The role of water in the body and why it is important that we drink enough of it.
Around 60 - 70% of our body is made up of water, which is why drinking water and other fluids is absolutely vital to keep our body healthy and in good working order.
Water is lost daily through various bodily processes and therefore must be replenished continuously so that dehydration does not occur.
Humans can exist for several weeks without food, however after several days without water we would not survive. Water is needed by every living cell and almost every process that takes place within the body is dependant on water.
What do we need water for?
Water is required for practically every bodily function and below are just some of the processes carried out within the body that depend on water to take place:
- Water is needed in order to break down and digest food, carry nutrients in the bloodstream to where they are needed and to eliminate any waste. Food cannot be digested without water.
- Water helps digested food pass through the body quicker, preventing constipation and any toxins and waste material from sitting inside the body for too long and accumulating to dangerous levels.
- Drinking water replenishes bodily fluids lost through sweating, especially when playing sports and through passing urine.
- Water aids circulation.
- Drinking water helps to regulate the temperature of the body and body heat.
- Water is needed to keep the kidneys healthy and in working order and prevents urinary infections from occurring.
- Water keeps joints and eyes lubricated, and acts as a protective cushion for tissues and cells.
- It is the basis of all body fluids such as blood and saliva.
- Water keeps the skin hydrated, supple and looking healthy and glowing.
- Water is the main component of muscles and keeps them toned and firm.
- Water dilutes toxins and removes them from the body.
- Water aids in the metabolism and elimination of fats. Without water, fat deposits in the body will increase.
- Drinking water will alleviate water retention and lessen swelling of hands and feet.
- The brain is comprised of a lot of water and therefore needs replenishment to keep it working well and to full capacity. Without water we may lose concentration and suffer headaches and tiredness.
- Water dilutes the calcium in our urine, which could crystallise to form kidney stones if the body did not receive enough fluids.
How much water do we need to drink?
The body needs on average three litres of liquid a day. Two litres of liquid should be made up of water or other fluids, whilst one litre of water usually comes from the food that we eat.
The two litres of water that the body needs through drinking liquids daily can be broken down into 8 - 10 glasses of water or more, if it is a particularly hot day or you have been exercising.
It is best to drink water, as water is the most effective at replenishing lost fluids, although other liquids such as skimmed milk, soup or unsweetened fruit juices will also suffice.
Fizzy drinks do contain water but are bad for the teeth and can cause tooth decay due to the large amounts of sugars they contain and alcoholic or caffeinated beverages are not ideal as they act as diuretics, making the body urinate more than it normally would and therefore forcing the kidneys to work harder.
Water required by the body may also be obtained from food. Certain foods contain more water than solid matter and therefore if you do not drink enough fluids throughout the day, try to eat some of the foods that have high percentages of water content.
Fruit and vegetables contain higher amounts of water than any other types of food, for example melon is about 90% water, whilst lettuce is 95%. Other foods that have high water levels are shellfish (85%), milk (90%), fish (75%), cucumber (96%), tomatoes (93%), carrots and broccoli (89%), poultry (65%) and soft cheese (58%).
What happens if we do not drink enough fluids?
If the body does not have an adequate supply of water through a daily intake of fluids, it will draw on sources from within the body. This in turn will cause the body to shut down, as the cells become dehydrated from a lack of water.
The first signs of dehydration are a general feeling of being really thirsty. Upon feeling thirsty, we usually drink something, however if this thirst is not met, other symptoms will start to occur.
As the body continues to lose water, which is not being replaced, our daily life can become affected. A lack of water will affect the way we work including our concentration and we may start to experience dizziness, fatigue and a general weakness of the body. Joints will begin to ache and become quite painful and you could suffer bouts of headaches, muscle cramps and constipation. Externally, your skin will lose its healthy glow and hair and nails will become brittle and dull.
If you notice that you are not urinating very often (less than 4 times a day) or if your urine has a strong smell and is dark yellow in colour, this could be a sign of dehydration and you should try to drink more water.
If you do not remedy this in time, chronic dehydration could lead to a much more serious illness such as problems with the heart or kidneys or high blood pressure.