It is said that we can go five weeks without food, five days without water and five minutes without oxygen. Oxygen we normally take for granted, food we enjoy, but drinking pure water can be an effort for many.
Water make up on average two thirds of our body weight – higher for younger people and much less (as little as one third) for older people. Dehydration can be a problem at any age but is a major health problem for many of the elderly.
We should drink around 1 litre for every 30 kg of our body weight (less if our diet contains lots of foods with high water content, mainly fruit and vegetables). But most of us drink much less than that, especially older people wary of incontinence and frequent trips to the toilet. This is an even greater problem if the person has restricted mobility. Fetching a drink can be a problem, as can getting to the bathroom in time. In addition many people find plain water bland.
However, there can be serious health implications of not drinking enough. It can cause headaches, constipation and urinary tract infections and reduce muscle and tissue pliability, and also mental problems such as dizziness, confusion and tiredness.
Drinking adequate amounts of water reduces all these risks, and can also reduce the risk of kidney stones and gallstones, protect against blood clots (and hence strokes and thrombosis), helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Good hydration also reduces the risk of heart disease by around 50%.
What counts as healthy fluid? Well first of all, animal milks don’t count. Milk is a food not a drink. Beer and caffeinated drinks don’t count either. The ideal fluids are pure, fresh, non-carbonated water, herbal and fruit teas and diluted, unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices. A dash of lemon juice can be added to water for flavour. They should be taken at room temperature or only slightly chilled.
Whether tap water or bottled water is best depends partly on where you are – in some areas the tap water is highly chemicalised and leaves an after taste. The jury is out, but most are agreed it’s better to drink tap water than none at all.
It’s best to drink the most during the daytime. Evening drinks can cause anxiety over visits to the toilet during the night. Drink little an often. Think of a dry sponge – pour water over it and it runs off, but gently add a few drops at a time and it absorbs.
Most people live busy lives of course, but taking a few moments each to day to make sure we’re properly hydrated is an investment of time and effort well worth making.
©Feeling Good All The Time, 25.10.2017
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