“Drink more water” is one of the most fundamental guidelines in the pool of health advice splashed around our everyday lives. Water makes up about 60% of our body weight and is more important to life than any other nutrient. Incredibly, we could survive without food for about five weeks, but without adequate water intake, we would dehydrate and literally poison ourselves with our own metabolic wastes and our life would end in around just three days. So, why exactly is adequate water intake and consequent hydration so vital for our wellbeing?
In the body, water becomes the fluid in which all life processes occur including digestion, absorption, circulation, and excretion. Some of the functions of water in the body include;
- It carries nutrients and waste products throughout the body
- It participates in metabolic reactions
- It acts as a lubricant and cushion around joints and inside the eyes, the spinal cord, and, in pregnancy, the amniotic sac surrounding the fetus and womb
- It aids in the regulation of normal body temperature; evaporation of sweat from the skin removes excess heat from the body.
- It maintains blood volume
In everyday terms, what does this translate to? Clear and glowing skin, sparkling eyes, cellulite reduction, regular bowel motions, effective weight management, and an all-around healthy you!
Dehydration develops when too much water is lost from the body and not enough is replaced. One of the first signs of dehydration is thirst, the signal that the body has already lost some of its fluid. Thirst drives us to seek water, but interestingly, it lags behind the body’s needs. To maintain water balance, intake from liquids, foods, and metabolism must equal losses from the kidneys, skin, lungs, and digestive tract. A general guideline is 8 glasses per day, but you should always increase this if you are exercising or perspiring a lot, to keep your body’s water level in balance. The obvious dietary source of water is, well, water and other beverages, but nearly all foods also contain water (most fruits and vegetables contain up to 90% water!)
There are loads of different types of water available in the market, and it can be confusing to understand which is the best for us. There is a concern in some circles over our water supply, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find completely ‘pure’ water. Water from the tap most often has chemicals added, including not only chlorine and fluoride (which are routinely added in most places in NZ), but there can also be a wide range of toxic organic compounds and chemicals such as PCBs, pesticide residues, nitrates, and heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium.
There are different types of water, some better than others and likewise, there are different filtering methods, some better than others. Filtered tap water is an easy go-to for most. UV filtering is a popular option. Pure spring water is seen to be the healthiest and most “pure” source of drinking water, although this is not affordable or easily accessible for many. Not to mention, environmentally, it is not often a sound option as it usually comes packaged in plastic bottles ready for shelf to consumer consumption! As a general guide, stick to 8 glasses of purified/filtered water, remember to hydrate before you’re actually triggered by thirst signals and you can enjoy the copious health benefits that come with healthy hydration!