The role of water in the body
Water is a vital part of our everyday lives and is used by our body in many different ways. It’s so important that humans can’t survive for more than a week without fresh water. A lot of us underestimate the importance of drinking water daily and don’t truly appreciate what water does for our bodies.
Here are some of the main reasons why you should be drinking your 8 cups of water a day.
1. Maximise physical performance
It is essential that you drink water throughout intensive exercises. You need water to stay hydrated and maintain an adequate amount of fluid in your body.
Water keeps you cool as you exercise in the form of sweat. When you perspire, the excess heat from your body is lost to the atmosphere through evaporation, regulating your body at an optimal temperature. Water also prevents your muscles from getting tired as fast and allows you to have a quicker recovery post-workout. As you exercise, your muscles produce lactic acid, which causes them to become sore. Staying hydrated allows your body to rid itself of the lactic acid in your muscles at a faster rate.
2. Maintain mental energy levels
There is a strong correlation between your mental energy levels and how hydrated you are. Water is needed in every cell in your body and your brain cells are no exception. Water helps transport oxygen and nutrients to the brain for optimal mental function. Even mild dehydration can reduce your mental energy levels significantly. Insufficient hydration can lead to decreased memory and cognitive performance.
3. Prevent headaches
One of the most common causes of headaches is dehydration. When you are dehydrated, the brain contracts temporarily due to fluid loss. This causes the brain to retract from the lining of the skull causing a headache. When you have a headache next time, consider the possibility that you might just be dehydrated.
4. Prevent constipation
Constipation occurs when the stools in your colon don’t get enough water. When you are dehydrated, water is diverted from the large intestine to hydrate the rest of your body. With less water, your stool becomes dry, hard and difficult to pass through your bowels. Make sure you get enough water to have a healthy bowel.
5. Prevent kidney stones
Kidney stones are hard deposits of salt and minerals that form within the kidney or urinary tract. You need enough fluids in your system to dilute the concentration of minerals that can turn into these stones. A good indicator of how hydrated you are is the colour of your urine. When you are dehydrated, your urine may appear dark. If your urine is pale yellow or clear, you have an adequate amount of fluids in your body.
6. Promote weight loss
Drinking more water can actually help you lose weight. When your stomach senses that it is full, it sends signals to the brain to make you feel full. This reduces your hunger and makes you less likely to overeat.
Your body also requires water to be able to metabolise the carbohydrates and stored fat in your body. With less water in your body, you are less able to burn off excess fat as your metabolism isn’t as efficient.
7. Maintain healthy skin
Your skin is an organ and is made up of cells. And just like other organs, without water, it will not function properly or at least, not at its best. When your skin is dehydrated, it will become dry, tight and flaky. Dry skin has less elasticity and is more prone to flaking. Staying hydrated can hence reduce the appearance of ageing, making you look younger and fresher.
How to include more water in your diet
The recommended daily water intake for adults is 8 – 10 glasses of 250ml each glass. This might be hard to do if you are not used to drinking much water. However, please note that this is more of a guide and not a strict rule. Variables can include age, activity levels, temperature and weight etc. It is nonetheless still important to be adequately hydrated.
Here are some simple ways to include more water in your diet:
- Drink water with every meal.
- Opt for water instead of a sugary drink.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. You can still get water in your diet by eating food high in water content.
- Invest in a water bottle to carry around wherever you go.
Signs you aren’t drinking enough water
If you have the following symptoms, you need to increase your daily water intake:
- Excessive thirst
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urine output that is a darker yellow than normal
- Dry skin
- Reduced ability to create tears
Don’t overdo it
Staying hydrated is important but not many people realise that you can drink too much of water, especially when you try to overcompensate for the loss of water your body experiences during prolonged exercise. Overhydration can lead to water intoxication, which is when the levels of salt and other electrolytes in your body become too diluted. While it is rare, this can be a medical emergency if the electrolytes in your body fall too low and too fast.
At the end of the day, you should be drinking an adequate amount of water and seek advice from a doctor if you have concerns on dehydration or water intoxication.
Article reviewed by Dr Samuel Low, clinical director at Parkway Hospitals
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