Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Importance of Drinking Water

CC courtesy of tim.perdue, Flickr
Seeing as the human body is at least 60% water and we can't survive for more than about 3 days without water it is vital to keep hydrated to avoid death and other complications.

Guidelines state that we should be drinking about 8 glasses (1.5l) of water a day for a normal lifestyle - more if you're active. But what are the benefits for drinking water and not other beverages?

Biological Functions

Water is the medium in which blood and lymph functions happen - carrying nutrients and oxygen, removing toxins, and other cellular activity.

Joints and eyes need lubricant and water pays a critical role in this. Water also holds the enzymes (saliva) that breaks down food at first point of contact. Your organs are also surrounded by water, it helps to protect them from injury. 

The most obvious biological function of water is controlling temperature; when you're hot you sweat, moisture is released onto your skin and evaporates, hence the cooling effect. 

Prevents Dehydration

If you're thirsty or if you urine is dark you are dehydrated. You lose water through urination, respiration, metabolism and sweating. As you become dehydrated you create imbalances with mineral and your cell function diminishes.

Complications of dehydration include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, mental confusion, dry mouth, constipation, increased heart rate, increased respiration (breathing), and even death. If that last complication doesn't make you reach for a glass of water then you should probably take a look at your health priorities. 

Fiber Control

If your diet is high in fiber (which it should be) you are going to need water to move it through your system; if there is a lack of water you will experience constipation. Fiber consists of all the bits of plant food that the body cannot digest and is vital in removing wastes and toxins.

Eliminating Toxins

Toxins are normally removed from the body via the kidneys. The kidneys excrete the harmful compounds through urine, stools, and even sweat: all require water. If the kidneys do not have enough water to function some of these detoxification duties are passed on to the liver. However, when the liver is stressed it cannot metabolize fat as effectively so the fat is just stored in the body - this is not good for weight loss, drink your water people!

Amounts and Alternative Sources

The recommend water intake is 1.5-2l based on an average lifestyle however, these requirements may change if you exercise more, are in a hot environment, are pregnant or breast-feeding, or if you are ill.

There are also other beverages that can contribute to your daily intake of water. These include milk, tea, juice and soda. However, these will often contain caffeine and unnecessary calories and let's face it, THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO WATER. It is one of the healthiest things you can give your body and will make you feel awesome.

I've also found some resources that might be useful for you if you want to do some more research:

Your Body's Many Cries for Water: You're Not Sick; You're Thirsty: Don't Treat Thirst with Medications
The Water Secret: The Cellular Breakthrough to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger
The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition (Complete Guides)

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