I am convinced that a majority of people we see are not properly hydrated. When asked, more often than not patients do admit to NOT drinking enough water. I hear loads of excuses. They forget to, they don’t have enough time, they don’t like the taste, or they don’t like to waste time with the very normal and healthy process known as urination.

When you consider that sixty percent of the human body is made of water, it’s fair to say that proper hydration is not just important – it’s vital! Water is involved in every function of the body that is required to sustain life. It is an essential element for leading a healthy lifestyle and is involved in performing numerous vital bodily functions.

It’s surprising just how many ways water helps our body function properly:

  • Water transports nutrients to cells and removes waste products. Water is vital for the normal function of every single cell in our body.
  • Water regulates body temperature through sweating.
  • Water provides lubrication to our joints.
  • Water is an important component of the discs in our spine. It allows them to act as shock absorbers of the body. When our discs become dehydrated it puts more strain on the muscles either side of the spine.
  • Water is vital for proper kidney function.
  • Water is vital for the lubrication of food as it passes through the digestive tract. It aids digestion and prevents constipation.

I am especially suspicious of someone’s hydration levels when they get consistently sore after a treatment. It is pretty normal to experience muscle soreness after the first or second visit but not regularly after every session. If this is the case it is highly likely that dehydration is to blame. Water plays an important role of removing the toxins that are released from your tissues via the lymphatic system after a treatment. It is these toxins which make you feel sore. We often tell our patients to drink plenty of water within the two days after a session for this reason

Signs and symptoms of dehydration

Here are some of the things to look out for:

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Dry mouth

  • Flushed, dry skin

  • Reduced urine output (urine is a darker yellow)

  • Muscle aches and pains

How water much is enough?

Adequate daily water intake is dependent on someone’s size, activity level and the weather. Your body will require more water if you live in a tropical or hot climate, exercise strenuously, or in the case of certain medical conditions where fluid is lost through the skin, lungs, kidneys or gastrointestinal tract.

The average person will lose about 2- 3 litres of water per day. When calculating how much water you need to drink, what is often ignored is how much you consume through food. So a person who has a higher intake of salads and fruits will be replacing fluids through their food as well as simply drinking more water. The usual guideline is to drink 2 litres (8 glasses) per day. This may be a bit simplistic but at least it is easy to remember! However, the colour of your urine is the simplest and best way of keeping tabs on your hydration. If it’s not a nice pale yellow colour then you need to up your water intake.

It is worth noting here that less water is required for people with other medical conditions such as end stage kidney disease or certain heart and lung conditions. You can even drink too much water! But you have to be drinking A LOT of it for this to happen – well in excess of several litres per day. The resulting condition is known as hyopnatremia. Marathon runners and long distance cyclists should be aware of this.

Some sources say that you can include alcohol and caffeinated beverages in your total fluid intake. The theory is that the body adjusts to the increased urine output. Even sugary drinks and diet drinks can be included in total fluid intake according to these sources. We note in clinic however that people who drink a lot of these types of beverages seem to suffer more pain (likely from chronic mild dehydration), so we still advise that you should limit these drinks. Obviously there are other health benefits associated with limiting alcohol, caffeine and sugar intake as well.

If you have read all of this and are still thinking that you really hate water, substitute with weak tea or add a slice of lemon, lime or orange to liven up the taste!

by Saskia Harris