The 21st August 2015 sees the beginning of World Water Week! To highlight the importance of water in relation to our health, we take a look at the importance of staying hydrated, the benefits it can have on our bodies and mind and also how you can ensure that you are drinking enough for optimal health.
The importance of keeping hydrated
Every cell, tissue and organ in our body depends on water to function correctly and keep it in good health. For example, the body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints and eyes. As our bodies are made up of two-thirds water, it is no surprise that it has a big impact on how our body functions inside and out.
We lose water continuously throughout the day as we depend on water to carry out everyday functions. This happens through our skin, urination, breathing and perspiration. The body uses water to flush away toxins; it aids the kidneys in their filtering of our blood, eliminating toxins in the urine. The kidneys filter huge amounts of blood each day and in doing so maintain our bodies’ water balance. This is accentuated in warmer months, during strenuous exercise and in older adults whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.
When you do not drink enough water to equal your output you can become dehydrated. This is where the minerals in our body become out of balance, which affects the ability of our body to function. Early signs of dehydration include thirst, but once we have reached this point we have already lost a significant amount of water. Further symptoms can include dizziness, confusion and weakness, so it is important not to ignore the need to drink when the sensation arises.
Benefits to body, skin and hair
Water is not only important for maintaining a healthy body; it also plays an important role in keeping our skin and hair healthy. Drinking water during exercise allows the cells in our muscles to maintain their balance of fluids. Cells that do not have an adequate supply of water can affect the muscles performance and can result in muscle fatigue. It is recommended that one to two hours before exercise, we should aim to drink at least 500ml, so that the fluid has enough time to be absorbed into the body. During exercise, it is best to drink at regular intervals to avoid hydration levels dropping too low. After a work out it is important to replenish water levels that have been depleted during heavy perspiration. It will also help the muscles to recover.
In addition to physical health, water can help boost our mental health and ability to concentrate. The brain is made up of approximately 85% water; even mild dehydration can impair our capabilities when dealing with mental tasks and concentration. As the brain does not have a way to store water, it is important to ensure our fluid intake is regular for optimal brain function.
Water can also help to keep the skin looking healthy. There are certain toxins in the body that can cause the skin to inflame, which can result in acne and clogged pores. Water can help flush out these toxins, reducing the risk of breakouts. There are also a variety of structures in the skin that require water to work, including the production of collagen. When skin is properly hydrated it can look more radiant and plump meaning pores and wrinkles are less visible.
Our hair is made up of almost one-quarter water and an adequate water intake can help to support vitamin absorption, which assists in efficient and healthy hair growth. Lack of moisture can also result in dry and brittle hair. The roots of our hair is the way by which water is transported from the body, soaking up the water and providing hydration to the rest of the hair strand. This helps to reduce breakage, resulting in shiny and supple hair.
How to ensure you are drinking enough
Drinking enough water can be hard! We can forget to keep ourselves hydrated or sometimes we just don't feel thirsty. It can also be confusing to know how much we should be drinking.
It is suggested that, in general, we should try to drink between 1.5 and 2 litres of water a day to replenish the water we lose during our daily routines and bodily functions. If you think you should be drinking more water, here are a few tips to increase your intake and make sure you are drinking enough:
· Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere or keep them in places such as your car, desk or in your bag so that there is always one to hand. Simply seeing the bottle will remind you to drink
· Have a drink with every meal; it may help create a habit of reaching for the water without realising it
· Eating more fruits and vegetables can help increase fluid intake by up to 20%, due to their high water content. These could include cucumber, celery, watermelon, tomatoes, and spinach.
· To keep track of exactly how much you are consuming throughout the day, it can be helpful to place markers on a bottle with a goal to finish that section by a certain time
Increasing your fluid intake may prove a challenge to begin with, but once you have made it part of your daily routine, you will reap the benefits of water – your skin will thank you!