Having clean and drinkable water in our country is probably something many of us take for granted. Even when we forget to drink enough water, our body will let us know and we just need to reach for the tap to get a drink. What is the importance of drinking water and why is it essential? Unlike a cactus or a camel, human beings need to drink plenty of water every day to maintain good health.
Water Is Life
Whilst the phrase “where there is water there is life” hasn’t been proven, the converse is true that on planet earth, where there is life, there is water, as water is needed by all living things
Why Drinking Plenty Of Water Is Essential For Good Health
Between 50% to 80% of our body is composed of water and it acts as the medium for many of our bodily functions. Without water, our body’s chemical processes such as digestion, joint movement, renal function and temperature regulation cannot take place. Even minor dehydration can begin to affect both physical and mental performance.
Although our bodies have enough reserves to sustain without food for a few weeks a person can survive without water only for about 3 days.
Health Benefits Of Drinking Enough Water
Infographic courtesy of Healthdirect Australia.
We all know that eating a nutritious and balanced diet is important for health, but lying right at the base of the food pyramid should be 6 to 8 glasses of water. Drinking enough water is the foundation of health and nutrition.
Without water, our body will not be able to produce saliva, which is important for helping with chewing food and washing food away from the teeth, tasting, swallowing and digestion of food. Even additional health supplements that we take require water to dissolve the vitamins and minerals before absorption can occur and they can be uitilized by our cells.
2. Oral and Gut Health
Drinking water is also essential for oral and dental health. In most parts of Australia, tap water contains fluoride, which helps to prevent dental caries. When we don’t drink enough, our mouth and throat goes dry because insufficient saliva is produced. The presence of saliva keeps our buccal cavity moist and acts as a defense mechanism against bacteria in the mouth, helping to prevent bad breath, sore throat and gum disease.
Besides digestion and absorption of nutrients in the gut, water also helps with the movement of food along the digestive tract. Lack of water intake may be a cause of constipation and drinking more water may be the simplest solution to preventing constipation and regulating bowel movement.
3. Body Temperature Control
Drinking water is highly recommended before starting to exercise and to replace fluids lost during exercise. When doing vigorous exercise or exercising for prolonged duration, our body loses a lot of water and electrolytes through profuse sweating. Sweating is the mechanism by which our body regulates its temperature during exercise or in hot weather. When sweat evaporates, it cools down our skin and reduces the body temperature.
When we start to feel thirsty during exercise or on a hot day, it is a sign that we are getting dehydrated and need to drink. If we stop perspiring when exposed for too long under extremely hot sun, it is also a sign of dehydration and possibly suffering a heat stroke.
4. Physical and Mental Performance
It is very important to stay hydrated during sports or exercise for better physical performance. Insufficient fluid intake will affect blood circulation and may cause the heart rate to increase. Poor circulation also means insufficient electrolytes will be delivered to the muscles. Muscle strength and control will be weakened and cramps may also occur. Thirst and fatigue will also affect concentration, reaction time, endurance and sports performance.
Sports drinks are formulated with electrolytes and sugar to quickly replenish what is lost when playing sports or doing rigorous exercise. They are useful and popular with athletes and sportsmen but should be consumed only if needed. Water is still the best choice for replacing fluid loss during exercise since it is natural, free, readily available and does not contain extra calories.
Drinking sufficient water daily is also important for proper functioning of the central nervous system which controls our brain function and motor skills. Not drinking enough water may reduce feelings of positive emotions and cause mood changes, confusion and hallucination. Brain activity such as ability to think clearly, decision-making and concentration during demanding activities may be impaired.
I remember learning at a young age that offering someone a seat and a sip of warm water when a personal tragedy had struck could help calm them down. There is scientific basis for this since studies have shown that drinking water can improve help us to relax and reduce anxiety and stress levels.
Taking a hot bath at night and a drink of warm water before going to bed keeps us hydrated. It helps to relax our mind and body and prepare us for a good night’s sleep.
5. Skin Health
Dehydration causes our skin and mucosal membranes to be dry, so problems such as dry nasal passages, cracked lips and flaky skin may occur.
