Many people know that drinking enough water is part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But what does water really mean for our wellbeing?
The short answer is, it’s crucial. While data recorded during hunger strikes show that some people can live for up to two months without food, we can only survive for a few days without water. According to the Drinking Water Research Foundation, the reason for this is that H20 serves an array of vital functions within the body, including regulating body temperature, dissolving vitamins and minerals so that they can be easily absorbed, carrying oxygen to the cells, and lightening the load of the kidneys and liver by helping to flush out waste products. Yet research shows that many people live in a state of dehydration much of the time.
A 2004 study by the National Academy of Science (NAS) in the US found that, on average, men need to drink roughly three litres of water a day to stay well hydrated, while women require just over two litres. In extremely hot weather, or if you exercise a lot, you’ll need to drink even greater quantities. If you’re consuming less than you should, or you notice you often feel thirsty, here are a few suggestions to up your H20 intake:
Keep a glass of water by your bed at night – that way, if you wake up thirsty, you’ll be easily able to reach for it rather than simply ignoring the feeling and going back to sleep.
Spice up your water – add sliced ginger root, mint, lemon or thyme to give it extra flavour and aroma. Not only does this make it more tempting to drink, but many herbs and spices have health properties of their own.
Use a straw – it makes drinking large amounts of water seem more manageable. Have a glass of water first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to bed.
Choose water as an alternative to tea, coffee or fizzy drinks – it’s affordable, devoid of calories, and doesn’t contain the caffeine that is in tea and coffee. Alternatively, substitute herbal teas instead.
Keep a bottle of water with you at all times so you always have easy access to it. Make sure it’s a glass or stainless steel bottle – some studies suggest that reusing plastic bottles may pose a health hazard to humans, although further research is still warranted to establish whether this is true. But while the jury is still out on this topic, rather be safe than sorry.
Now that you have an arsenal of ideas for upping your water intake, there’s one note of caution – beware of going to the extreme and drinking too much water. While dehydration can be unhealthy – even deadly – drinking vast quantities of water has been associated with another dangerous condition known as exercise-associated hyponatraemia (EAH), or water intoxication. EAH causes a low blood sodium concentration and causes swelling of the brain, resulting in confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness. So stay aware of how much – as well as how little – water you drink at all times.