You hear so much about the importance of being well hydrated when reading about health, but in my clinic when I ask my patients, who are often very sick with IBS, migraines, diabetes, hormonal issues, cancer or chronic fatigue, if they drink enough, the answer is almost always no! On average most of my patients seem to manage one or two glasses of water a day, if that!
It is so important to stay well hydrated and your body sends you signals to tell you that it is becoming dehydrated which can lead to a variety of symptoms. In fact, GPs say that it is surprisingly common the amount of people they see in their practices who are simply dehydrated.
One of these signs is that your digestion starts to suffer and many people become constipated. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation that can often be easily resolved by simply upping your water intake. While we’re talking about bathroom behaviour, another sign is that your urine output reduces as your kidneys attempt to retain as much fluid as possible to stop you getting dehydrated. If you are going to the loo less than 5 or 6 times a day and your urine is darker than a very light straw colour, this could mean that you’re not drinking enough.
The appearance of our skin is another indication of our hydration level, so if you find that your skin is dry, flaky or itchy, or you notice wrinkles are more pronounced, make sure that you increase your fluid intake. Another good test is to pinch the skin on the back of your hand. It should spring back immediately, but some people find that it takes a few seconds to return to normal.
Headaches and migraines can very often be triggered by dehydration. Our brains are composed of approx. 70% water and when we don’t drink enough our brain tissue and cells lose some of their moisture resulting in a loss of concentration or a headache. When we don’t have enough fluid in our systems, our blood volume reduces, which then reduces the amount of oxygen being carried to the brain, blood vessels in the brain dilate to compensate and this can also contribute to a headache or migraine.
Even mild dehydration is thought to contribute to feelings of tiredness, lethargy and low energy.
NHS guidelines state that women should drink 1.6 litres of fluid a day - the equivalent to about eight glasses and men should drink two litres, which is approx. ten glasses. Water is by far the best source of fluid, but fruit and herb teas, very diluted fruit juice and other non-fizzy and non-caffeinated fluids all count to your total.
So next time you feel tired, headachy, lethargic or have sluggish digestion, reach for a glass of water first, check your fluid intake is enough and see if your symptoms reduce.
Blog written for Leg Up For Talent. www.legupfortalent.com
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