The information age has led to a society in which we are better informed about anything and everything, from the trivial to the life-changing. Access to better information on health and wellness certainly falls into the latter category, and there are fewer excuses than ever to be ignorant as to what our bodies need in order to remain healthy.
It begs the question, therefore, as to why so many of us either fail to understand, or simply choose to ignore some of the most fundamental aspects of our own wellbeing. Arguably, the most important of all is hydration. The body is more than 60 percent water, and while we can survive for up to three weeks without food, just three days without water is likely to be fatal.
Yet the latest research shows that almost 80 percent of Americans are not drinking enough water. How can this be, and are you among the one in four suffering from chronic dehydration?
Not feeling thirsty?
The research polled more than 1,000 working Americans, of whom 77 percent said that they do not drink the recommended amount of water per day. The most common reason cited was that they didn’t feel thirsty. At first glance, that sounds logical enough; we are accustomed to listening to our bodies. So if we feel cold we put on a jacket, if we feel tired we take a rest, if we feel hungry we have something to sleep and so on.
The problem with thirst is that it is a reactive signal. If you feel thirsty, it is because you are already starting to become dehydrated. People who drink the right amount of water do so regularly and in small quantities, keeping the body constantly hydrated so that thirst does not come about.
Do you like water?
The second most common reason given was that respondents prefer to drink something else. The trouble here is that “something else” can do more harm than good. Caffeine and alcoholic drinks can cause dehydration, ultimately meaning that you need to consume more water, not less, in order to counter their effects. Even sports drinks, with their healthy connotations, are usually packed with sugar, which pushes the water out of your cells and into the blood stream, leading to further dehydration.
Those who prefer alternative drinks often claim that they “don’t like” water. This is a nonsense. Water is colorless and flavorless, meaning there is nothing to dislike. The more accurate explanation is often that individuals do not like tap water, but that is typically down to the tang from chlorine that is added to kill bacteria. Here, a good quality water filter that removes chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals, while leaving the healthy essential minerals is a must-have.
How much is enough?
Take a look at ten websites and you will get ten different answers as to how much water you should be drinking. Health professionals commonly refer to the 8-8 rule, which advocates eight 8-oz glasses of water per day.
That equates to around two liters, and is as good a ballpark figure as any, but the truth is that the amount you really need might be more or less depending on your age, weight, activity level, the climatic conditions and numerous other factors.
Are you getting dehydrated?
A more relevant question to ask is whether you are not drinking enough water. Here are some of the signs to be aware of:
- Thirst – it sounds obvious, but now we know that if you remain constantly hydrated you should not feel thirsty at all.
- Dry skin – water is essential to maintain the health of every organ, and the skin is both the largest and most visible. It is therefore the most obvious place to look for signs of dehydration. If it does not receive the necessary moisture, skin becomes dry, dull and drawn, lacking in vitality and elasticity.
- Dark urine – it’s not through idle curiosity that doctors often require a urine sample – our urine provides numerous clues as to our general health, and the colour is a great indicator of hydration. If you are dehydrated, the body clings on to as much water as possible, meaning urine becomes more concentrated and, therefore, darker.
- Bad breath – the saliva in your mouth fulfils a variety of purposes, and one is to kill bacteria. With insufficient hydration, you produce less saliva. The result is obvious to anyone if you stand too close, and it’s not pleasant.
- Inability to focus – that 2PM lull is something we all experience from time to time, but rather than reach for a sugary snack, try a simple glass of filtered water. Chances are, it is dehydration.
Water is fundamental to our wellbeing, so it seems incredible that we are so slipshod in taking enough of it onboard. If any of the above symptoms sound familiar, perhaps it’s time to invest in a water filter, cut out the sugary drinks and get yourself properly hydrated.