We are frequently told that we need to drink 1.5 litres of fluid a day, but why is it so important?
Adequate fluid is vital to staying healthy and ensuring our body functions normally. Two thirds of our body is made of water, we need fluids to carry nutrients to our cells and to carry waste out of our body. Water is the major component of blood, the fluid around our joints, saliva and urine. Although a little water is made in our bodies, we need to consume it to replenish our supplies.
Good hydration improves mood, energy levels, hormone balance, skin condition, immunity, digestion and cardiovascular function. We look better when we are well hydrated - not only does water plump our cells, it aids absorption of nutrients during digestion and it helps digest soluble fibre and soften stools.
Dehydration has an impact on our hearts, brain, muscles and digestion. Even mild dehydration, with a loss of 2% of body weight, can cause symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and reduced physical and mental performance.
Chronic, mild dehydration puts an increased strain on many body systems which may affect long-term health. When the body senses we are dehydrated, it reduces urine output and stimulates the feeling of thirst. As we age, the thirst reflex deteriorates, making older people at greater risk of dehydration.
The easiest way is to check the colour of your urine, it should be a pale straw colour. Too dark and you are dehydrated, if very pale you are probably drinking too much. The amount we need varies depending on our individual needs, the weather and level of physical activity.
It can be challenging to drink over 1.5 litres of fluid a day. All fluids consumed will contribute, but remember caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, making our bodies increase urine output
Unless exercising, water is generally the best the source of fluid. Watch out for sweet drinks, high in sugar, which aren’t good for our teeth or our waistlines. We also get 20% of our fluid from food. Water-rich foods like salad vegetables, citrus, melons, stews and soups are particularly hydrating.
Sip your drink throughout the day, don’t drink it all in one go. Try strategies like having a glass of water first thing on waking, setting a regular reminder on your phone or carrying a water bottle round with you - aim to fill it up in the morning and again after lunch. Add refreshing lemon, lime or other fruits to flavour your water.
Give it a go and feel the benefits of better hydration!