Water! H20! Eau! Agua! Wota!
After many years of hearing it, most of us do seem to have a good idea of how much water we should be drinking each day. Just in case you missed it; it is between 2.2 and 3 litres for most adults, depending on their size and activity level. A small amount of this water (10-20%) will come from the water content of the food we eat, but we need to drink the rest.
Drinking water and staying hydrated are important, because –
We are 72% water; we use it in all our cells and organs.
It helps lubricate joints and provides protection to sensitive tissues.
Water helps regulate body temperature (important during summer in Vanuatu).
It supports and promotes a healthy digestive system. People that do not drink enough water are more likely to be constipated due to lack of water in the digestive tract.
Lack of water can cause headaches, tiredness and fatigue.
Being well hydrated leads to better cognition and clearer thinking.
When we are dehydrated our blood becomes thicker and the heart muscle must work harder to pump the blood through the circulatory system. This puts unnecessary strain on the heart and other organs.
Dehydration makes us gain weight! - It slows down the metabolism, and - Often when we are thirsty we eat food rather than drink water. This happens because the thirst mechanism is weak and often mistaken for hunger.
When I ask my clients how much water they are drinking they usually respond with ‘I know I should be drinking more water’. So, at least some of us have difficulty managing to drink the magic 2.2 – 3 litres a day. Following are some ways of increasing water consumption that have worked for my clients, perhaps it will work for you.
Don’t like the taste of water? Try adding lemon/lime, mint or ginger, or other fresh herbs. A friend of mine stirs the pulp of a passionfruit into a jug of water and keeps it in the fridge; she says that the family love it.
Drink it the way you like it – cold or room temperature; or as a cup of herbal tea.
Prefer to drink other beverages? Drink a glass of water before every other drink you have. EG drink a glass before your coffee, wine, coke etc. Work towards replacing every second drink with a glass of water.
Can’t fit it into your day? Set your phone to give you an alarm every hour. Stop what you are doing, and have a stretch and drink a glass of water. There are also handy apps you can install on your phone that will track how much you drink and remind you.
Always on the run? Take a bottle with you in the car/bus. I have one client that agreed to drink the equivalent of one glass of water every time she got into her car to drive somewhere, it worked!
Drink one glass of water on waking and another before bed, make it part of your routine.
Water, in fact all beverages, are best consumed away from meals. This is because too much fluid in the stomach during meals dilutes the gastric acid, which works to break down food particles. The digestive process then becomes longer and less effective as acid levels are too weak to work efficiently. Poor digestion can lead to indigestion and reflux; it can also lead to a range of serious gut health problems including stomach ulcers, leaky gut and IBS.
To avoid this, stop drinking approximately 30 minutes before meals and resume 1 ½ hours after meals. This will help promote good digestion. Small amounts of water, up to 100ml, will not cause too much of a problem if sipped during this period.
‘Water’ includes tap, stream and bottled water. However, it is important only to drink clean water. If there is ever an issue about the quality of the water you are drinking then heat the water to a rolling boil and allow it to cool prior to drinking. According to the World Health Organisation (2015) this is sufficient to inactivate any pathogenic bacteria, viruses or protozoa present in the water.
Tap water is often contains fluoride and may contain other contaminants, including chlorine. I recommend using a water filter, or water purifier. At the very least, fill a jug and let the water sit for an hour of two prior to drinking; this will evaporate or settle the contaminants.
Sometimes I get asked if ‘water’ includes soda water, mineral water, coconut water etc. The short answer is yes. However I ask people to restrict these ‘other waters’ to two glasses a day. Some of them are high in minerals that may place stress on the kidneys; therefore it is best to stick to plain water most of the time. I am also happy to include herbal tea in my definition of water.
I don’t consider any other drinks to be water; flavoured water (bottled, rather than homemade) does not qualify, nor does fruit juice. Other beverages including fizzy drinks, milk drinks, coffee, tea and alcohol also do not qualify and most of them even dehydrate the body. If you do consume one of these beverages it is best to have it with a glass of water.
Adding a small pinch of salt to a glass of water will increase the speed and percentage of water able to be taken up and used by the body. This is particularly useful in cases of dehydration, after exercise or during illness.