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Hydration- what should we drink?
There are many conflicting stories of how much fluid we need and how much water we should have each day. Some people hate drinking just water whilst others believe they are being healthy by consuming 4L a day. How much fluid should we drink each day? As a guide most people should aim for 1.5L of total fluid intake per day (up to 2L if exercising) but most of this should be from hydrating sources.
Water makes up about 60 percent of our body weight. Every system in our body depends on water. It helps to flush toxins out of organs for elimination from the body and helps carry nutrients to cells. Lack of water can make us feel tired, may be a factor in constipation and headaches. Those who suffer with fluid retention may find that it is the body’s signal that it requires more fluid and is therefore holding on to what it has. Every day we lose water through respiration, perspiration, urine and bowel movements.
For our bodies to function properly, we must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages (and to a degree) foods that contain water. How much we require depends on many factors, including weight, activity level, age, health status and the environment in which we live and work.
Water is cheap, hydrating and contains no sugar that can damage teeth and contribute to weight gain. If you don't like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime or have sparkling water occasionally. For a hot drink try hot water with slices of lemon, it feels refreshing and cleansing. Other hydrating fluids are herbal and fruit teas (there are so many to choose from and all supermarkets sell a good variety), rooibos tea and coffee alternatives like dandelion.
It's fine to drink some tea and coffee but I would limit this to a maximum of two a day if you can. Caffeine is a stimulant which creates a stress response in the body. These drinks can temporarily make us feel more alert but is usually followed by a low or a desire for more. Caffeinated drinks can act as a diuretic. Tannins in tea bind to minerals (like iron, calcium and magnesium) in the gut and excrete them from the body, inhibiting uptake, so any tea should be drunk well away from meals. This includes most herbal teas as they contain varying amounts of tannins but are not stimulants and are good hydrating drinks!
Watch fruit juice, soft drinks, fizzy drinks, instant powdered drinks and hot chocolate as most of these are high in sugar. Milk is another fluid you can include in your daily allowance. Even alcohol should be included in the fluid allowance but it is not hydrating and has its own health harms so avoid as much as possible.
Although rare it is possible to drink too much water which can upset the electrolyte (mineral) balance of the blood which could lead to a condition called hyponatremia. This can be dangerous hence why we do need an upper daily limit and why more is not necessarily best.
Article written by Caroline Peyton - Cirencester
Naturopathy and Nutritional Therapy take a holistic approach to health recognising the healing power of nature. The importance of good nutrition is well recognised but poorly understood. There is so much confusing information written on the subject. If you would like to have a better understanding about making healthy food choices... [read more]