Drinking water, dehydration
Most people are dehydrated
Dehydration is when your body contains less water than it needs. It sounds incredible, but most people are dehydrated and they do not even know it. Dehydration is not the same thing as feeling thirsty.
Humans are water-based animals that need constant and sufficient water. You need an ongoing supply of water to flush away toxic wastes, for your digestive system to work, to prevent your body salts from getting too concentrated and to maintain your blood volume. Water is vital for the functioning of your electrical, energy, digestive and immune systems. It is essential for the storage of energy, the functioning of all organs, muscles, bones, nerves, and the transport of substances throughout the body and across cell membranes. You need a constant supply of water for a well-hydrated and healthy looking skin. Every aspect of a healthy body requires sufficient water.
Your sense of thirst is often a poor guide to when you are actually thirsty, and it gets worse as you age. Part of the ageing process is the drying of our cells - the ratio of the water content between the inside and the outside of the cell membrane decreases over the years. If you can maintain this internal water content, you will age less quickly.
Remember, when you feel thirsty, your fluid levels are already too low. Many old people do not realise that they are severely dehydrated. Numerous studies of nursing homes have shown that most inmates are in a constant state of dehydration, and one of the most effective means of improving their health and vitality is to ensure they drink sufficient water.
Symptoms of dehydration
- Dark yellow / orange / brown urine.
- Urine sometimes, but not always, has a stronger smell.
- Feeling tired, disoriented and grumpy.
- Finding it hard to concentrate.
- Low energy levels.
- Unexplained pains.
An important sign of dehydration is the colour of your urine. Light yellow or straw-coloured urine is normal. Darker yellow, orange or even brown urine is a sign of dehydration. If your urine has little colour and is almost like water, then you are probably drinking too much water.
How much water to drink?
Tea, coffee, sweet supermarket juices, colas and especially alcohol are dehydrating. The net effect of drinking them is less than or even negative for your body's water needs.
You may be surprised to find how little water you drink. I challenge you to fill a litre (quart) bottle with water and note how long it takes you to drink it. You need a bottle that size every day, including winter. In summer, with heavy exercise, or with heavy sweating, you can at least double it. When you are giving your body a real workout, you can lose well over a litre of water an hour, through the moisture in your out-breath and your sweat.
I suggest that you drink a 200-250 ml glass of warm water on rising each morning, and wait at least half an hour before having breakfast. Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before other meals, or between meals.
A sick person should drink even more water. Sometimes there will be a remarkably quick recovery from an illness - within minutes or hours. The damage caused by dehydration over months or years will usually take a longer period of time to cure, because full re-hydration of the body at the cellular level is a slow process.
Warning - too much water
Many people drink too much water, a particularly bad practice with soft or mineral-deficient water (such as reverse osmosis or distilled water). It may leach valuable minerals from your body, and puts a strain on your kidneys. If your urine has no colour and looks almost like water, then you are probably drinking too much.
Before increasing your water intake, it is important to ensure that your kidneys can process it. As you drink more water, your urine output should match it rather than retaining water in your body (indicated by increased weight or swelling in the legs or ankles). This is especially important if you are ill, when you should consult your doctor.