Don't forget to drink

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 27 July 2010.
Tagged: drinks, fluids, health, hydration, water, wellness

Don't forget to drink

Water has been dubbed the "forgotten factor" in our diets, but it's the most vital of nutrients. We can survive for days, even weeks, without food, but only four to five days without water. It's needed for so many functions in our body. Read up on why and how much we need.

Why we need water

Our body is made up of around 60 per cent water. Organs such as the brain and muscles contain as much as 75 per cent water but we tend to underestimate how important water is for us to function.

We need water to:

  • transport nutrients around the body via the blood and lymph system
  • remove wastes via the urine and faeces
  • serve as a medium for the countless biochemical reactions that take place in the body
  • moisten our food to facilitate chewing
  • maintain body temperature - when we sweat, heat is released as the sweat evaporates which cools you down

Dehydration signs

A US study in 1999 reported that significant numbers of people go about their lives in a state of mild dehydration. Dehydration occurs with only a 1 or 2 per cent loss of fluid but if left uncorrected its symptoms can be significant.

Over a life time, insufficient fluid has been linked to kidney stones, urinary tract infections and bladder cancer.

Signs of dehydration

Mild

  • Headache
  • Feeling tired
  • Light headed
  • Skin loses its plumpness and becomes flushed

Moderate

  • General weakness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Inability to think clearly

Severe

  • Muscle cramps
  • Failing kidneys

Susceptibility - who to watch

Some groups are more at risk of dehydration that most. These include:

  • small children
  • breastfeeding mothers
  • the elderly

Also other conditions may put you at risk of dehydration:

  • very hot weather
  • gastroenteritis
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • extreme high-fibre diets

Achieve hydration

Thirst is not a reliable guide to our fluid needs as we are usually dehydrated by the time we experience it.

A guide to how much, and the best types of fluid to consume each day can be obtained from the Healthy Beverage Pyramid. Created by Dr John Weisberger of the American Health Foundation, the guide follows the same principles as related Healthy Eating Pyramids - start at the bottom and simply work your way up.

Drink MOST of the drinks featured at the base of the Pyramid
(this means water, the ideal fluid, 3-4 glasses a day)

Drink MODERATELY of the drinks featured in the second tier of the Pyramid
(tea and/or vegetable soup, 2-3 glasses a day)

Drink MODESTLY of the drinks featured in the third tier
(milk and juice, 1-2 glasses a day)

Drink LEAST, if at all, of the drinks at the tip of the Pyramid
(this means red wine, 0-1 glasses a day)

Fluid goals and more

If you follow the Pyramid's guidelines, you will consume a minimum of 6 OR a maximum of 10 glasses of fluid a day, which fits with current guidelines suggesting we have at least 8 glasses or 2 L of fluid each day.

The added advantage of choosing a variety of fluid is that you'll get your fluid PLUS antioxidants (from tea, juice and wine), vitamin C (juice), potassium and other minerals (juice and soup), folate (tea and juice) and calcium (milk).

The fluid pyramid guidelines will also

  • Moderate your intake of sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, cordial and sports drinks
  • Encourage responsible alcohol consumption, as suggested by most health authorities
  • Limit caffeine (tea has about one-third to one-half the caffeine of coffee, although this is influenced by length of brewing and the type of tea leaves)

As these guidelines are designed for adults, children should switch low-fat milk for tea and have no alcohol.

Putting it into practice

  • Have a drink on your desk at work. Drink one glass of a healthy fluid every hour so you get through those 8 glasses over the day
  • Carry a drink with you in the car or on outings
  • Make it a habit to have a drink every time you take a break
  • Encourage kids to drink - they are more susceptible to dehydration
  • Choose a variety of beverages to encourage the fluid drinking habit
Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life 2020 Edition is a fresh new update on all the things you've read about or heard in the last year. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!