The wonders of water: Here’s why staying hydrated is important

Woman drinking water. (Photo: Getty Images)
Woman drinking water. (Photo: Getty Images)

Do you often feel tired, light-headed and irritable? These symptoms, along with frequent headaches, dry skin and constipation could be a result of dehydration. The answer to your woes could be as simple as increasing your water intake – or in some cases, an oral rehydration salts solution which restores electrolyte balance and aids in supporting rehydration.

Here’s why we should be drinking enough water daily:

We are mostly water

Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. Every day we lose some of it through sweat, urine and even just breathing. If you don’t regularly replenish what is lost, your body doesn’t have enough water to maintain certain functions and tries to tell you this via messages of thirst, headaches and fatigue.

Water also plays a vital role in keeping adults and children cool on hot days. It assists with brain functioning, carrying oxygen throughout the body and helping to get rid of waste products.

Dehydration over a long period can lead to kidney failure, heat stroke, nervous system damage, heart failure and a compromised immune system.

Joint lubrication

Cartilage found in our joints and the discs in the spine need water to remain lubricated, cushioned and flexible. This synovial fluid is made up of about 80% water and its job is to reduce the friction between joints.

Dehydration can affect its ability to absorb shock, which can lead to joint pain and complications.

Helps digestion

Proper digestion aids in the absorption of minerals and nutrients and the digestive tract needs enough water to work properly.

When there’s not enough water in the system, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration, which can cause constipation. A lack of water can also lead to an overly acidic stomach, heartburn and stomach ulcers.

Prevents kidney damage

A kidney’s job is to regulate fluid in the body and some water is removed in the form of urine. The remainder is recovered by the bloodstream. If the kidneys do not function properly, excess fluid and waste can build up inside the body.

Regulates temperature

You lose the water that is in your body through sweat, especially when it’s hot. Sweat on your skin helps to keep your body cool. When there’s not enough water in your body to create sweat, it affects your body’s natural cooling mechanism.

Keeps headaches at bay

Staying hydrated can help prevent headaches. It has even been found to prevent migraines in some cases as dehydration results in less oxygen flow to the brain and dilated blood vessels.

Keeps skin glowing

Water is needed to keep the largest organ of our body plump. It also helps to maintain the colour and texture of skin by aiding in the building of new cells.

And it helps your skin to maintain moisture, which increases its elasticity.

Helps with weight loss

Several studies have linked increased water consumption to weight loss. One such study from Dr D Y Patil Medical College, Hospital & Research Centre in India found that drinking 1,5 litres of water assisted in appetite suppression and body-fat reduction of overweight participants.

Water also flushes out toxins that cause cellulite and can increase the body’s overall metabolism (fat-burning) rate.

Boosts your brain

Being dehydrated by just 2% can affect your attention and memory, according to researchers at the University of Barcelona’s Faculty of Psychology.

A study, from the University of Connecticut in the US found that when participants were just slightly dehydrated, they had decreased concentration, low mood, higher fatigue and anxiety levels, and headaches.

Are you getting enough?

·         How much water should you drink per day? Cape Town-based lifestyle expert Lisa Raleigh recommends one glass (250 ml) for every 10 kg of body weight.

·         Your body needs more water at certain times. These include when you have a fever, diarrhoea and vomiting – as well as on very hot days, and when you’re sweating/exercising. It’s important to replace the loss of fluids and stay hydrated.

·         When recovering from illness or water loss in the body, give yourself an added boost with extra fluids or an oral rehydration salts (ORS) solution. There are also ready-made products that include an electrolyte solution to help compensate for the loss of water and minerals lost.

·         Want to know if you’re dehydrated? Your urine can tell you. If its pale, you’re hydrated. If it’s a dark yellow, you need more water. 

·         If you struggle to remember to drink water, fill a bottle and keep it with you at all times. You can also set reminders on your phone or create habits such as having a glass or two of water before or after meals. 

·         Some meals contain more water than others, such as soup, as well as foods in which the water content is high. These include cucumber, celery, tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries and grapefruit. 

·         Juice, coffee, tea and some other beverages contain water but not enough to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Coffee and tea also contain caffeine that can result in your body losing water. For every caffeine drink or glass of alcohol you have, drink two to three glasses of water.

·         It’s important to have water after waking up in the morning as your body has gone for about eight hours without it.

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