Moisturizing is a very basic step for skincare to prevent dull, dry and sagging skin. This becomes even more important us we get older due to hormonal changes and moisturizers are specially formulated with vitamins and other ingredients to plump up the skin and reduce the signs of aging.
By ensuring that we drink enough water, it will keep our skin well hydrated and nourished, and help maintain a glowing youthful complexion by diminishing fine lines and wrinkles.
6. Waste Elimination
Just as we need water to bathe and wash ourselves externally, our body system needs water for internal cleansing so that waste and toxins can be flushed out from our body.
Drinking enough water everyday helps to promote regular bowel habits and prevent constipation. Staying hydrated promotes health and survival of our cells and also helps our body to get rid of toxins in our sweat and urine. Dark coloured urine is a sign that we are not drinking enough water due to increased concentration of toxin.
Other signs that indicate that we need to drink more water are:
- light headedness
- feeling thirsty
- loss of appetite
Drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day ensures that we will pass out unwanted waste and bacteria and prevent risk of bladder infections or medical conditions such as gout, kidney stones, and even some types of cancer. Drinking around 8 glasses of fluid a day helps to keep you hydrated and helps the body get rid of toxins.
Are You Drinking Enough?
There is no fixed volume that answers this question as the amount of water a person should drink each day varies depending on individual factors such as age, weight, sex, metabolic rate and it also changes with circumstances, such as diet, health conditions, activities, weather and environment. We need to stay hydrated even in the cooler months, especially when exposed to cold winds, central heating and dry air.
Drinking enough water is especially important for children and older people who are at risk of dehydration in hot weather. In general, men need to drink more (10 cups) than women (8 cups) per day. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers also need to drink more water (an additional 250mL per day). In Australia, 1 cup is equivalent to 250mL.
Besides drinking water and beverages, food such as soup, juicy fruits and vegetables, yoghurt, jelly and popsicles are also a source of water. Approximately 20% of our fluid intake may come from our dietary intake.
For variety, the drinks we consume may also include tea, coffee, juices and soft drinks in moderation. Sweetened drinks contain too many calories and may cause tooth decay. In Australia, drinking tap water is the best choice over drinks that contain caffeine, alcohol or added sugars. Add in lemon for taste if you struggle to drink enough water.
How I Keep Myself Hydrated
I’m actually someone who is guilty of not drinking enough water every day, so much so that I often have cracked lips and very dry skin. I make a conscious effort to be disciplined in following a routine to drink throughout the day and monitoring how much I drink.
- First thing in the morning, I drink a cup of warm water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
- At breakfast time, I have a cup of white coffee, sometimes sweetened with honey
- For morning and afternoon tea break or at sometime before lunch and dinner, I will have a cup of tea or water.
- After each meal, I will drink 1 cup of warm water.
- Before going to bed, I will have half a glass (100mL) of warm water to avoid having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet.
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When I am going to be out for the day, I will bring along a motivational water bottle so that I can take sips of water regularly during the day. Another simple approach would be to fill a 1.5L bottle with water and drink from it throughout the day until it is finished.
Don’t Drink Too Much
Without a doubt drinking water has many health benefits and is essential for everyone. It might seem so harmless, but over doing it can also cause problems.
Drinking too much will cause our blood volume to increase and we will find ourselves needing to pass urine more frequently. This causes more salt to be lost from our body and may lead to hyponatraemia, which means low sodium levels in the blood.
Hyponatraemia is a dangerous condition as the sodium level in our body has to be regulated to control many processes in the brain, heart, nerves and muscles. Signs and symptoms of hyponatraemia include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of energy, drowsiness and fatigue
- Restlessness and irritability
- Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
For people who suffer from long-term medical condition such as chronic kidney disease, heart failure or liver disease, drinking too much water may put the body at risk of hyponatraemia due to being unable to remove excess water efficiently. If you are someone who has a medical condition or taking diuretics, you should discuss with your doctor about how much water you should consume daily.
I hope that this article has been helpful to you in learning how you can improve your health just by simply drinking water. I’d like to hear about how it might have changed your water drinking habits.
If you have any questions or comments, please do leave them below and I’d be more than happy to reply.