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How much water do we really need?

August 2017

drinking water

In recent years we have been inundated with advice to drink enough water and of course it makes sense. After all water makes up about 60 per cent of our body weight and so many aspects of our body depend on water. This wonderful mix of hydrogen and oxygen (the chemical formula for water is H20, two parts of hydrogen to one part of oxygen) is vital to help flush toxins out of our key organs, to help carry nutrients around to our cells, and provide the moist environment many parts of our body need.

There is good evidence that not drinking enough water may be associated with lots of physical problems, from heat stroke and kidney disease to constipation and even to a decreased immune function. Dehydration, even mildly, can cause headaches, dizziness and even fainting.

When you consider that every day we lose water through breath, urine, perspiration and bowel movements, clearly to function properly we need to regularly intake water.

Sensibly in recent years the media, health experts and others have been advising us all to drink lots of water. “Drink eight glasses of water a day” has been the mantra of many but interestingly, on our research, Laterlife couldn’t find proper evidence to back this up. It seems the recommendation of eight glasses can be traced back to 1921, when  a medical writer took the trouble to measure his urine output and sweat and worked out he was losing about 3% of his body weight a day. Then he worked out that this equated to eight glasses of water a day...and this idea has continued to be put forward over the decades.

American’s renowned Mayo Clinic says that the old adage “drink 8 glasses of water a day” equates to around 1.9 litres of water and that is not very different from the latest advice available. They say that while the 8 by 8 rule is not supported by hard evidence, it remains popular because it is easy to remember. 

However, newer medically researched figures indicate that we should actually be drinking more!  Men should be drinking about 13 cups or 3 litres of liquid a day and women need about 9 cups or 2.2 litres a day.

The Daily Mail recently reported that one way to determine how much water you need is to take your weight in lbs and divide it by 2.2. Then multiply that number by your age and divide the total sum by 28.3. While there is no background to the medical science involved here, the result is said to give you the amount in ounces of water you should drink every day.

But however you measure it or do it, remaining hydrated should be reasonably easy. Thirst is clearly a clear call from the body for more liquid, as can dry skin and of course deep yellow urine. More unusual but worth noting is that doctors say one can get used to living in an accepted condition of being too “dry”, where you don’t really notice being thirsty, or even worse mix your bodies’  desire for liquid with hunger. So it is worth being aware of this.

While it is fairly rare, it is possible to drink too much water, especially if you do it in a short time before your body can adapt. If your kidneys are overwhelmed with water, and unable to excrete the excess, the electrolyte content in the blood can be diluted and this can cause low sodium levels.
But the good news is that all fluids apparently can count towards our daily intake of liquid, not just water. Milk and some juices comprise mainly of water. It seems even beer or wine or caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee can also be counted, although it is clearly not a good idea to rely on these, with all their other potentially damaging contents, for your main liquid intake.

Interesting, we also obtain water from food and fruits. Watermelon and spinach, for instance, are generally very high indeed in water content.

Water is something that we in the developed world take pretty well for granted. Ensuring we drink enough should also be a matter of course in our lives.

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