12 Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water
The 22nd March 2018 marks World Water Day so I’d thought I’d
write a blog on the importance of water. There may well be some health benefits that you weren’t aware of. Rebecca Nicholas is the principle chiropractor and clinic owner of Back 2 Balance.
Water is essential for life. From the time that primeval species ventured from the oceans to live on land, a major key to survival has been prevention of dehydration. The critical adaptations cross an array of species, including man. Without it, humans can survive only for days.
Our bodies are around 60% water, give or take. Drinking enough maintains the body’s fluid balance, which helps transport nutrients in the body, regulate body temperature, digest food, and more.
It is commonly recommended to drink 9-16 cups of water. However this number varies depending on activity level, age, and how much water people are consuming in their food and drink. Although there is little science behind this recommendation, staying hydrated is important.
Here are 7 evidence-based health benefits of drinking plenty of water and 5 non evidence based ones too!
1. It helps to maximise physical performance
If we do not stay hydrated, physical performance can suffer. This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat. Dehydration can have a noticeable effect if you lose as little as 2% of your body’s water content. However, it is not uncommon for athletes to lose up to 6-10% of their water weight via sweat. This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, increased fatigue and make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.
Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and may even reduce the oxidative stress that occurs during high intensity exercise. This is not surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water. Sweating water out of the muscles can make them feel tired. So, if you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, then staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.
2. Hydration has an effect on energy levels and brain function
Your brain is strongly influenced by hydration status. Studies show that even mild dehydration (1-3% of body weight) can impair many aspects of brain function.
Dehydration is detrimental to working memory and increases the feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
A 1-3% fluid loss equals about 1.5-4.5 lbs (0.5-2 kg) of body weight loss for a 150 lbs (68 kg) person. This can easily occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat. Many other studies, ranging from children to the elderly, have shown that mild dehydration can impair mood, memory and brain performance. Adequate water intake helps productivity, focussing and concentration, and staying refreshed and alert. All these massively influence your mood too.
3. It may help to prevent and treat headaches
Dehydration can trigger headaches and migraines in some individuals. Several studies have shown that water can relieve headaches in those who are dehydrated. However, this appears to depend on the type of headache, as there are many different types and causes of headaches.
4. Drinking more water may help relieve constipation
Constipation is a common problem, characterised by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stool. Increasing fluid intake is often recommended as a part of the treatment protocol, and there is some evidence to back this up. Low water consumption appears to be a risk factor for constipation in both young and elderly individuals. Constipation is not healthy or normal, even if you’ve had it for a long time- it’s one of our major ways of eliminating toxins.
5. Drinking it may help treat kidney stones
Our kidneys process 200 quarts of blood daily, sifting out waste and transporting urine to the bladder. Yet, kidneys need enough fluids to clear away what we don’t need in the body. There is limited evidence that fluid intake can help prevent recurrence in people who have previously gotten kidney stones. Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys, which dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they are less likely to crystallise and form clumps. Water may also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but studies are required to confirm this.
6. It helps prevent hangovers
A hangover refers to the unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration. Although dehydration is not the main cause of hangovers, it can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headache and dry mouth. A good way to reduce hangovers is to drink a glass of H2O between drinks, and to have at least one big glass before going to bed.
7. Drinking more H2O can help with weight loss
Drinking plenty of water can help you lose weight. This is due to the fact that it increases satiety (feeling of fullness) and boost your metabolic rate. In two studies, drinking 1/2 litre of water was shown to increase metabolism by 24-30% for up to 1.5 hours. This means that drinking 2 litres every day can increase your total energy expenditure by up to 96 calories per day.
The timing is important too, and drinking half an hour before meals is the most effective. It can make you feel more full, so that you eat fewer calories. In one study, dieters who drank 1/2 litre of H2O before meals lost 44% more weight, over a period of 12 weeks.
It is actually best to drink water cold, because then the body will use additional energy (calories) to heat the water to body temperature.
And then some not so well researched reasons to increase your hydration levels….
8. Being hydrated may help you to have clearer skin
Certain toxins in the body can cause the skin to inflame, which results in clogged pores and acne. While science saying water makes the skin wrinkle free is contradictory, it does flush out these toxins and can reduce the risk of pimples.
9. It may have a role in pain prevention
Aching joints and muscle cramps and strains can all occur if the body is dehydrated. It also protects our joints and cartilage. Water keeps the cartilage around our joints hydrated and supple, ensuring that our joints stay lubricated. It also protects our spinal cord and tissues, keeping us healthy from the inside out. Cartilage—the rubbery material that coats our bones—is about 85% water. To keep this protective material healthy, we need to keep hydrated. Water can stimulate our production of synovial fluid, reduce inflammation around the joint and encourage the growth of new cells in the cartilage tissues.
10. Being well hydrated may help in fighting sickness
Water may help with decongestion and dehydration, helping the body bounce back when feeling under the weather. Just beware—drinking fluids hasn’t been scientifically proven to beat colds in one swoop, so don’t swap this for a trip to the doctor or other cold remedies.
11. Could it be a cancer protecter?
Research has found that the greater the fluid intake, the lower the incidence of bladder cancer, with more significant results when the fluid is water. One possible reason could be that urinating more frequently prevents the buildup of bladder carcinogens. Staying hydrated may also reduce the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer.
12. Hydration may be linked to heart health.
Can drinking H2O keep us heart healthy? There seems to be a link between risk of death from coronary heart disease and water intake: Research has shown both that consuming more means a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and that risk of death rises when intake of “high-energy fluids” (like soda and juice) increases.
Here are some of my top tips to help keep yourself hydrated…..
- Begin by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up, and 30 minutes before eating any big meal. (This will help control appetite, too.)
- Get in the habit of keeping a water bottle on hand at all times. And if the taste beings to bore, spice up the taste buds with a squeeze of citrus to the glass!
- Eat foods rich in water e.g. salad, fruit and vegetables.
- Check to see if your pee is a light pale yellow in the toilet pan, rather than bright yellow- this will tell you if you are well hydrated.
- Reduce your consumption of drinks (and foods) that are diuretics inc caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
We would love to hear from anyone doing something for World Water Day. We equally would like to know any of your tips for increasing water consumption in your daily life. Post below 🙂