It’s often the most simple things that we forget that can have the biggest impact – and one of those is whether you are drinking enough water.
Whether you’ve come to me to talk about stress and overwhelm, performance at work, your future direction, or a specific health issue, I will always look at the whole you and take it back to basics. It’s very common for someone to be dehydrated to some level and the effects of this are far-reaching.
Often, stressful living leads people to forget to drink enough water, but dehydration drives a stress response in our bodies. Oops!
Why Don’t We Drink Enough Water?
Many of us live very hectic lives, it sometimes feels like we don’t even have a minute to breathe, never mind go and fill up our glass with water. Responding to emails, impending deadlines, making dinner for the family, it all piles up and gets in the way of us taking care of our most basic needs.
The Institute of Medicine recommends 13 cups of water a day for men, and 9 cups a day for women but how can you possibly remember that when you’ve got a full schedule?
Some people tell me they’re deliberately not drinking sufficient water because they don’t have time for all the bathroom breaks! Sometimes it’s because they just prefer to have tea or coffee all day.
But what if I told you that the mildest level of dehydration affects your brain function? As soon as you become a little dehydrated your cognitive function starts to deteriorate. If you think you’re saving time by not filling up your glass, then think again.
How Do I Know If I’m Well Hydrated?
The most simple answer I can provide is that if you’re rarely thirsty and your urine is a light straw colour then it’s likely that you’re hydrated.
Some of the symptoms of dehydration are obvious, others not so much. But it’s good to be aware of them. If you experience any of these, choose water and hydration before you turn to the medicine cabinet.
Mild to moderate dehydration:
- Dry sticky mouth
- Decreased urine output
- Dry skin
Severe Dehydration, a medical emergency:
- Extreme thirst
- Extreme fussiness in infants or children
- Irritability and confusion in adults
- Very dry mouth, skin, and mucous membranes
- Little or no urination – very dark if any
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- In the most serious cases – deliriousness, fainting, and hysteria
Why Should We Make Sure We Drink Enough Water?
With all the reasons for not drinking water, why don’t we explore some reasons why you should be drinking more water.
Did you know that your brain is 75% water and that even very mild dehydration can lead to a big deterioration of cognitive function? A study performed by Na Zhang et al. found that “Dehydration had negative effects on vigour, esteem-related effect, short-term memory, and attention. Rehydration after water supplementation improved fatigue, short-term memory, attention, and reaction.” So even if you think you don’t have enough time at work to drink water, you may find yourself working quicker and more efficiently if you’re well hydrated.
Not only does drinking enough water help with cognitive function, but also with the flushing of toxins from the body. Toxic chemicals such as urea are released when we urinate, and so making sure you have enough water in your body to urinate frequently will help aid this process. The best way to tell if you’re drinking enough is through the colour of your urine. If it’s clear, like water with a slight yellow tint, then you are hydrated. However, if your urine is a dark yellow, then you are likely dehydrated and would benefit from increasing your water intake.
Another benefit of water is the regulation of body temperature, our bodies have an optimal temperature of about 37 degrees. If we get hotter than that, our body produces sweat to evaporate and dissipates the heat, but if we aren’t hydrated enough then this function is limited.
Water is also important in performing digestion, it helps to move our food through our body and if you’re dehydrated you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable and in pain due to constipation.
And of course, good hydration will support good quality sleep (as long as you don’t drink everything just before bedtime!)
What Can Affect My Need for Water?
Exercise– Any activity that causes you to sweat means you are losing water at a faster rate than usual and so would need to increase water intake.
Environment– Hot or humid weather, heated indoor air, and high altitudes can all increase the need for water.
Illnesses or health conditions– Fever, vomiting or diarrhoea can all cause the need to intake more water and you could be at risk of serious dehydration if you aren’t replacing the fluids and minerals that you’re losing.
Pregnancy or breast-feeding– Needs additional fluids to stay hydrated as large amounts of fluid are used especially when nursing.
Help! How Can I Ensure My Water Intake Is Sufficient?
For an adult living in a UK climate, it is safe to assume that your water intake should be a minimum of two litres daily. Ideally, this is consumed gradually over the course of the day.
Let’s keep this simple to achieve in amongst a busy day. See if you think any of the following will help you:
- Have a glass of water or even hot water and lemon as your first drink of the day – that could easily be an eighth of your daily needs straight away and your body needs hydration after a night-long fast.
- Fill up a jug or canisters with your water intake for the day and always ensure you have one with you. I always have my glass cannister or jug on my desk with at least 1 litre of water. If I end up on back-to-back calls there’s no reason for me not to be staying hydrated.
- Make water more interesting by adding some natural flavouring through the use of fruits, cucumber or mint, for example.
- If you’re a big tea or coffee drinker then introduce a water ‘chaser’ concept – when there has to be a glass of water consumed before your next tea or coffee.
- In the office, whenever you take a bathroom break, always go via the kitchen/water dispenser on the way back to your desk.
Outside of that, it’s all about paying attention to your body, if you notice any of the symptoms of dehydration listed above then make an active effort to drink more that day/week.
What’s the Difference Between Tap, Mineral, Filtered and Spring Water?
I get asked this question a lot. The differences are all to do with the source of the water, the way the water is treated and how it is packaged and delivered to the consumer.
Over 90% of bottled water sold in the UK is either natural mineral or spring water. Both natural mineral water and spring water must:
– Originate from a natural, protected and specific underground source
– Be bottled at source
– Be microbiologically safe to drink without treatment.
Natural mineral water– must have a stable and characteristic mineral composition.
Filtered water– typically filtered through an in-built device at the tap, or through a table-top mechanism. There are many types of filtration, but typically the process takes normal tap water and removes more harmful chemical molecules and some will even add minerals into the water.
Bottled spring/drinking water– sometimes known as table water or purified water, is drinking water that is bottled. It can come from a variety of sources, including municipal supplies.
Tap water– can come from various sources, about two-thirds of the water sourced by utility companies in the UK comes from surface water (rivers, lakes etc.) and a third comes from underground sources. Tap water goes through a number of processes before it reaches the consumer and doesn’t have the same transportation restrictions as bottled water. It is generally chemically treated, disinfected and chlorinated to make it safe to drink.
Where Do You Stand on Your Water Intake?
Do you drink enough water? Do some of the symptoms of dehydrated ring true for you?
Let me know the steps you take to ensure you drink enough water or if you need any help reconnecting with your body and improving your overall health, get in contact!
Is it time to take action?
If you want to explore any of these topics further they are all explored in my book ‘Have It All Without Burning Out’. Remember, there is a way forward and you don’t have to do it alone.