Water is an essential part of every form of life. We need water for our physical and mental functions so that our organs perform properly. However, if we drink coffee in the morning, a few glasses of wine with lunch and soda drinks at dinner, our daily water intake may remain dangerously low. We can fix many midlife issues such as constipation, weight gain, brain fog, fatigue, and aches and pains simply by drinking more water. So give it a try, use water as your ‘daily medicine’ and most likely you’ll notice a big difference in how you feel in a very short time.
We’re made of water
Our bodies are made of water up to sixty per cent and depend on it to survive. The amount of water needed on a daily basis varies according to our weight, the temperature in which we are and the activities we perform. Doing sports, sweating a lot on a hot summer day, or being ill with the fever or diarrhoea increases our need for water and it is surprisingly easy to get dehydrated. A rule of thumb: whenever we feel thirsty, we are already slightly dehydrated. Dehydration symptoms vary from normal to extreme thirst and feeling of fatigue to dry mouth and skin, muscle cramps, headaches and dizziness. On the contrary, it is also possible to drink too much water which can cause hyponatremia, a state of reduced-sodium concentration in the blood. However, this is quite unusual.
We use water to regulate our body temperature, keep the blood pressure normal, lubricate the joints, protect the sensitive tissues, transport nutrients in the bloodstream and to remove waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements. Keeping hydrated contributes to overall better physical performance as well as to improved brain functions. When we are well hydrated, we also feel less hungry. This means we are prone to eat less and keep our weight more stable.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation and the NHS Eat Well Guide, the recommended amount for a normal size adult is 6-8 cups of water each day which equals to about two litres or half a gallon per day. Our need for water does not increase as we age, however, an ageing body does not warn of dehydration as promptly.
Mature people don’t sense thirst as much as they did when they were younger -states Dr. Julian Seifter, a kidney specialist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School-. And that could be a problem if they are on a medication that may cause fluid loss, such as a diuretic.
How to keep hydrated
Drinking plain water is by far the best way to keep hydrated as it delivers fluids without sugar and calories. We can get fluids from other drinks such as fruit juices, soft drinks or milk. However, they should be limited to small amounts per day. The same goes for tea and coffee, as consuming too much caffeine can have diuretic effects, just like drinking alcoholic beverages. Excessive amounts of both coffee and alcohol can lead to dehydration.
We also get water from the food we eat, especially vegetables and fruit: it is estimated that food can provide about 20% of our total daily fluid intake. Watermelon, citrus fruits and all the stone fruits such as peaches, cherries, plums, apricots, nectarines and mangos, as well as cucumber and tomatoes are very rich with water so it is a good idea to include them in abundance in our diet.
Which kind of water to choose?
Although a simple substance, when it comes to water we are truly spoiled for choice. According to the International Bottled Water Association, purified or distilled water has been highly treated through distillation, deionization or other suitable processes, in order to meet certain standards before being sold.
It’s natural water that has a constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements, containing no less than 250 parts per million total of dissolved solids. No minerals can be added to the water artificially. Mineral water must be officially recognised through a local authority after a qualifying period of two years, during which it is repeatedly analysed. There are bicarbonate, sulphate, chloride, calcic, magnesium, fluoridate, ferrous and sodium-rich mineral waters on the market and you can consult your GP to see which one might be the best choice for you.
Fixed residue on the bottle label refers to the number of mineral salts dissolved in the water. This number indicates the amount of substances that remain when water evaporates after first boiling it at 100° Celsius and subsequently drying it by heating at 180°. Natural mineral waters are classified based on the amount of fixed residue; the lower the figure, the lighter the water.
It comes from an underground source and must be collected at the spring or through a borehole tapping the spring’s source. Unlike natural mineral water, there is no formal recognition process required although it must still be registered with the local authority.
Alternatives to plain water
If you feel like plain water is tasteless, you can spice it up with fruit and herb flavours. Infused water will not only taste better but also provide you with some extra vitamins and fibres. “Whether you fall into the, ‘I don’t like the way water tastes’, or the, ‘I forget to drink enough water’, category, infused water is a great solution for both of those challenges”, says McKel Kooienga, dietician, MS, RDN, LDN. She suggests several delicious recipes for infused water using herbs, fruits and vegetables like lemon, cucumber, ginger or watermelon.
Herbal teas like chamomile, ginger or peppermint tea are another great and healthy way of consuming your daily water dose. There is also coconut water, the juice found in the centre of a young, green coconut. It is packed with electrolytes and very refreshing on a hot day. It is slightly sweet with a subtle, nutty flavour, and fairly low in calories and carbs.
Kefir water is a traditional fermented drink made from sugar-water solution and fruit, mixed with water kefir grains. The grains are whitish crystals that consist of lactic bacteria and yeast. They reproduce and increase in numbers when in contact with the water-sugar solution. These microorganisms create a soft, slightly acidic drink that is filled with probiotics. Kefir water has anti-inflammatory properties, can boost the immune system and helps combat allergies and asthma.
Hydrogen water is plain water enriched with hydrogen molecules. Hydrogen water can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in our body and a study shows that drinking hydrogen-rich water improved mood, anxiety and autonomic nerve function, suggesting that it may even offer an effective method to reinforce the quality of life and maintain good health.
Remember to drink
Many of us tend to forget to drink water while busy working or having fun. If you fall in that category, keeping a big glass, mug or bottle filled with water near your work station at all times. When out and about, always carry your personal water bottle with you. You can choose from a myriad of bottles made with materials ranging from plastic and stainless steel to glass, but also natural materials such as bamboo, wood or sugarcane. Whichever material you choose, make sure to clean your bottle regularly.
If you’d rather not trust your memory to drink enough water, technology comes to aid. It is possible to use a small, patented gadget that you can attach to any sort of bottle or glass: it is programmed to alert you if you haven’t moved the bottle or glass for some time.
You can also install one of the numerous apps such as Aqualert, My water and drink reminder or Drink water reminder to remember to drink and to keep track of the amount of water you consume daily. It might seem like a cumbersome task to log in the consumed amounts during the day, but doing it for a few days will help you determine whether you are drinking enough water or not and get you in the habit of drinking more. It is also handy to set the app to remind you to drink at regular intervals.