I’ve not always been the water loving person that you see in front of you today.

I grew up in the 1970/80’s in Scotland drinking cow’s milk and Irn Bru. Even when I was training as a nurse in the late 1980’s my nursing colleagues and I would quench our thirst with a cup of tea or a can of the orange stuff. And would have never considered drinking a glass of water, let alone carry a bottle of water with us just in case we got thirsty. Thankfully times have changed.

It is now not uncommon to see people carrying bottles of water with them.  However, not everyone is this attentive to hydrating themselves. Over the years I have spoken to 100’s of patients and clients who don’t drink as much as they should. The reasons for this vary from person to person. Some people just forget to drink, don’t feel thirsty or worry about needing the toilet. Others just don’t like the taste of water and will only drink fizzy drinks or coffee.

Why is water important?

Our body is made up of approximately 60% water and we need it to function. It helps control our body temperature, lubricates our joints and it is responsible for transporting nutrients and waste products between our major organs. We also lose water from our bodies when we pass urine, faeces, sweat and when we breathe. So it’s really important that we drink more water to replace this.

How much water should we drink?

It is difficult to give an exact figure as there are so many factors that come into play when deciding how much we need to drink.  For example, if we live in a hot country, how much exercise we do, our sex, age, if we are ill and if we are breastfeeding.

The NHS in the UK advises that we drink 1.2 litres of water a day to stop us from getting dehydrated. Whilst other sources say we should be drinking nearer 2 litres a day. Where these figures have come from is unclear. But the general consensus is that we should drink when we are thirsty.

Drinking at regular intervals throughout the day and not all at once is also advised. And if you have been excessively sweating or losing other bodily fluids e.g. vomiting, you may need to increase your usual fluid intake and speak to a pharmacist to see if rehydration salts are appropriate.

Also be mindful that Alcohol is a diuretic so you will need to rehydrate with water if you have been out on the lash.

What symptoms do you get if you are dehydrated?

Other signs include

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • dark concentrated urine
  • passing urine less than 4 times a day
  • low energy
  • poor concentration
  • constipation
  • dry eyes and lips
  • feelings of hunger despite eating enough food

If you have any of the above symptoms that do not improve with drinking adequate amounts of water then please see your doctor to rule out other possible reasons.

Does it have to be water that we drink?

Although you will get a certain amount of hydration from fruits, vegetables, juices, coffee and tea. They won’t do the job as well as water. In fact, some fizzy drinks, teas and coffee will also have a dehydrating effect on the body as they contain caffeine and other chemicals.

If you don’t like the taste of water then try drinking caffeine free herbal teas or add a slice of lemon to water to jazz it up a bit.

Is it possible to drink too much water?

Yes it is. There is a medical condition called Dilutional Hyponatraemia which is also known as water intoxication. It can happen when you drink too much water in a short space of time, which causes the sodium levels in your blood to drop too low. This has been seen in athletes (exercise-associated Hypoatraemia) and when people are crash dieting and are using water to replace food. If you stick to the general guidelines of approximately 1-2 litres at day then you should be fine.

Is it okay to drink tap water?

Tap water quality varies throughout the world, so I can only speak for the UK. The tap water in the UK has deemed to be ‘safe to drink’ by Water UK. This is obviously the cheapest way to drink water. But if you don’t like the taste or are concerned about contaminants and added chemicals in tap water (such as chlorine) then you could consider investing in a filter tap or system. I personally use the Nikken Imag Waterfall, but I would recommend that you do your research to see what is out there that suits your needs and bank balance.

So my take home message today is to view drinking enough water as a small, easily achievable and important part of your self-care.

“Self-care has become a new priority – the revelation that it’s perfectly permissible to listen to your body and do what it needs.” Frances Ryan