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Drink Up!Are you topping off your inner tank?
Are you overlooking the forgotten nutrient that is key to your good health as well as your weight loss goals? The adult human body is about two-thirds water, and this fact alone suggests that this fluid has an important part to play in health and well-being. Actually, all of our biochemical, physiological and neurological processes depend, to some degree, on water. For instance, water makes up the bulk of our blood volume. If we do not keep ourselves properly topped up with fluid, this may be reflected in a slightly reduced blood volume and blood pressure. The end result here is that our circulation will fail to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all our tissues and organs with optimal efficiency.
Circulation is key to ensuring proper detoxification of the body and elimination of waste through the kidneys. Even relatively mild dehydration might therefore increase the risk of toxic build-up in the body, which is likely to have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing. Water is also important for nerve-transmission in the body. Running low on fluid can therefore have consequences for brain function. Water basically helps all body and brain processes run that much more smoothly. No wonder, then, that while the human body can usually go a few weeks or even months without food, it can only manage a few days without water.
Because water plays a critical role in the body’s most fundamental processes, dehydration can manifest in a myriad of ways. Lethargy (of both body and mind) is a common symptom of dehydration. Individuals generally find that getting a bit more water into their system buoys up their mental and physical energy, often within half an hour or so.
Another quite common consequence of dehydration is headache. One theory about how this happens is that running low on fluid can cause the membranes that cover the brain (called meninges) to exert some downward pressure, which is sensed as pain. Whether this is true or not I can’t say definitively, but one thing I know for sure is that many individuals with “mystery” headaches end up banishing them simply by drinking more water.
Dehydration can cause constipation, too. When the body runs dry, it does its utmost to extract every last drop of water from waste matter in the large colon. The end result can be a bit like a cork stuck in the neck of a wine bottle. Keeping well hydrated is often a crucial tactic in keeping our bowels moving along nicely.
For optimal health and well-being, it pays to keep topped off with water.
Our need for water is dependent on many different factors including propensity to sweating, size, activity levels, temperature, humidity and how much water might be taken in from, say, fruits and vegetables. What this means is that it’s very difficult to make blanket recommendations about water intake. Because of this, it’s better for us to tune into personal indicators of our state of hydration.
Thirst is not a good indicator, as by the time the body is thirsty it is often quite dehydrated indeed. A good gauge, though, to the state of our hydration is the color of our urine. Essentially, the paler our urine is, the better our state of hydration. The aim is to drink enough water to keep your urine pale yellow in color throughout the day. If your urine color strays into darker tones, particularly if this is accompanied by a noticeable smell, then it’s time to step up your water intake. Most individuals, most of the time, need to drink in the order of 2–3 liters of water each day to maintain a good state of hydration and pale urine.
For many people, the idea of drinking 2 or 3 liters of water a day seems like quite a feat. The one big piece of advice I have about getting plenty of water into the body each day is: keep water by you. When individuals have water in front of them, they tend to drink a lot more than if they repeatedly need to get it from, say, the fridge or the water cooler down the end of the corridor.
If you’re doing the gardening, keep a bottle of water with you. Put a bottle of water on your desk at work, and make sure there is water available in meetings. Put a bottle of water in the car and carry one in your briefcase, rucksack or sports bag when you are out and about. If you keep water by you, you’re most likely to get through the decent quantities of the stuff that your body needs.