As we sweat it out profusely during this steaming, hot weather, it is important that we drink enough water each day. Staying well hydrated is a major part of our wellbeing, and it is important for all of us at all ages. This article is a reminder to drink enough, and also on how to recognise the risks and signs of dehydration and how to prevent such state.
Water – essential for life
Fluid or water is fundamental for life. Although we humans can survive for several weeks without food, we cannot normally go without fluids (water) for more than a few days. (British Nutrition Foundation, 2014). The average human adult body comprises of about 65 percent water. Adult women on average have a lower percentage of body water or fluids than adult males— this is because women have less muscle mass and more fat mass than men. Babies’ bodies contain about 75% water. (National Hydration Council, 2016). As Christians, if you are observing a fast during the hot weather, it is important to be very wise about abstaining from fluid. The fasting should serve to edify and not to damage your body – please consider regular sips of water during your fast.
Water- daily requirements
There is a wealth of information in the public domain with various recommendations, and these can be a little confusing. Generally, it’s good practice to aim for no less than 8 x 200ml glasses/cups of water daily. If you have the habit of not drinking enough water you can try adding a slice of lemon or lime, strawberries, cucumbers, or a few fresh mint leaves. Sugar-free squash or low sugar cordials are also helpful to add taste if you prefer this.
Choosing food and drinks
Despite much misinformation, tea and coffee do actually count as part of your daily fluid quota. Do remember though that excess caffeine can be a bladder irritant that causes frequent urination in many cases. Excess caffeine can be avoided by trying ‘caffeine free’ beverages such as herbal teas. It is best to avoid very sugary drinks, as these can provide excess calories and often do not quench thirst as they may seem.
Alcohol is known to have a dehydrating effect and does not count as part of your fluid quota. Most fruits contain a high percentage of water. Melons, oranges and grapefruit contains about 80 – 90% water. Celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, and lettuce provides a nutrient-rich water source. (NHS choices, 2015)
Thirst and Dehydration
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in. This is a state of imbalance. Dehydration can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much of your body weight is lost through fluids.
Two early signs of dehydration are thirst and dark-coloured urine. This is the body’s way of responding in trying to get us to increase water intake and decrease water loss.
Other symptoms may include:
• Dizziness or light-headedness
• Confusion or irritability
• Dry mouth, lips and eyes
• Passing small amounts of urine infrequently (less than three or four times a day)
Dehydration can also lead to a loss of strength and stamina. Long term dehydration can affect kidney functions and cause muscle damage and probably constipation.(NHS choices, 2015).
We may often misinterpret thirst for hunger, but this can be avoided by drinking water consistently throughout the day – basically not waiting to be thirsty. It’s important to note that the sensation of thirst is not always as sensitive in the elderly, therefore they should be closely monitored.
Checking your urine
A quick easy guide to gauging how hydrated you are, is to check your wee! If your urine is dark coloured, it is likely you are not drinking enough water or ingesting fluids. A yellowy, straw coloured urine is often a good sign that you are drinking good amounts.
Paying attention to fluid balance can help us to live healthier and more fulfilled life. Remember your body is a gift, so keep it well hydrated, particularly during the hot weather. Don’t forget to seek advice from your health care professional if you feel any need or concerned about any aspect of your health.
British Nutrition Foundation (2014)
NHS choices website (2015)
National Hydration Council (2016)
For more information, contact: Shola Oladipo