Medical Matters – this week, Victoria Wicks, specialist clinical community and hydration project lead dietitian at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, talks about the importance of keeping hydrated:
Water is fundamental for life and health. Good hydration is required all year round, however it is especially important during warmer weather.
Water from the fluids that we drink is required by our bodies to function properly. Fluid is lost from our bodies all the time; when we breathe, sweat or eliminate waste.
Dehydration can occur when the amount of fluid we drink is insufficient to replace the fluids we have lost.
Why is hydration so important?
Water plays a vital role in our cells, tissues and organs in order for them to work properly.
For example, water helps us to regulate our body temperature, eliminate waste products, deliver oxygen throughout our body, lubricate our joints and act as a shock absorber to protect vital organs.
The consequences associated with dehydration can be tiredness, poor concentration, headache, dizziness, confusion, falls, constipation, urinary tract infections and hospital admissions.
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
There are many signs that we can look out for which may indicate we are becoming dehydrated.
These include headache, dizziness, poor concentration, tiredness, dark urine, dry mouth and constipation.
If you are active, have a temperature, feeling unwell or if the weather is particularly hot, there is a greater risk of you becoming dehydrated.
How much should I be drinking?
Public Health England recommends that we should drink six to eight cups daily for good health – 1.6 litres for women and 2 litres for men.
All drinks count towards your fluid intake except for alcohol.
Non-alcoholic versions can be included in your fluid count, as well as any mixers.
When thinking about drinking for a healthy bladder, caffeinated drinks, green tea and fizzy drinks are more likely to irritate our bladder and may have other health implications.
Decaffeinated drinks, diluted fruit juices and water is a better alternative for those with concerns around bladder health, continence or general health and wellbeing.
How can I improve my hydration levels?
Drink little and often and regularly throughout the day.
Around 20-30 per cent of our fluid intake comes from the food that we eat.
You can try some hydration boosters! Soup, custard, yogurt, jelly, fruits and vegetables all contain water.
When you do not feel like drinking try a fluid containing food as an alternative.
Try serving water in different ways. Water can be served hot or cold with lots of ice.
You can add fruits – lemon, lime, orange, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries – or vegetables – cucumber, mint – into the water to infuse flavour.
You may enjoy eating the fruits after finishing your drink; in turn naturally increasing your fluid intake.
Ice poles, ice lollies and ice creams all contain water and help to keep us cool in warmer weather.
These are good alternatives for those who may not like drinking or have a low fluid intake.
“If I drink more, I will urinate more’’
Our bladders get used to holding smaller amount of fluids which can lead to them becoming oversensitive. When we increase our fluid intake, our bladders may need a small period of time to adjust however increased urination settles down and returns to normal.
“Water is the only fluid that can hydrate our bodies’’
Drinking water is beneficial for good health however it is not our only source of hydration. As discussed in this article, other sources of water include hydrating foods and all other fluids we drink (except for alcohol). You can read more about how to prevent dehydration at Dehydration – NHS (https://www.nhs.uk)
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