Did you know that the cells in our bodies are made up of 70% water? Indeed, our blood and lymphatic system that carries fluids around our body are made up primarily of water. The cells in our brain and spinal cord – all part of our central nervous system – function best when they are 85% water. The water in our body helps transport nutrients around the body, as well as excreting waste products, and helps to maintain our body temperature through sweating. We lose water constantly without thinking about it through sweating, urination, respiration, menstruation and other means. Stress makes us lose water. External stimulants, such as caffeine and alcohol, also dehydrate the body.
We should aim to drink around 2 litres ( 4 pints) per day of water to kick start our natural thirst (when our body naturally knows when it’s thirsty). Often, we think we are hungry when actually we are thirsty, so next time you feel hungry, try grabbing a drink of water first to see if that satisfies you. It is best to increase your water consumption gradually; never drink more than one pint per hour and no more than 3-4 pints in one day unless you are exercising or sweating a lot, if it’s hot weather, or if you are suffering from diarrhoea. It is preferable to wait at least 30 minutes before or after eating to allow the digestive system to work properly. A glass of water with a slice of lemon on waking is a great way to start the day and invigorate your digestive system. Generally speaking, if your urine is a clear colour then you are drinking enough water, however if it is a dark, yellow colour, then you may be dehydrated.
What type of water to drink?
Tap water contains various different chemicals that have been used to kill the bacteria in water, such as chlorine, which can kill off our friendly gut bacteria. However, if you leave it exposed for a few hours, the chlorine should evaporate off.
Some of the other chemicals that have been added to our tap water include fluoride and hormones leached from the contraceptive pill. Water may also contain lead from old pipes or even mercury. As such, it’s a good idea to invest in a water filter. These can vary significantly in price and size; most filters use charcoal as a filter since it absorbs most of the chemicals, however it can also strip the water of it’s natural minerals and make it acidic. With this in mind, re-mineralising water filters are the best. However, regardless of which water filter you buy, it very important to change it regularly or else they can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Jug water filters such as Brita, are one of the cheaper and smaller options, but unfortunately their charcoal filters don’t filter out all of the chemicals and they need frequent filter changes.
Eva water filters are great, but more expensive (around £115). They filter the water in 8 stages and re-mineralise them through volcanic rocks. The filters need to be changed once a year, which costs around £90.
Berkey are just as good, but more expensive still (£200 plus) for a home filter (they also do water jugs and water bottles, to take out with you). Similar in look to a tea urn, they are a large on the counter container, which do take up a lot of space and might not be suitable for everyone. They use a gravity fed, microfiltration method that contains millions of microscopic pores to filter out unwanted elements.
Bottled waters such as mineral waters also need consideration; if you do drink mineral water, then it’s better to drink a variety to ensure you are getting a wide range of minerals. It’s also preferable to buy water bottled glass containers or BPA free plastic bottles, as some of the chemicals from the plastic can leach into the water and can affect our hormones. Fortunately, there are many BPA free bottles on the market nowadays.
- Always take a bottle of water out with you
- Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work. Having water easily accessible means you are more likely to drink it!
- Ensure you have a glass of water by your bed to drink on waking
- Eat hydrating foods such as fruit and vegetables, soaked nuts, and short grain brown rice, which absorbs a lot of water when cooking.
- Chew your food properly! When our food is chewed to a smaller size, it requires less water to digest it and subsequently uses up less water in the body.
- Aim to drink water at blood temperature, so you don’t shock the body
- Herbal teas are a good alternative to tea and caffeine to help stay hydrated.
- Flavour your water with berries, lemon or mint to make drinking even more appealing
- If you are drinking alcohol or coffee, make sure you have a glass of water for every drink