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Hydration and Health

Hydration

Water makes up 60% of the human body. With H20 being such a major factor in the makeup of our anatomy what does hydration do for your health and what exactly does dehydration do to your body? Dr Suhel Ahmed looks into water and how staying hydrated can benefit your health and lifestyle. 

Are we hydrated as a nation?

In the UK 51% of adults have admitted they rarely drink water unless it is diluted with something else such as cordial. Over recent years it has become apparent that staying hydrated is becoming less important to the UK population with most people unaware that the drinks they consume in fact make them more dehydrated than refreshingly hydrated. 23% of the population use fizzy drinks to quench their thirst however, this has the opposite effect and has a negative impact on your health. Carbonated drinks are predominantly caffeine and sugar, with caffeine being a diuretic this has the opposite effect to hydrating your body. A simple change to using carbonated drinks to hydrate your body would be to replace the drinks with flavoured water if you crave something tasty in order to get enough fluids. 

What is our thirstiest organ?

On average we sweat 10 to 14 litres per day. With the loss of such a high amount of fluid our bodies must be replenished in order to function. Water helps with digestion, the transportation of nutrients and the maintenance of body temperature. On top of the three primary functions of water within the human body, H20 is also absolutely crucial for the upkeep and functionality of your vital organs. The kidneys are the thirstiest organs within your body, responsible for the disposal of toxins, filtering of blood and balancing bodily fluids. 
To keep on top of the amount of fluids lost through sweat, urine and exhaling we must drink 2 litres of water per day.

Fruit is hydrating!

Keeping on top of your hydration can be difficult if you do not enjoy drinking water. With many people opting for other sources of fluids it is important to know the other methods available for the hydration of your body.
Certain items of food are extremely hydrating and the consumption of these will have a similar effect to drinking water, although it will not be as effective. Fruit and veg are some of the most hydrating items of food with Cucumber being 95% water and Lettuce containing 96% water. Surprisingly the second most hydrating drink is skimmed milk which contains 91% water, therefor if you struggle to get your daily intake of water a milkshake may be almost as thirst quenching! Fruit lovers are more likely to be well hydrated and eating lots of fruit may be a way to gain the 2 litres of water your body requires per day. Up to 20% of our daily intake of water comes from solid foods. We have listed the most thirst-quenching fruit and veg below for those who prefer to gain their water eating tasty treats;

  • Watermelon – 92% water
  • Cucumber – 95% water
  • Bananas – 74% water
  • Strawberries – 92% water
  • Spinach – 92% water
  • Tomatoes – 94% water
  • Radish – 95% water

Although we gain part of our hydration from solids there are certain foods known to dehydrate our bodies. Salty snacks are particularly bad for dehydration. Your kidneys will deal with a high influx of salt by taking water from elsewhere in your body to help with the waste disposal process. Although salt is lost through sweat and replenishing this when rehydrating is important, it is also important to keep on top of the amount of salt entering your digestive system so you do not dehydrate. Foods such as salted nuts, crisps and even protein are known to use water in order to be processed, by simply implementing a balanced healthy diet you are aiding your body with hydration while keeping healthy!

How do you know if you’re dehydrated?

Dehydration is extremely dangerous, especially for the young and elderly. Signs of dehydration are easy to spot, however if they are affecting younger or older people it can be difficult for them to express their discomfort.
In recent studies GPs have found that 21% of primary care appointments are due to fatigue and tiredness with 49% of these cases being cured by implementation of proper hydration. As a nation we are dehydrated and uneducated about the issues surrounding hydration and the symptoms of dehydration.

If left untreated dehydration can lead to life threatening illnesses including, swelling of the brain, low blood volume and kidney failure. Spotting the signs of dehydration can save lives, we have put together some common symptoms so you can spot when either yourself or a loved one may need crucial hydration.

Symptoms of Dehydration:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of concentration
  • Mood changes and slow responses
  • Light headedness or dizziness
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Dry skin
  • Dry and cracked lips

If you suspect either yourself or a loved one may be suffering from dehydration, we recommend implementation of fluids as soon as your notice the signs.
Dehydration is extremely popular during the summer months, spending time in the sun can promote dehydration therefor monitoring the amount of time spent in the sun and your intake of fluids are crucial to healthy hydration.

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