One of the goals most people set is to drink more water. I would like to share a little bit more about this very valuable substance. It is so valuable that Leonardo da Vinci proclaimed - "Water is the driving force of all nature."
What is so special about water and health?
Did you know that throughout all of our lifetime we exist mostly as water? When we are born we 80 – 90 % water, as children about 75% water and by the time we reach adulthood we are at about 60 -70% water.
If you realize this and start to look at the body from this perspective, you will begin to see things and especially water in a whole new way.
I, therefore, believe that ensuring that the water in our bodies is maintained in the right amount will definitely bring the greatest rewards to our health and wellbeing.
While we all know that water is important, there are some benefits that you may not have known or thought about.
Water is the main lubricant in the joint spaces and helps prevent arthritis and back pain.
Water increases the efficiency of the immune system.
Water prevents clogging of arteries in the heart and brain and thus helps reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Water is directly connected to brain function—it is needed for the efficient manufacture of neurotransmitters and it is needed for the production of hormones made by the brain, such as the sleep hormone melatonin
Water helps prevent memory loss as we age
Water affects our appearance, making our skin smoother and giving it a richer tone.
Water also helps reduce the effects of ageing
What about the effects of not getting enough water?
Sometimes the body can experience a shortage in the amount of water it requires. When this happens, its functioning will be compromised. Initially, it will try and adjust to this shortage by going into some kind of rationing mode. But if the shortage continues it starts to become dehydrated.
Some of the problems linked to not getting enough water include;
Pain. Feeling pain usually signifies that local chemical changes in the area around the nerves that monitor the acid/alkali (pH) balance. When water is not available to wash the acidic toxic waste of metabolism, the nerve endings sense the change and report it to the brain’s pain centres. So many of the symptoms of pain are really linked to dehydration including; Heartburn,back and neck pain, headaches, arthritis and joint pain
Asthma and Allergies
Digestion problems - Without adequate water, the whole digestive system goes into emergency mode, and you may get heartburn, indigestion, constipation, haemorrhoids, and even ulcers.
Hypertension (High blood pressure) - When the body is mildly dehydrated, it may restrict the flow of blood to non-essential areas and concentrate it instead on the vital organs. The immediate result: your blood pressure may rise due to constriction of blood vessels to help compensate for the decreased fluid volume.
Higher Blood Cholesterol
Excess Body weight
Skin problems and wrinkles - The skin is designed to hold in moisture, to be elastic. When you deprive it of water, the skin sags and loses its elasticity. Remove water from your skin, and you get wrinkles. Memory problems
How much water do we need?
One very common question I hear is, “How much water should I drink?” Well, I am going to give you an answer to guide you.
Assuming that you do not have any kidney problem, a good indicator of how much water the body needs can be assessed by dividing your weight in kilograms (kg) by thirty (30) or you divide your weight in pounds (lb) by sixty-six (66). The number you get is the amount of water in litres that your body requires each day. So for example, if you are a sixty-kilogram adult you need 2 litres of water and if you weigh ninety kilograms then you need 3 litres. However, for most adults, your body will require an absolute minimum of 2 litres per day of water. That is about 8 glasses of water assuming each glass has a volume of 250 ml.
Although 2 litres of water is the recommended minimum amount of water, more water may be consumed if you have sweated a lot for whatever reason, if you are undergoing periods of stress or extremes in body function or if you are in a hot environment or live in a hot climate like Uganda. Most of us will generally lose about 500 ml of water a day through perspiration.
I also recommend using the colour of urine as a good gauge for the body’s water needs. A well-hydrated person produces colourless or light yellow urine. A comparatively dehydrated person produces yellow urine and a very dehydrated person will produce orange urine.
You do not always have to consume all your water in liquid form. If you eat lots of fruits and vegetables—as you should—you will get a good amount of water each day. Foods such as bananas are 70 percent water; apples, 80 percent water; tomatoes and watermelons are more than 90 percent water; and lettuce is 95 percent water. I suggest that at least 60 percent of the amount you receive should be from plain water. Please note that alcohol, coffee, caffeine-containing drinks, soda and artificially sweetened drinks do not count as water.
When is the best time to drink water?
Start your day off with two 250ml glasses (half a litre) within 10 minutes of waking up in the morning and hopefully this is within 30 minutes of breakfast. I recommend that you sleep with water in your room. During the night a lot of detoxification, healing and other vital processes are taking place that produce some waste that needs to be eliminated. We also tend to sweat quite a bit at night. Starting your day with water will really help you to feel better and allow all body functions to perform better.
Drink 1 glass thirty minutes before meals and 2 glasses two hours after or in between meal times
Take another glass of water before going to bed. Aim not to drink too late in the night (especially after 8 pm) as it may interfere with your sleep
Unfortunately, many people only drink during meals which isn’t recommended. When you drink too much with a meal, it washes out the hydrochloric acid, digestive juices, and enzymes in your stomach and intestines, which delays digestion. Fluids, and very cold drinks, in particular, quench the digestive process similarly to pouring water on a fire.You can drink some water with a meal but only drink a maximum of ½ a glass (125mls) of room-temperature water at meals. But don’t go overboard. Meals are not the time to get most of your fluids.
What about the temperature of the water?
I recommend that the best temperature be room temperature or lukewarm water. The best temperature is one that is not too far from our body temperature. Cool or slightly cold water can also be consumed but extremes of temperature must be avoided i.e very cold or hot water. The body uses vital energy to restore body temperature to normal.
However, the temperature of the water should not be a big issue or a deterrent from drinking water as some people will not drink water unless it is cold. What we are more interested in is that you drink adequate amounts although I strongly encourage you not to drink most of your water at extreme temperatures.
What else is there to know about water?
Whole books have been written about water so summarizing it here doesn’t do it justice, however, a few things to note are
1. Drink clean and purified water. This means it should be free of impurities and dirt but also free of other contaminants such as heavy metals and even the chlorine that is used to disinfect it. This is best achieved by filtering your water or drinking filtered water.
2. Boiling water doesn’t remove impurities although it can help to kill any harmful pathogens. We should still filter tap water even if we boil it.
3. As much as possible, try and avoid water that is stored in plastic bottles or containers. Although bottled water may be clean and purified, plastic bottles have been shown to be able to leach chemicals into the water especially when in a hot environment or if the water is hot. I am not against bottled water. In fact, it can help meet our hydration needs. However, opt for glass or stainless steel as better water storage containers.
4. Alkaline water is the best form of water. Because our bodies are alkaline, acidic things aren’t ideal for our bodies. Some of the bottled and tap water is acidic. Alkaline water helps improve circulation, increase hydration and help with cleansing the body. Again this is a broad area however adding some alkaline fruit and vegetables to your water such as lemon, lime, leafy greens can help improve the alkalinity of the water.