We all know that water and hydration are essential for human life. But how much do we really know about these topics, and applying some form of ‘best practice’ to maximise our healthy hydration levels?
Lesley Una Pierce is a Director of The Nutritional Healing Foundation and her new book ‘The Life-Saver’s Guide to Water – The Elixir of Life’ may help many of us think more consciously about this essential health matter.
Lesley poses the question “What’s the difference between a prune and a plum? Such a simple question, I don’t need to ask which one you would rather be!” One may argue that both fruits are equally beneficial to our health and are to be encouraged in our diets. However with the vision of the juicy, watery plum when compared to the wrinkled, dried prune Lesley does make a good analogy for the story of healthy hydration.
Below she provides us with some introductory thoughts on the importance of water and hydration.
Through my experiences of teaching Nutritional Healing & Naturopathy and my years of clinical practice, I have realised the crucial importance of Water and Hydration, so my first book simply had to be on WATER – Often the missing ingredient (in my opinion) in many health and wellbeing regimes.
My aim was to write a book that is not a text book; that anyone and everyone can easily read and hopefully enjoy. Conversational, jargon free and informative enough to inspire whoever reads it to begin on their journey of hydration – and to keep this journey going every day of their lives.
Lots of people these days know that it’s a good idea to drink water – but how many of us actually know why it’s a good idea? How do we become deeply dehydrated and what are the consequences? Never mind what kind of water to drink, how much, what temperature, and when to drink it. And how many folk are motivated to actually do it? I hope my book goes some way to address these questions.
How Do We Become Dehydrated?
Let us think about the ways that we lose water from our bodies every single day. Have you ever given it that much thought?
- Urination: Well, there is the obvious way through weeing! The colour of our wee is usually a good indication of how hydrated (or not!) we are. We are aiming for it to be generally clear throughout the day. The first water we pass in the morning may be light yellow if we have slept right through the night, but after that we are looking for it to be almost transparent. If it is dark yellow or orange and smells strong, then it is very concentrated, showing that our kidneys are conserving as much water as possible and that we are deeply dehydrated.The amount of water we pass is going to vary depending on how much we take in through both fluids and foods, and whether that water is able to be held in the body and flow freely into our cells or, like a dry hanging basket, the water pours straight through us. This can also be one of the consequences of beginning to drink more water (which we will discuss later). Basically, it is therefore possible to drink plenty of water and still be dehydrated; water alone is not the whole picture, so there is more to learn – but drinking water is still fundamental to our health and hydration.
- Bowel: We lose water through our bowel movements. Constipation is a clear sign of dehydration. It means that our body is absorbing back every drop of moisture that it possibly can from our waste, making our faeces drier, more compacted and harder, often ending up like sheep droppings. What do you think may be a definition of the ideal bowel movement? Well, how about (pardon the English) “Twice round the toilet bowl, conker coloured, formed, starts to break up immediately it hits the water in the toilet and no need to use toilet paper!” I wonder how many of us have bowel movements like that? Something to aim for perhaps.At the other end of the scale, loose, watery bowel movements, or full-on diarrhoea will lose much more water. Chronic diarrhoea is said to be a deeper form of constipation, because by this time, the bowel may have some inflammation going on and the bowel may be trying to get the waste out as quickly as possible.
- Perspiration: We also lose water through our skin. What’s the old saying? ‘Horses sweat, Men perspire and Ladies glow.’ Well, whatever! We all lose water through our skin, which is our biggest organ, and the perspiration carries water soluble toxicity with it, so it is a very good thing. Of course it is neither comfortable nor desirable to perspire excessively. The amount we lose through our skin will vary of course, depending on the amount we perspire. This will increase with exercise, hot weather, stress, and on occasions if we have a fever.
- Respiration: Have you ever realised that we breathe out water vapour? For those who don’t believe me breathe out on some cold glass or a mirror and see it condense into water. Again, the amount we lose every day through breathing will vary. It will increase when we breathe more deeply with exercise for example, or when we are stressed and breathe more shallowly and faster.Other ways we lose water, although not necessarily every day include:
- Menstruation: We ladies lose water through the blood we lose every month with our periods.
