Adults lose from 2.5-3 litres of fluid a day, more so in hot and humid conditions or at high altitude – air travel can prompt you to shed 1.5 litres of fluid over a three-hour flight. It is thought that around three-quarters of Aussies suffer dehydration through not drinking enough. This is of particular concern if you have diabetes, as it increases your susceptibility to a number of health risks, from raised blood glucose levels to urinary infections.
And while thirst is an indicator that our blood sugar may be too high or we have lost excessive fluid through perspiring
or exercising, we don’t all notice the signs. Some people – especially children and the elderly – don’t register feelings of thirst while others mistake dehydration for hunger.
While food sources, such as milk, fruit and vegetables, also make up around 20 per cent of our daily water intake, downing a glass of this cool, refreshing fluid is the fastest route to flushing your system and feeling the benefits fast. Even if water isn’t your cup
of tea, there’s no doubt that it can improve both your health and appearance. Here are some persuasive reasons to drink more.
1. Control blood sugar
One effect of dehydration is that it reduces the volume of fluid in your bloodstream, making it thicker and stickier, thereby increasing the ratio of sugar flowing to your tissues. The result? Higher blood glucose levels and, with these, an increased risk of long-term diabetes complications such as heart and circulatory issues. Upping your water intake quickly dilutes the glucose and encourages healthier blood glucose levels.
2. Help your heart
Drinking water, especially before exercising, thins your blood so it can pump the oxygen and nutrients to your vital organs without making your heart pound with the effort. It makes exercise seem easier and avoids putting strain on your heart muscles.
3. Keep down cholesterol
As well as increasing the levels of blood fat through reduced blood volume, dehydration can also stimulate the body to produce more cholesterol.
4. Ease breathing
The mere act of breathing causes us to lose bodily fluid, and dehydration can increase respiratory difficulties, particularly if you’re asthmatic or allergy-prone. Panting during exercise is a prime cause of fluid loss, so keep up your water levels by drinking before, during and after exercise.
5. Flush your kidneys
Your kidneys flush out toxins accumulated by normal, everyday functions. If your fluid intake is too low, it can lead to painful kidney stones. You can test whether your body is getting enough fluid by looking at the colour of your urine – basically the paler the better. But, remember, if you’re taking B complex vitamins, your urine will be dark yellow.
6. Protect ‘down there’
Drinking plenty of water is a good way to ensure you empty your bladder frequently. It’s also vital for flushing out your urinary tract and washing away bacteria that can grow and set up painful and recurrent infections, such as cystitis. Cystitis and yeast infections, such as candida (thrush), are a particular risk for people with diabetes, especially if your blood glucose levels are higher than you’d like.
7. Prevent headaches
If you get a headache when your glucose levels and blood pressure are in the normal range, the chances are you are not drinking enough water. When you’re dehydrated, your blood vessels narrow, reducing the amount of oxygen to your brain and causing the muscles in your neck to cramp – the cause of a headache.
You can prevent this by spreading your meals and your water intake over the day to ensure your blood glucose and fluid levels are balanced. Exercise will also get the blood pumping and relax your muscles.
8. Fight fatigue
Low energy levels are a side effect of dehydration, as the body slows down to compensate for the lack of this vital fuel. Since 20 per cent of our water intake comes from food, making wise eating choices is a contributing factor to staying flushed with fluids – green vegetables and fruit, such as watermelon, are prime sources. While carbohydrate fuels our organs and muscles, the bloodstream also supplies them with the oxygen they need for tiptop performance. Dehydration slows down this supply and makes the heart work harder to fuel our needs.
9. Beat hunger pangs
One reason many of us overeat is because thirst signals are confused with hunger. If you gain much of your fluid intake via food – especially dry-ish fuel such as cheese, chocolate or potato crisps – this primes your body to send out a message for more of these when what it actually craves is fluid. You can change this response by eating more fluid-rich foods, such as fruit and vegetables, or simply drinking more water. People often notice that, by upping their fluid intake in this way, they start recognising thirst signals separately from genuine hunger pangs. This is why increasing your water intake and the volume of fluid-rich foods in your diet is a big step to better weight control and weight loss.
10. Control weight
Carrying excess weight can make it more difficult for your body to store adequate fluid supplies. This is because lean, healthy muscle tissue is made up of around 80 per cent water, but fatty tissue contains just five per cent. Drinking plenty of water is, therefore, especially important if you’re heavier than you should be.
It means more bathroom visits, but combining this ‘extra exercise’ with a more water-friendly food intake, you’ll feel fuller and see the kilos slip away.
11. Improve sleep quality
Punctuating your alcohol and caffeine intake with glasses of water will reap rewards in terms of rest – dehydration, headaches, cramps
or depression and anxiety caused by overdoing booze or coffee can impact on sleep quality. This leaves you feeling groggy and susceptible to poor eating habits and raised blood sugar levels.
12. Nourish your skin
Hydrating your skin from the inside is as good as nourishing it with moisturisers. Flush your system with a burst of H2O and your skin will blossom like a newly watered plant, becoming more elastic and smoother looking. Regular exercise that makes you sweat will flush your skin with salts and nourish it with natural oils. But, remember to replace lost fluids after exercise.
13. Soothe aches
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of aching muscles. So, before popping a couple of painkillers or heading to the pharmacy for magnesium tablets or other herbal remedies for cramps, try a combination of H2O and gentle calf stretches.
14. Oil your joints
Staying hydrated is important for keeping your joints in smooth working order. It helps your spinal discs stay plump, averting back pain. It can also prevent a build-up of uric acid in your joints (gout) and avoid worsening symptoms of arthritis.
15 Stay regular
When your bowels don’t get enough water, your stools firm up, which can lead to pain, bloating and constipation. Drinking water regularly throughout the day, eating a fibre-rich balanced diet and exercising regularly can all help. And remember, try not to strain when you go to the toilet – it’s not good for your blood pressure or bowels.
16. Boost brainpower
When you are dehydrated, it can make you feel out of sorts in many ways – being tired, hungry, headachy and irritable makes it harder to concentrate and perform to the top of your game. Confusing poor brainpower with lower blood sugar might prompt you to reach for
a biscuit when what you really need is a refreshing drink. Test your BGL, and if your level is within the normal range, grab a water bottle and take a stroll while your body soaks up the H2O infusion. You’ll soon be ready to tackle those tasks.
17. Settle moods
Being dehydrated can play havoc with your stress levels. It increases the concentrations of the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine that are circulating in the bloodstream while reducing levels of the feelgood hormone serotonin. This is why people who are chronically dehydrated are also frequently plagued by irritability and anxiety.
18. Cure queasiness
The more dehydrated you become, the more nauseous you can feel. This is an important fact for pregnant women to remember in their first trimester, as taking some water on board can help reduce morning sickness. It is also the reason why athletes should drink early on in their exercise routine rather than risk the effects of dehydration and nausea later.