There are many, sometimes conflicting pieces of advice out there when it comes to our health. However, many of us would agree that our bodies are something of a mystery, and nowhere more so than in the workings of its most important organ – the brain. Scientists, capable of putting man on the moon, sending people to Mars and identifying jaw bones from the first humans found in Ethiopia are, on the main, still stumped by exactly how the brain operates or why it does some of the things it does – and why some of these functions vary from person to person. However, there is something that science and health professionals all agree on – and that is how incredibly important water is to the brain. With 75% of our brain tissue being composed of water, it makes logical sense that the brain needs constant hydration to keep it working at its peak. But we are not always as kind to our brains as we should be, and the results can be catastrophic. Luckily, if we realise this quickly enough, the process can be reversed, but in some cases it can be too little too late… Dehydration The condition that prevents us from thinking and ‘seeing’ clearly is dehydration, a lack of water and essential salts that are essential for regular bodily functions. An imbalance in our bodies’ mineral levels caused by a lack of water hinders normal brain function in ‘everyday stuff’, such as recall ability and short-term memory, etc. From mental tiredness to confusion, if the brain is not properly hydrated, it doesn’t function as well as it should. Prolonged lack of water can actually cause the old grey matter to shrink and chronic dehydration in the elderly has been shown to increase confusion.
A scientific basis
There have been many experiments and studies carried out in an attempt to look deeper into how the brain works, as well as identifying how hydration and dehydration affect us. A small study carried out a few years ago presented some startling facts about how water can and does make the brain work quicker, or so it would seem… A mixed group of 34 men and women took part in an experiment that looked at how quickly hydration levels could be restored and the effect this could have on how they functioned and made decisions. They completed a series of tests, repeating the process twice – the first time without drinking water, but consuming a cereal bar and then again, with both a glass of water and a cereal bar. At the start of the experiment, conducted early in the morning and with no drinks having been consumed, the group members were asked to rate how thirsty they felt. The responses to this question alone seemed to prove a correlation between thirst and performance. Of those who reported not feeling thirsty, their test results, functions and times were better than those people who did report feeling a thirst. But the real results came when this same group of people drank water before they performed a series of mental tests again. Overall, the group, when hydrated with water, performed 14% better than they had when they were considered to be dehydrated. The great news about all these experiments and studies is that the answer remains the same; the brain soon returns to normal after a glass of water or two. With something that can be so easily remedied, making sure you stay hydrated certainly has many benefits, one of which is a brain that can process information faster…
- Water is needed for all cells in the body but good levels of hydration pay off when it comes to keeping brain cells healthy
- If you feel your concentration and focus drifting, then reach for a glass of water; a hydrated brain is known to focus far quicker, and with more clarity, than one on the brink of dehydration
- Moods and emotions are complicated states that are linked with many imbalances in life but again, making sure you are hydrated can help tremendously
- Our memory is a complicated thing; some people can recall what they did 20 years ago with startling accuracy yet struggle to recall what they ate for dinner only a few hours earlier; water and a hydrated brain can be the first defence against fleeting memory ‘loss’ or function
- If we don’t drink enough water, our bodies are effectively unable to process all the toxins and waste products that we produce as we live, work and breathe
- Blood flow and oxygen levels are both important to the brain too and water is the perfect stimulant for both
Here in the UK, water from the tap is clean and safe to drink, although many companies and colleges, as well as other public places, now have filtered water systems, free for all to use – so get your fill of water and function so much better!