HYDRATION - why is it so important?
Updated: Jan 14, 2019
By Courtney Cheah
Most of us know about the importance of drinking water. Many of my clients say that they know they ‘should drink more’. The stats alone give us a good insight as to why hydration is so important:
Muscles – 75% water
Blood – 82% water
Lungs – 90% water
Brain – 76% water
Bones – 25% water
That’s right – even our bones have a significant component of water!
Our bodies need water more than anything except oxygen. A human will, generally speaking, only live three days without water.
Apart from keeping us alive, the benefits of hydration are many, and include:
- Clear, soft skin
- Clear, bright eyes
- Good energy levels
- Good concentration and focus
- Strong hair and nails
- Reduced appearance of fine lines in skin
- Efficient waste elimination
Yet many of us go through the day in a state of chronic mild dehydration. We get busy at work, we get distracted, we forget. However, living in a state of chronic dehydration can have a greater effect than you may realise. It can be behind such things as:
- Poor focus/concentration
- Muscle cramps
Apart from not drinking enough water, there are other factors that can deplete the system of water. Unfortunately, that includes some of our more common beverages such as coffee, tea, soft drink and alcohol.
Hydration on a Cellular Level
Hydration isn’t always as straightforward as drinking more water. Some people drink a lot of water but feel it ‘just goes straight through’, and leaves them still feeling thirsty. Others find that they feel swollen and uncomfortable if they up their intake of water. So what’s that about?
All the cells in your body need water, but sometimes the water we drink doesn’t actually enter the cells. This can be for a number of reasons, including a lack of minerals, or poor mineral balance; poor adrenal function (can be due to stress and/or trauma), and excess caffeine/alcohol consumption.
The minerals required by your cells to absorb water are calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. These minerals ‘talk’ to each other and if one or more is not at its optimum level (whether too high or low) it can interfere with adequate cell hydration. If you are drinking lots of water but it feels like it's just ending up as fluid retention, that can mean it’s not absorbing into your cells. You can improve your mineral balance by eating lots of green vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds. You can also try using Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt in your food, as they typically contain around 84 different minerals.
Keeping hydrated is essential for your body to efficiently excrete toxins and waste products. One of the main jobs of your kidneys is to filter toxins from your blood and flush them from your system via urine. Water is also important for efficient elimination from your bowels, as your large intestine absorbs water from digested food. If your body has trouble eliminating waste, it stays in the body and if it’s there too long it can get reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
How much do we need to drink?
Current science says we need to drink 33mL of water per kilogram of bodyweight. This means a 70kg person needs to drink 2310mL per day.
However, your water requirements may change day to day, depending on your activities, the weather, and what you’re eating that day. If you exercise, your need for water will increase as you lose it through increased perspiration and breathing. Eating fruit and vegetables which contain a high percentage of water contributes to your overall water intake for the day, as does eating soups and drinking herbal tea. Caffeine and alcohol draw water out of the system though, so it’s worth remembering to drink a glass of water for each of these beverages to keep hydration high.
Let your body guide you in how much you need to drink. Sometimes if you have one glass you may immediately want another, while other times you may be satisfied with half a glass or even a few sips.
Tips for keeping hydrated:
- Drink adequate amounts of pure water daily
- Eat plenty of green vegetables daily
- Minimise caffeinated/alcoholic beverages, and drink a glass of water each time you have one
- Keep a glass of water with you to remind you to keep hydrating. Embrace the breaks you take to get up to refill the glass, which encourage movement and interrupt periods of sitting still
- Sleep well. Good quality rest energises your kidneys, which cleanse the blood while you sleep and eliminate the waste in the morning via urine
- Further support your kidneys by embracing restorative activities that reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, or qi gong
- Have regular massage or other manual treatment, as tight bands in soft tissue restrict blood flow and hydration in the area and prevent the tissue receiving adequate nourishment.
This article is for information purposes only. Please consult your healthcare professional for further information.
Weaver, Dr Libby. (2015). Exhausted to Energized. Auckland: Little Green Frog.