Water and Your Health
At an individual level, water is an important part of our daily lives and without it, we could not survive
Approximately 70% of the surface of the earth is covered in water (H2O). Water in many ways symbolizes life and remains the holy grail of space exploration. If you find water, you will find life. Thus far, we have been unable to definitively find evidence of a planet like ours having water and sustaining life.
At an individual level, water is an important part of our daily lives and without it, we could not survive. Water is a major component of our body organs and fluids, helping with temperature regulation and excretion of waste. Almost 2/3 of the human body is comprised of water. In fact, it is estimated that without any water, a person would only be able to survive for three to four days (7-10 days in some exceptional circumstances).
We are constantly losing water through the process of dehydration. This is enhanced if we live in hot climates, exercise, or unwell with a fever. In addition, we lose water from passing urine. This can be a particular problem with having chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart failure (water loss due to medications). Beverages can be a major culprit for water loss with caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, soft drinks) causing you to urinate more often and thereby pass more water than you have consumed.
Alcohol in all its forms will suppress the secretion of a hormone called vasopressin (anti-diuretic hormone). Vasopressin is secreted by the posterior pituitary gland, situated at the base of our brain. It plays a major role in the regulation of water excretion and is usually released when our urine becomes more concentrated (darker) to help retain water. Alcohol suppresses this protective response and causes the reverse to happen, with less water retained and more urine produced. If you consume alcohol, you will end up passing more volume of fluid than you consume and be at risk of dehydration. This is a particular issue if combined with the other risk factors already mentioned (exercise or hot weather).
Most people are unaware of how much water the human body needs on a daily basis to stay hydrated. The amount of water you require will depend on several factors including gender, age, body size, physical activity, pregnancy and chronic conditions. In general, an average adult female will need about 8 cups per day (2.1L) and an average adult male 10 cups per day (2.6L). If you are working outdoors or engaging in physical activity, you should add more water to this amount. A useful formula to calculate approximately how much water you need to drink per day = weight (kgs)/30. For example, an adult weighing 60kgs would need approximately 2L per day. Remember that you will obtain some water in the food you eat and the body itself makes water through metabolism (the process of oxidation). However, most of us are in a state of mild dehydration and not drinking sufficient water.
Common symptoms of dehydration may include, dry mouth, thirst, hunger, less frequent urination and fatigue. In more severe dehydration, people may experience dizziness or confusion.
How can you tell if you are well hydrated? The simplest method is to look at the colour of your urine. The darker the colour, the more concentrated it is and less hydrated you are. Ideally, your urine should be light yellow, almost like water. Preventing dehydration is easy. Drink water regularly throughout the day, eats foods rich in water like cucumbers, oranges, berries, melons and avoid beverages containing caffeine or alcohol. If you have a chronic condition such as heart failure or are taking anti-inflammatory medication, please check with your doctor as to the appropriate water intake for you.
It is possible to drink too much water, so be sensible with your water intake. Sticking to the recommended daily intake and adding a bit extra to cover physical activity, lactation or hot weather will keep you well hydrated. Make water your favourite drink!
Nutrient reference values for Australia and NZ. https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/water
Gupta, S. This Formula Will Help You Figure Out How Much Water You Need To Drink Every Day.
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