It’s half past three on a Friday afternoon. You’re stuck in an office, hot, stuffy and stressed as you have a five o’clock deadline to meet. Your stomach is grumbling and you decide to go for a candy bar or some potato chips and a coffee. This is a typical scenario for millions of people across the globe. The signals your brain is processing are most likely for thirst rather than hunger. Yes correct, next time you feel hungry have a glass of water rather than a snack/meal and see how you feel 15 minutes later.
Water is one of the most essential things we can nourish our bodies with and there is a significant amount of the world that do not drink enough! I often get frustrated when I turn the tv on and see an advert for a child in Africa somewhere having to walk for miles everyday to collect dirty water. One in ten globally lack access to clean water (1). It is a basic human need and more needs to be done to get this major global issue eradicated. But that is not what this blog is about. However, if you’re feeling generous, feel free to donate to Charity: Water. It’s a great cause where they will prove every penny of your donation goes to giving access to clean disease free water to those who are less fortunate than us.
So why water? What is so important about this clear liquid that most of us in the western world take for granted? Firstly, I think it’s time for a reality check for some people. We live on a planet that is approximately seventy percent water. Out of all the planets that are in the vast cosmos of space, humans have found habitat on a planet we call Earth. I do not think it’s a coincidence that we’re on a planet that is approximately seventy percent water and that the human body is also approximately sixty to seventy percent water too (2), depending on what source you read and the body size in question. For those of you who think you have problems in the world, try fasting for one day and go without water to see how long you last! Muslims at the moment are observing Ramadan and are going without food and water (all liquids) from when the sun comes up until the sun sets. I can say from personal experience, your priorities and needs change very quickly when denied basic human requirements such as drinking clean water!
Back to why water is essential for the human body. Water is used for many functions that the body needs to carry out everyday to survive. Some of these are regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, protecting organs and tissues, lessening the burden on the kidneys and liver by flushing out toxins, helping prevent constipation, helping dissolves nutrients and other nutrients and making them accessible to the body and carrying nutrients and oxygen to the cells (3). As you can see a lack of water will cause some of the functions that the body needs to slow down or stop. Long term this will cause the presence of chronic illness and an increased chance of major illnesses such as cancer. Bladder cancer has been heavily linked to a lack of drinking water on a rugular daily basis. Water helps the bladder flush out toxins by regular urination (4).
Drinking 1.5-2 litres of water a day should be the aim for most individuals. This can be done by consuming clean water as well as herbal teas. Foods such as cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, green peppers, cauliflower, watermelon, broccoli, spinach and grapefruit all have a high water content in them and will help your body absorb water from these foods too (5). These foods also have a high vitamin and mineral content in them. This will help the body stay hydrated and functioning well in combination with having clean water and lots of hydrating foods.
Can drinking water keep our heart healthy? There seems to be a link between risk of death from coronary heart disease and water intake: research has shown both that consuming more water means a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and that risk of death rises when intake of “high-energy fluids” (like soda and juice) increases (6).
If you often feel tired, there is a high chance that it could be due to inadequate consumption of water which makes the body function less efficiently. In fact, fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. When there is less water in the body, there is a drop of blood volume, which causes the heart to work harder to pump oxygenated blood out in the bloodstream, and other major organs also work less efficiently. Thus, drinking adequate water can help your body function better and reduce fatigue (7).
I often hear that my clients drink lots of fluid. When I ask what fluids these are, the reply I often hear is juices, coffee and alcohol. All of these fluids are proven to do the opposite of what water does. Juices are very high in sugar and coffee/alcohol are very dehydrating on the body.
With alcohol-containing drinks, the common belief that alcohol consumption results in dehydration is fully supported by scientific research. When we consume an alcohol-containing drink, the alcohol level in our bloodstream can rise very rapidly. When our blood alcohol level rises, a metabolic regulatory mechanism kicks in and our pituitary gland stops releasing one of the hormones that it stores up - a hormone called antidiuretic hormone, or ADH. When release of ADH is blocked, our kidneys know to start increasing the release of water from our body in the form of increased urination. Unless we compensate for this increased loss of water, we will become partly dehydrated. The metabolism of alcohol can also interfere with our water balance in other ways - all of them pointing in the direction of increased dehydration. Dehydration is one common contributing factor to hangovers (8).
With coffee, the research findings are surprisingly different than most of us would expect. It's been a common assumption that coffee and alcohol are equally dehydrating, and that caffeine is the substance in coffee that causes additional loss of water (diuresis) from the body. However, thanks to some high-quality studies (especially in the area of exercise science), researchers have determined that coffee is not as problematic in terms of dehydration as commonly believed (8).
There are definitely differences in the ability of different people to metabolize caffeine. In general, however, low to moderate amounts of caffeine consumption do not appear to increase water loss very significantly. By "low to moderate" we mean a consumption level that keeps caffeine under 250 milligrams. A "standard" 8-ounce cup of coffee would usually contain at least half this amount, and in many cases would contain this entire amount. And a large, specialty coffee (like a 16-ounce "grande") might contain over twice this level (8).
So next time you’re in a nice beer garden on a warm sunny day, alternate with a glass of water between drinks. Your body will thank you and your hangover the next day won’t be as bad too!
So how can you tell if you’re hydrated or not? The most common way is by the colour of your urine. The lighter your urine is, the more hydrated you are. The darker the urine, the more water your body needs. If your urine is incredibly dark, I suggest you go to your GP or the nearest hospital as soon as possible. Here is the urine chart I use to determine how hydrated you are: http://www.urinecolors.com/themes/uctheme/assets/dehydration-chart.pdf
We live in a world where resources are dwindling and everyday there are more mouths to feed and hydrate. There are currently 7.5 billion people on the planet. By 2030 this is estimated by go up to 8.5 billion! That’s another billion people in the next 13 years to feed and support. Here is a good website to see real time population growth and estimates: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/
I am a firm believer that we will make lots of technological advancements in moving to clean energy and away from coal/oil. However, I do estimate that future wars will be over food and water rather than for what I call luxury resources such as metals and fuel. If you think i’m wrong, I suggest you do some Googling. Billionaire investors such as Warren Buffet have already moved a lot of their wealth into foods and water stocks. Warren Buffet has stocks in both Coca-Cola and Kraft Heinz (9). High network investors see the need for where the growth and needs of humans will be in the future and have purchased stocks to cater for this.
As soon as 2025, large parts of the world could experience perennial water shortages, says Dr. Upmanu Lall, director of the Columbia Water Center and a leading expert on hydroclimatology, climate change adaptation, and risk analysis. On a humanitarian level, the possibilities are as devastating as climate change. "If you are looking at a world population of seven billion and four to five billion of those people live under a situation where they don’t have water for food, for generating electricity, for consumption, then we have to pay attention to it. We have to do something about it (10)."
So in conclusion, I would suggest to drink more water and avoid dehydrating foods. Look at where you can save water and help those that do not have access to clean water. Your diet should be vast and should be rich in vitamins, minerals and you should always stay hydrated. Processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. The plate you eat should be rich in colours, such as greens, reds, oranges and whites. If you think you require support on hydration or require general guidance on nutritional support and how to live a balanced lifestyle please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website by going to www.urbanplatehealth.com