Water is essential to good health. From plump, elastic skin to dealing with headaches, water is just fabulous for dealing with so many small, niggling health issues. And yet, it still seems that despite knowing all this, we still do not drink enough of the stuff. There are, however, various myths and ideas that conflict about how much water we should or should not be drinking. The one thing that experts agree on is that this misinformation is confusing. Confusion invariably leads to people not drinking enough or, drinking too much and causing more health problems. Is there a definitive answer to the question, “how much water should I drink?”
The health benefits of water
Our body is made up of around 60% water and, in the main, is the principal chemical component. Every organ and system need water to function properly. For example, every day we take in toxins, chemicals and so on that are not needed by the body. As our body process foods and so on, we produce toxins that need to be expelled from the body. Toxins and so on are excreted from the body using water. But, just as water takes toxins away, it also allows other systems and organs to remain in prime condition so that they can do their job. The ears nose and throat, for example, need to be moist and water within the body does that job. Lack of water in the body is called dehydration and can, if left unchecked, quickly become a serious issue. Even mild dehydration, the effects of which can be felt after only a few hours of not drinking enough, can leave us feeling lethargic, and with the onset of a headache.
How much water is needed?
Every day, the human body loses water through exhaling, perspiring, urinating and bowel movements. This constant leaking of water means that we need to keep water or fluid levels within the body replenished, or topped up. Like most guidelines, there are variations between what a male body needs, and what the female body wants. In a temperate climate – like the one in the UK – guidelines are that men need up to 3 litres a day, and women should have just over 2 litres a day.
The ‘8 glasses a day’ theory
There are many theories and sayings that have been generated to help people make healthy lifestyle choices. The five portions of fruit and veg a day is a common one, as is the eight glasses of water a day. But, there is one fundamental problem with this: very few people know the measurements of these portions. For example, how much should one portion of your fruit or veg be? How big is the glass of water in the one of eight glasses you are to drink? In the main, the suggestion is that the glass should be about eight fluid ounces or about half a pint. Drinking 8 of these will see you slightly below the suggested target for women, and way below for men but, increasing your intake of water is no bad thing. But, nothing is set in stone, and the ‘8 x 8’ water theory is contentious to say the least. Neither should we see these targets and guidelines as static. Things change and thus, our need for water changes as certain things happen to it:
- Exercise – when you exercise, perspire more thus, your body will need a larger amount of water replaced. Suggestions are that after a short bout of exercise, you should increase the amount of daily water consumption by half a litre. The harder you exercise, the more you sweat, the more water you should drink
- Environment and climate – when a heat wave strikes, the first thing you should do is increase the amount you drink on a daily basis. Not only this, if you are also walking or working at altitude, you should also increase the quantity of water your drink. At altitude, the need to urinate is Thus, dehydration is common in people not drinking enough at an elevation of 2,000 metres or more.
- Ill-health – when we are unwell, we may vomit, urinate more or have diarrhoea, all of which contributes to making us dehydrated. However, we don’t always feel like drinking lots of water at once, thus sipping water throughout the day, increasing the amount consumed as we feel better is important.
- Pregnancy & breast-feeding – pregnant women should gently improve their water consumption, as they bodies are working hard to nurture and protect their growing baby. Apparently, while breast-feeding, they are also losing a lot of fluid and thus, drinking water is a great way of helping the body make the milk the infant needs. Suggestions are that some women many need to increase their water consumption up to 3 litres but always seek advice from your midwife.
We hope this post helps to explain, how much water do you really need to drink a day.
Water is not only perfect for the human body but, with so many of us not drinking enough we can suffer from lethargy and all kinds of niggling ailments. Do you need to drink more?