We see many food and fitness trends surface and dip, that we can often forget about our most important and vital lifeline – water. With so much information available, our understanding of our basic needs can become misunderstood. We need water to live, but how much do we need and what are the benefits?
We ask nutritional therapist, Amanda Morris, to shed some light on the importance of staying hydrated.
What do you advise in terms of how much water we should drink each day?
“In terms of water consumption, I advise around two litres a day. But the most important advice is to listen to your body by monitoring the colour of your urine. Dark urine indicates your kidneys conserving water for a dehydrated body, so keep a check on your wee! You are aiming for a pale yellow colour.
On the other hand, you can’t always trust your thirst reflex. One study showed than in elderly men, the sensation of being thirsty diminished after 24 hours of water deprivation. Required levels of water fluctuate daily, are different for everyone and vary according to multiple variables, like diet, age, climate and activity levels.”
We hear the benefits of water everywhere – better skin, detoxifying… Are these true? Are there any other ‘benefits’?
“There are many benefits – in the extreme, without it we simply couldn’t survive. It is our body’s solvent. It carries waste, nutrients and other components around our body. It’s importance cannot be understated.
We use water to transport waste from our body, consequently, it has an impact on detoxification. Increased water intake after dehydration can improve skin hydration, and a lack of water can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, each with their own negative health implications.
Good hydration is associated with less urinary tract infections, hypertension and fatal coronary heart disease. Hydration has been shown to enhance performance in terms of exercise and mental health – in fact, one study in women showed pronounced effects on mood during dehydration.
Water helps our bowel produce regular movements. During dehydration, the bowel can become constipated and if this continues long term, it can impact almost every aspect of health. This could be digestion, detoxification, hormonal balance and the proper functioning of the immune system.”
For those of us who don’t drink enough water, what are your tips to encourage drinking more?
“A good way to ensure adequate intake of water is to buy a good quality 1 litre reusable bottle and drink one full bottle before lunch and one after (spread throughout the day). Alternatively, if you are at home, simply keep a glass out and refill it – leaving the glass out reminds you to drink periodically.”
Can we drink too much water, or do you believe the recent news stories to be exaggerating and potentially putting people off?
“It is possible to drink too much water and can result in a condition called hyponatremia, which can be fatal. To avoid this, use the above tips to help spread your water intake throughout the day and remember to listen to your body!
Some complain of excessive urination if they drink more water. If this happens and you are not drinking excessively, you may need to investigate this further with the guidance of a nutrition professional. This could be related to low cortisol levels, which can affect the hormonal control of fluid and salt balance in your body, causing you to urinate more. Excessive urination can also be caused by blood sugar issues, so be sure to check with your doctor if you experience this.
As with anything in nutrition and nutritional therapy, water intake is a very individual issue, affected by multiple factors. What might be right for somebody else, may not be right for you.”