresh peppermint, or herbal teas like chamomile, dandelion, nettle, fennel.
- Avoid caffeinated teas and coffee. These are mildly dieratic and can increase your risk of dehydration.
- Make up a jug of water with slices of lemon, ginger or cucumber for a refreshing alternative to plain water.
- If you feel hungry, have a drink or cup of herbal tea first – that hunger may be thirst in disguise.
- Include more fresh fruits and vegetables, like celery, grapefruit, watermelon, cucumber and pomegranate, in your day—these contain water that can count towards your recommended intake.
- Enjoy a delicious bowl of vegetable soup – it’s a great way to both warm up and top up your fluid intake.
Water for Weight Loss
When you are dehydrated, even mildly, your metabolism slows down – this means you may experience lethargy, and weight gain. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2011 found that drinking 500ml of water actually increases metabolic rate by 30% in healthy people. Drinking water before a meal boosts satiety, helping you feel fuller and less likely to snack. What’s more, replacing sugary and caffeinated drinks with water goes a long way to helping you reach your health goals. Good news for those of us looking for simple strategies to help with weight loss!
Hydrate for Health
Summer or winter, whatever the temperature, drinking enough is vital for all of your body’s functions, for your overall wellbeing, and can even help you lose weight. Don’t rely on thirst to let you know when you need to drink – take control of your health and start hydrating!