19 Aug 2022

Healthy Living: Water for health

Healthy Living: Water for health

Relieves fatigue: If you feel sluggish and tired half way through the day, you might not be consuming enough water

AS the real Irish summer returns with its warm rains our drought lands can soak up some much-needed hydration.

It never seems to amaze me that in such a wet country no efforts are made to conserve all that water and utilize it in our homes. Instead, we use many times recycled, chemical-dosed water both for consumption and in the bathrooms. Did you know that 70% of the Earth is covered by water, but only 2.5% of it is fresh, and just 1% is easily accessible, as the rest is trapped in glaciers and snowfields?

Our body is around 60% water. It is distributed within and between our cells where it is needed for communication, enzymatic function and nutrient assimilation. Our digestive system uses about 15 litres a day, and we need it to excrete unwanted materials.

Optimum hydration is very important for health. It is recommended that we drink 8 glasses of water a day – although this has just as little evidence as the “five a day” rule, it helps to prevent dehydration.

Your brain is strongly influenced by hydration status. Studies show that even mild dehydration (1-3% of body weight) can impair many aspects of brain function, impact mood, concentration, memory and frequency of headaches. It may have to do with its facilitating oxygen distribution throughout our body, collecting carbon dioxide and dissolving toxic gasses - allowing us to breathe effectively.

Proper hydration helps to flush out toxins from our system; water-soluble ones through our kidneys and fat-soluble ones through our digestive system. Large amount of water is absorbed in the colon; therefore, dehydration leads to constipation and the reabsorbing of waste. These then build up in our tissues, affecting their function. One such tissue sensitive to excess toxins and hormones is our skin.

Drinking plenty of water can also boost metabolism and help maintain weight. Some suggest drinking right before meals to increase satiety – from a physiological perspective this actually hinders digestion and may even lead to inflammation, thus weight gain, so drink half an hour before and an hour after meals. But studies show that drinking about two litres a day, especially cold water, can increase the energy expenditure by 96 calories – that equals about 15-20 minutes jogging!

Interestingly, the elderly tend to drink much less fluids, although they would need it the most. Water helps keep joints lubricated and muscles more elastic so joint pain and injuries are less likely. Adequate levels of fluoride free water may prevent falls and reduce risks associated with osteoporosis, such as hip fractures. Regular water consumption may also improve blood flow and support the cardiovascular system.

I must also warn you against drinking too much water, especially during mealtimes, as it dilutes digestive juices and may hinder your absorptive capacity. Drinking more than the needed 2-2.5 litres a day can flush out the much-needed water soluble nutrients and put extra pressure onto the kidney. High blood glucose and sodium levels, anxiety may be behind excessive thirst – a thorough investigation is needed in any case.

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