This seemingly harmless, calorie free, nutrient free, colorless, tasteless liquid happens to be the most important constituent needed to live. We can survive without food, but not without water. Water is second only to oxygen in maintaining life.
Nearly 60% of our body is made up of water and virtually every body function, including digestion, absorption, transport of nutrients, elimination of body waste, regulation of body temperature, as well as many other chemical processes involve water. Water is needed to build body tissues and is the base of all fluid secretions such as tears, saliva, and gastric juices, as well as the fluids that lubricate our joints and organs.t provides a protective cushion for body cells and also keeps our skin soft and smooth. In the form of amniotic fluid in the womb it protects the developing fetus.
Insufficient intake of water can significantly decrease work performance, cause constipation, hyperacidity and increase the risk of kidney problems, renal stones and urinary tract infections. Other effects include changes in skin, hair and even appetite.
We need more water in hot weather, during exercise, or when we have fever, cold, or other illness. During pregnancy women need more water to provide for amniotic fluid and the expanded blood volume, as well as to meet the needs of the developing fetus. Nursing mothers also need more water to increase their fluid intake to produce milk Taking diuretics and other drugs that increase urination, drinking large amounts of tea or coffee can offset the fluid balance and increase the water needs (87% water).
How do we know that we are getting enough water? Thirst may lag behind the body’s need for water during intense exercise or when it’s extremely hot and humid. By the time you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. A good indicator is to ensure that the urine is pale and light colored. Dark or yellow color indicates you are not taking enough water or fluids.
About 80% of people’s daily water intake comes from drinking water and beverages’ including caffeinated drinks and other 20% comes from water contained in food. For an average adult this may translate to six to eight glasses of water a day. Based on the recommendations that 1ml. of fluid is required to metabolize 1 calorie, this figure may vary with seasons and individual needs.
Making up your water requirements is better achieved by drinking through the day, rather than loading up at one time. Nutritionist Ishi Khosla clarifies that drinking water with the meals is not contra-indicative; rather it may help you to eat less and monitor weight. In fact, drinking water with meals may help you to lose weight and body fat over time by limiting the amount of food you consume. According to a recent study, increasing water intake causes significant weight loss independent of caloric intake and exercise. However, sweetened beverages have not been found to have this effect.
As our body ages, it becomes dryer. The body of a newborn infant is 75 – 80% water, compared to 50% after age 65 or 70. This drying out is reflected in the wrinkled skin, reduced saliva flow, and stiffened joints that occur naturally with aging. Thirst threshold increases with age; therefore, older people need to pay more attention to drinking enough water as they have decreased thirst.
Exercise, sweat loss, mainly in the heat, can also cause dehydration, can alter the hydro-electrolyte balance, disturb thermoregulation (maintenance of body temperature), and lower athletic performance. It is a good idea to take 500ml. of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, losses need to be replaced. Beverages consumed during exercise should be cool, palatable, with some sugars, and electrolytes (salt). Athletes should not consume high fiber foods and highly sweetened drinks before exercise. Fiber pulls water from the body into the intestinal tract thereby increasing the body’s need for water. Sweetened drinks can not be absorbed and used by the body as well as plain water.
If you drink more fluid than you need, the kidneys excrete the excess by increasing the volume of urine and excess is absorbed by our cells. Drinking surplus water can be harmful for patients of kidney and heart failure. Contrary to popular belief that drinking water causes bloating exactly the reverse is true. Drinking water will decrease bloating. Salt and sodium rich foods like preserved meats, soups and pickles etc, imbalanced female hormones, cardiac dysfunction, or renal disease are the most common cause for bloating.
Water is essential to stay hydrated especially in summers. The ideal drink is either pure drinking water or those that provide health benefits and replace minerals and electrolytes with few calories from sugar and no preservatives, chemicals and preferably organic. Some herbs are known to be ‘pick-me-ups’, others like coffee and alcohol may be dehydrating.
Inadequate fluid intake could lead to dehydration. Some of its early signs are poor concentration, lethargy, fatigue and dry mouth. Chronic fluid insufficiency can lead to hyperfilteration in the kidneys leading to renal disease or stones. Severe dehydration can be dangerous with serious health consequences like nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness and can even be fatal. Sportsmen or those exposed to high temperatures and children are easily prone to dehydration. They must ensure adequate fluid intake before and during exposure. Women following weight loss diets may need extra servings of low calorie fluids. However, those suffering from renal disease or heart failure must strictly regulate their fluid intake and thereby their beverages.
Vegetable and fruit juices like litchi, watermelon, mango, traditional sattoos, chaach, coconut or lime water and herbal teas are loaded with electrolytes, minerals and antioxidants which help to fight diseases. They have healing and restorative properties and make simple natural ways to enhance health and vitality. Bael and rose sherbet, lemonade, mintade, aam panna, barley or chana sattoo, zeera-hing lassie, smoothies, cocum water, thandai, litchi juice, jamun juice, cucumber and mint soup, cammomile tea, are great summer coolers.
For those who are monitoring weight, go sugar free and use alternative sweeteners which taste just as good! Green tea and zebra dhania paani are especially useful in weight loss. Boost your immunity with the green power in cabbage, spinach, lemon, coriander, lauki and garlic cocktail cocum water, jamun juice, Boost your immunity with the green power in cabbage, spinach, lemon, coriander, lauki and garlic cocktail.
These alternatives help to lose weight and also keep the body well hydrated.
Many of us are unsure as to whether it’s fine to drink beverages with meals. The truth is that there is no need to separate beverages from solid foods, rather, sip in moderation. It is not advisable to drink copious amounts of water or cold drinks along with meals as it has been shown to suppress gastric secretion and impair digestion. A plain glass of room temperature water or some green tea or soup is fine with meals. A better thing would be a squeeze of lime or lemon which can enhance iron and calcium uptake from food, besides adding vitamin C.
MYTHS ABOUT WATER:
· The best indicator of water requirement is thirst.
· Warm water with honey and lemon helps in weight loss.
· Drinking water causes bloating.
· Drinking excess water will detoxify body and improve health.
· Drinking water with the meals dilutes digestive juices.
· Lots of water equals healthy skin.