24 April 2009
A few years back when I started training for my first half marathon, I wrote an article for our newsletter about how to stay cool in hot environments. Staying hydrated was one of the methods of dealing with the heat. But staying hydrated is more than just about keeping cool. Our bodies are made up of mostly water and our muscles, organs, and even mental functions can be affected if we are dehydrated.
I know what a lot of you are thinking, “oh, I don’t like drinking water” or “It doesn’t bother me that much – drinking too much water isn’t good for you anyway.” Really? Here’s some interesting facts I gathered from a great website, www.wateraid.org, that might change your mind:
- Cells that have shrunk because of dehydration affects the electrical signal that tells the heart to pump.
- Water improves blood flow – if you’re dehydrated, the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout your body is impaired.
- Water also lubricates the muscles and organs in your body. What happens when your vehicle trys to run without any oil? Think about that. Grind, grind, grind.
- Speaking of engines and oil, what happens when your car’s oil is filthy? Water helps the kidneys filter your blood and flushes toxins from your body so you can physically and mentally perform like a well oiled machine.
- Water reduces blood pressure.
- If you don’t have enough water in your system to help flush out toxins, you are at risk of urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
- Lack of water in your saliva doesn’t just make your mouth feel sticky. Water increases the flow of saliva that reduces the acids in your mouth to reduce tooth decay.
- A dehydrated brain can cause all kinds of issues – decreased concentration, attention, and affects short term memory. It also affects your vision and accident prone - increasing your risk for injury on the job or on a family outing. It can also affect your social life because irritability is associated with dehydration.
Still not convinced? How about this? Drinking enough water helps curb the appetite (people often mistake thirst for hunger), helps digestion and increases your metabolism. Therefore, water is one of mother nature’s best means of weight control. Worried about saggy, aging skin? Lack of water affects one of our biggest organs - the elasticity and tone of the skin.
So what can we do to prevent dehydration? Remember that we lose water through sweat, evaporation, urination and even breathing. This increases when working or playing in hot, humid or even dry environments. Drinking diuretics, such as caffinated drinks, increases water loss and alcohol dehydrates you. If you anticipate any of the aforementioned, make sure you stay hydrated with water and eating foods high in water (like fruit). The 8 glasses a day rule is a good one but you might need more. Wateraid.org has a great hydration calculator that will help determine how much you need. It surprised me. By the way, thirst is a good indicator but by the time you are feeling thirsty, you are already on your way to dehydration.
Keep healthy and stay hydrated!