Water is essential to life
What should we know about hydration and water?
How much water is in our bodies?
Our bodies are made up of about 60% water. This is higher if you are younger or have greater muscle. Muscle is made up of about 72% water while fat has only about 20 to 25% water. If you are lean with a high muscle mass, you are going to have a higher percent of water.
Where do we get our water?
We drink it as water but it also comes from tea, coffee, cordial, milk, juice, fruit, vegetables and even meat.
Why do we need water?
We need water to carry out basic functions of the body. It is part of the digestion of food, the absorption of nutrients, the circulation of nutrients and body substances like blood and it is needed to excrete waste products from the body as urine and faeces or stools.
How can we tell if we are hydrated or getting enough fluid?
* If you are thirsty and have a dry mouth you are likely to be dehydrated. You should not rely on thirst as a judge of your fluid need as some people (particularly as they get older) do not experience thirst.
* Check to see if your skin is dry and flaky. If you pinch and hold it for 10 seconds and then let go and it doesn't flatten out quickly, you could be dehydrated.
* Check your urine and if it is concentrated and deep yellow, then the body is dehydrated. This is probably the easiest and best indication.
How much fluid do we need?
We should have at least 2 litres a day but how much we need depends on activity and weather. Two litres could be adequate if you are not working outside or over heating. If you are weeding in the garden, playing sport or working on a building site in the sun, then requirement could be 4 to 5 litres. If you are a marathon runner or cyclist winning or losing could depend on adequate fluid. A loss of even 1 to 2% of body weight will affect performance. You will notice how marathon runners always are provided with water stations en route. A 7% loss of body water will cause severe problems to health.
How do we lose water from the body?
Water is mainly lost through:
* Faeces or stools
What are common problems from lack of water?
* Constipation- The faeces are usually made up of 70% water. If there is insufficient for other body needs the faeces miss out and you have hard, "sheep pellets" or a compacted bowel. This is not good and leads to such problems as diverticulitis (a sometimes painful bowel condition).
* Kidney stones- Insufficient water means that the urine becomes so concentrated that waste products solidify and turn into stones. Kidney stones are a problem in Western Australia because of the heat. It is easy to be dehydrated in a hot dry climate.
* Heat exhaustion gives nausea, vomiting, head ache, faintness and sweating. If fluid is not supplied, this will progress to heat stroke. The cause is insufficient fluids leading to severe dehydration. You all have a mental picture of the athlete who collapses at the finish line. This is a serious condition. Sweating allows about 70% of the heat to be lost from the body. As the body dehydrates, there is less fluid for sweating and body cooling and the body temperature will climb.
How to get more water and guard against problems?
* Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily
* Check yourself for hydration- thirst, skin, urine.
* Consume 2 fruits and 5 serves of vegetables a day.
* Carry a water bottle with you.
* Place a jug or glass of water on your desk or counter within easy reach.
* Drink other fluids but watch alcohol and caffeinated drinks eg coffee/cola as these causes excess fluid loss.
* Limit salty food eg crisps, nuts and take away foods because these cause water to be retained in the tissues.
* If you are going to be very physically active in the heat, make sure to consume adequate water.
Added to site on : Wednesday, 12 January 2000