Water – How much should we really be drinking?
Water is often touted as a cure all for most ailments from headaches, bloating and weight loss to constipation, when in doubt drink more water! But is it really true that the more water we drink the better it is for our health or is it just another health myth?
According to research by Thermos Australia less than one third of Australians drink enough water each day. Most who failed to drink enough water (80%) often had a noticeable effect on performance. If we do not drink enough water it can put us at risk of dehydration, headaches, exhaustion and even a bad mood.
Why is water so important?
Water is essential for life, our bodies are made up of a large component of water and we literally can only survive for days without fluids. The body can get fluids from a variety of sources such as fruits, vegetables, juices, drinks, soups and stews however water is Mother Nature’s best choice to satisfy thirst. Most foods, even those that look hard and dry, contain water. The body can get approximately 20 per cent of its total water requirements from solid foods alone. The digestion process also produces water as a by-product and can provide around 10 per cent of the body’s water requirements. The rest must come from liquids.
Water has a huge list of health benefits plus it contains zero calories and is readily available.
Health benefits of drinking water include -
Helps eliminate the by-products of the body’s metabolism, excess electrolytes (for example, sodium and potassium), and urea, which is a waste product formed through the processing of dietary protein
Regulates body temperature through sweating
Lubricates and cushion joints
Helps maintain blood pressure
Reduce the risk of cystitis by keeping the bladder clear of bacteria
Aids digestion and prevent constipation
Moisturise the skin to maintain its texture and appearance
How much should we be drinking?
According to Kidney Health Australia there is no ‘right’ amount of water to drink each day. The basic guideline is the more fluid you lose through sweat, urine, vomiting and diarrhoea, the more you need to replace. On average, we lose approx. 1.5 litres of fluid through urine daily.
The recommended amount of fluid depends on many factors.
You may need to drink more water if you:
• Are exercising
• Are in a hot or humid climate
• Eat a lot of high fibre foods
• Eat a high protein diet
• Have a health condition such as kidney stones (some health conditions
however mean that you have to drink less water)
• Are pregnant
• Are breast-feeding
What about carbonated mineral water and soda water?
Commercially bottled mineral water may contain sodium, which can lead to fluid retention and swelling, and even increased blood pressure in susceptible people. Limit the amount of mineral water or choose low-sodium varieties (less than 30 mg sodium per 100 ml).
Can we drink too much water?
If we drink excessive amounts of water such as 3 – 4 litres a day and we are not losing that much fluid we could be at risk of doing more harm than good. Water can affect blood volume and blood pressure which is why when we are dehydrated our blood pressure can become low. Drinking too much water can therefore increase blood pressure, put unnecessary strain on the kidneys and in extreme cases can dilute the blood upsets the electrolyte balance which if left untreated can lead to death. The best way to tell if you need to drink more water is to look at the colour of your urine. If it is dark in colour it means that you are dehydrated. If it is completely clear then that can mean that you are drinking too much water. The ideal colour of urine should be a pale straw like colour.
What can we do to drink more?
• Listen to your thirst. Your body will tell you when you are thirsty. Keep in mind that being thirsty i is often a sign of already being dehydrated.
• Keep a water bottle with you to encourage you to drink more
• Add lemon to add flavour
• Swap teas and coffee for herbal teas
See National Nutrition Survey of Australia 1995 extract (Reference https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/water)