- Crying: Lacrimation.
- Breast feeding: Lactation.
- Injuries: Including burns and blood loss.
- ‘Acute Episodes’: Including vomiting and diarrhoea.
These last few examples are not really what we need to focus on. We just want to be aware of other ways we lose water at different times. And consequently, in these cases, our need for hydration will be even greater than usual.
Be Aware of Losing Water
The point I really want to make here very clearly, is that we all lose a substantial amount of water every single day through natural processes.
Thinking about it in this way may make us realise, quite shockingly, that every single day we are taking in less water than we lose – we are getting more and more de-hydrated.
What is even more de-hydrating than not drinking any water? Drinking substances that make us lose even more water than the water that is in them – like alcohol, teas and coffees. And what is the most de-hydrating thing of all? Yes, you’ve guessed it – Stress!
So, if those are the many ways in which we lose water, how do we gain it?
How Do We Gain Water?
- By drinking it: This would seem fairly obvious, but if the water has anything in it, be it a tea bag or juice, then our bodies treat it very differently from plain, still, clean water.
- From our food: It is not rocket science to realise that if we are eating a diet that consists mainly of foods like:
Breakfast: toast / cereal / fry-up.
Mid-morning: coffee / tea / biscuit / chocolate.
Lunch: sandwich / pie / crisps.
Mid-afternoon: tea / coffee / cake.
Evening meal: pasta / pizza / processed ready meals / takeaways;Then clearly there is little water being gained from the above foods.On the other hand, if we are consuming good amounts of fruit and vegetables, then it is easy to see that we are gaining water from our food. The water in the cells of raw fruits and vegetables is called ‘structured’ water and is extremely beneficial for us.Another good example of a beneficial food is, perhaps surprisingly to some, short-grain brown rice which when soaked and cooked slowly in large amounts of water is a wonderfully hydrating food to eat. The ratio of water to rice that it holds is approximately 75:25. This also happens to be a similar ratio of water to solid in our bodies and water to land on Mother Earth.
- As a by-product of our metabolism: We produce a small amount of water too. Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s real lifesaver.
- Vapour: We also breathe in water vapour and absorb water through our skin when bathing, but not in significant amounts to be able to rely on this method instead of drinking it!
The Hydration Gap
Hence the hydration picture starts to become much clearer. If we are not drinking enough water to bridge the gap between the amount of water we lose compared to the amount of water we take in, then every day there will be a shortfall and every single day we are getting that bit more dehydrated.
The wonderful thing about all of this is that once we understand some basic things about hydrating, then if we wish to, we can immediately make a start on our own personal hydration journey. We do not need to go to someone else to do this for us. Without being obsessed we can make it a focus every day to drink water, whilst reducing other substances that are dehydrating, challenging and stressful to our bodies. Gradually, we may emerge from the prune into the plum. Gradually, we may feel less and less anxious. Gradually, we may be able to think more clearly. Gradually, we may feel more energised.
Please don’t think that I’m saying that hydration is the answer to everything, but I am suggesting that it is the start of the answer to everything. It is the foundation upon which greater health and happiness can be built.
Please Take Note
Please note – that in the case of heart failure, water retention, swelling or kidney disease; or if you have any cause for concern – it is extremely important to only increase water consumption under supervision.”
‘The Life-Saver’s Guide to Water – The Elixir of Life’ is the first book of the forthcoming series by Lesley Una Pierce and available from www.thesanctuaryofhealing.co.uk with .50p from every book sale going to WaterAid. Lesley Una Pierce is an author, Naturopath and partner of The Nutritional Healing Foundation.
With many thanks to Lesley for this article on a health topic that’s essential yet frequently overlooked. If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
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Amanda Williams, Cytoplan Ltd
[email protected], 01684 310099