Follow any survival hints and tips, or take a course in survival in the most extreme of environments and you will find one commonality between them all – the survival of the human body does not rest on food, but rather water. Staying hydrated is essential in maintaining good help, from staying mentally alert to being able to physically perform. According to various statistics and data gathered from over the years, you can live up to 50 days without food but without water, your days are numbered… quite literally.
Dehydration happens quicker than you think…
Many people assume that dehydration occurs in extreme cases, and that the symptoms, as a result will also be extreme. This is not always the case and with the body constantly needing its hydration levels topped up, when this stops for whatever reasons, the effects of dehydration can be felt within a few hours.
Dehydration – or the beginnings of it – can look like this:
- Increased thirst is the most common symptom; some people experience this as hunger pangs too; try drink a class of water the next time you feel ‘hungry’
- Headaches are also common which is why, when you have a headache, taking in water is a good way of getting rid of it before you reach for pain killers
- Dry mouth and swollen tongue is common when dehydration levels are beginning to become serious
- Confusion and weakness is also common and studies have shown that elderly people, reliant on others to bring them drinks, are commonly dehydrated and that increasing fluids has an immediate effect on some levels of confusion
- Fainting, inability to sweat, decreased urine output are also all signs of dehydration
Staying hydrated – the 5 top tips
With our bodies consisting of 60% or more of water, it pays to stay hydrated. We are constantly losing fluid, in the shape of urine, sweat and moisture on our breath. Maintaining a steady intake of fluid to keep the body hydrated is essential but, if you are unsure how to maintain this hydration level we have 5 great tips…
Tip 1: Start as you mean to go on
Even as we sleep, we lose moisture and hydration thus, when we wake in the morning, it is important to give our hydration levels a boost. Some schools of thought suggest drinking 16 fluid ounces of water, just under a pint, as soon after waking as we can.
This rush of fluid will be used by the brain to replenish dehydrated cells, as well as through the rest of the body to get the vital organs working again.
Once you have done this, maintaining levels of hydration through the day becomes a little easier…
Tip 2: Carry water
However, don’t think you have to drag a bowser behind you as you go about your daily routine. Staying topped up with water is easier once you have taken on board a glug of water. Carrying a water bottle, full of tap or spring water is a great way to keep fluid levels buoyant.
Not a fan of water? Not a problem. ‘Sweeten’ water with a slice of lemon or lime (or both) as this can liven up the blandness of water. Don’t be tempted by energy drinks or sugary juices as they can be both hydrating, but also dehydrating at the same time.
Tip 3: Set an alarm
Life is busy. It can be easy to forget things and so, until you are in the swing of sipping water throughout the day, one great tip to help your remember is to set an alarm (use your phone) and make sure that every hour, you are taking on board extra water.
The European Food Safety Authority suggest that women drink 1.6 litres a day and men, 2 litres a day. Taking this on board all in one go is not a good idea and you want to make it a habit, rather than a ‘once in a blue moon’ action.
Tip 4: Hungry or thirsty?
As previously mentioned, thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Rather than reaching for food if you think you are hungry, try drinking half a pint of water (with or without ice and lemon), giving your body time to access this hydration before you start rifling through the kitchen cupboards.
Tip 5: Lifestyle
Making lifestyle changes can help to maintain our hydration levels too. Caffeine is a drug found in tea, coffee and some soft drinks too. This can have a dehydrating effect on the body thus, cutting down on caffeine – or cutting it out altogether – is one way of maintaining hydration within the body. Opting for water-rich foods is also a great way of adding fluid to your diet; add more cucumber to your salad, suck on watermelon, strawberries and other similar fruits.
How do you if it’s working?
Staying hydrated is something that can be monitored by the colour of your urine. It should be clear and a tinge with yellow… and this is the hydration level we need to function as our best, everyday!