Importance of Hydration
Have you ever considered how your body maintains your fluid balance and keeps you hydrated throughout the day? Today, let’s explore the topic of Hydration and its importance in our Life.
With 40 to 62% of body mass, the majority of the human body is made up of water. The body’s ability to store water is restricted and the production is limited to a tiny quantity of 0.30 L water each day, therefore continuous replacement of lost water is highly necessary for good health.1
Hydration is the process of providing your body with adequate amounts of water to maintain proper bodily functions. It is crucial for numerous physiological functions, such as controlling body temperature, promoting digestion, delivering nutrients, and getting rid of waste, as all of those depend on water.
But when exactly do we need to think about our Hydration? Your need for water starts when you are feeling thirsty, meaning that you may not be optimal hydrated. This state is usually referred to ‘being dehydrated’.
So our next question on our journey would be “What is the state of dehydration exactly?” Dehydration means that your water loss was increased, while you did not replenish enough water to counteract it. Therefore, your fluid balance is tilted towards insufficient water levels and this can lead to serious health consequences if you don’t balance it.
In order to keep your body well hydrated, it is crucial to drink enough water to replenish the water you lost throughout the course of the day. Let’s take a closer look at our water balance to understand its underlying mechanism.
Fluids- the Elixir of Life
There are approximately 3.6 Liters of water that are lost every day by the human body, either through sweat, through breathing, or through our excretions.1 However, there are some special situations where your body requires a higher amount of water intake, such as during treatment with specific medications, during extreme hot weather conditions, pregnancy and sports.
Our body controls our hydration levels with a sensitive system by either activating the thirst perception to encourage drinking or stimulating the renal collecting ducts to save water internally.1
But coming back to the state of dehydration: How do you know you’re dehydrated? There are 6 common signs of dehydration: 2
- Feeling thirsty (because of the body’s internal signal of an imbalanced water level)
- Feeling dizzy (since the water levels are not optimal)
- Feeling tired
- Headaches (without optimal hydration, your brain tissues shrinks and it increases the pressure inside your head)
- Dry mouth and lips (your body starts to feel the lack of water)
- Peeing less often (because the body tries to retain the water from the kidneys)
Intense heat, nausea, fever, medications, gastrointestinal problems (diarrhoea), and high level of activity are common causes of dehydration. In other words, if you spend a lot of time at the gym, if you are sick or exposed to high temperature for too long, your body's water supply gets depleted.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to drink enough water to avoid the state of dehydration.
However, paradoxically, you can also drink too much water: When you consume a lot of water in a short amount of time, your kidneys are not able to remove the excess water in a timely manner. In the scientific community, this is known as water toxicity.3
The surplus water migrates towards the higher solute concentration, causing the cells to swell due to increased intracellular water. Confusion, sleepiness, lethargy, and headache are the results of the increased pressure inside the brain due to the water diffusion.
Apart from that, vomiting, muscular spasms, and in extreme cases, even seizures and coma, are typical signs of water intoxication.4
Due to the significant dilution, the extra water also causes your blood sodium levels to drop too low, which is called Hyponatremia. However, this is a fairly uncommon condition that is typically associated with kidney disease, heart failure and diabetes insipidus. Triathletes and marathon runners are at danger as well because they sweat too much salt during intense heat or continuous activity.3
In order to avoid dehydration, water toxicity and ensure optimal hydration, it is proposed that the total water intake should be approximately 3 Liter per day. 1
However, maintaining the right water level alone, is only half the truth behind optimal hydration. The electrolytes in the body, such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, and chloride, must also be managed in order to keep everything balanced. Let’s have a look at the essential electrolytes and their beneficial effects in on our body.
Essential Electrolytes to Keep Your Body Hydrated
By conducting electricity in the body, electrolytes are necessary for basic living processes, including the generation and transmission of action potentials in the nerves and muscles as well as the maintenance of electrical neutrality in cells.5 An imbalance can impair the body’s regular processes and result in potentially fatal consequences, as mentioned in the case with Hyponatremia or too low salt levels in the blood as a result of a high water intake.
As essential electrolyte, Sodium is responsible for maintaining the extracellular fluid volume and regulating the membrane potential of cells and is maintained by the kidney, where the majority of sodium is reabsorbed.5
All of the cells, tissues, and organs in the human body require Potassium, an essential mineral and electrolyte, to function properly. It is especially essential for heart health and for the contraction of skeletal and smooth muscles, which makes it critical for healthy gastrointestinal and muscular function.6
Calcium performs a variety of vital bodily processes, including muscular contraction, nerve impulse transmission, blood coagulation, and secretion of hormones, in addition to helping to mineralize the skeleton.6
Especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys, need Magnesium, which is involved in the metabolism of energy, healthy muscular function, brain health, and neurotransmitter release.5
Besides, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium, also Chloride is an essential electrolyte that balances the hydration level in your body and regulates proper muscle functioning.
Unfortunately, water does not contain electrolytes, therefore you have to take them up either with your diet or with fortified drinks, such as Hydration or Sports Drinks. Hydration drinks are becoming more and more popular and are an easy and convenient solution for athletes to control their intake and boost their performance. Besides sportspersons, everyone can benefit from Hydration drinks as they help to balance the fluids and the electrolytes in our body and improve our health.
Let’s Take a closer look at how optimal hydration contributes to our overall health and let’s see how this can be accomplished.
Hydration and its Impact on Good Health
A growing quantity of research indicates that drinking a large amount of water and therefore excreting highly diluted urine has both short- and long-term health benefits, notably for kidney and metabolic function.1
Drinking more water has also been proven to significantly lower the recurrence of urinary tract infections, which is especially beneficial for kidney health and the well-being of the urinary tract.7,8
Furthermore, an initial study also reported that maintaining better hydration may aid in glucose regulation in people with less water consumption. However, more detailed and long-term studies need to be conducted to shed more light onto this topic.9
The majority of studies, however, focuses on the health effects of increased water consumption and its direct influence on kidney and urinary tract health.1
Kidney stones are a prevalent renal illness that affect up to 10% of the world’s population. They can impact your kidneys, bladder, or any other component of your urinary tract and are made up of hard crystalline mineral accumulations with a high recurrence. Low water intake and low urine volume have been found to be significant indicators of risk for kidney stones because stone development is influenced by dietary, hereditary, and/or external factors.1
High water consumption (at least 2 L of water intake per day) is protective against kidney stones and lowers the likelihood of kidney stones reappearance over the long term, according to a number of research and reviews on the subject. According to a meta-analysis study, drinking 2L of fluids (water or tea) per day can cut the chance of developing a kidney stone for the first time by at least 8%.10
As a result, both the American Urological Association and the European Association of Urology advise in their most recent recommendations to maintain a high fluid intake that will result in a urine volume of at least 2.0 to 2.5 L daily.1
Urinary tract infection
Similar study findings are shown for urinary tract infections (UTI), which are bacterial infections of the urinary system that burden especially a significant portion of women globally and are associated with a high amount of pain and decreased quality of life.
Increased water consumption (2.8 L per day) and urine volume were both associated with a 48% decrease in the prevalence of acute and uncomplicated lower UTIs in women, according to a recent research study. Additionally, the increased water consumption led to a decrease in the utilisation of antibiotics for UTI prevention and therapy.7
The theory behind the reduction in UTI recurrence was that increased toilet frequency and urine volume made it more likely for bacteria to be eliminated out of the urinary system, which in turn led to a decrease in bacterial burden and inflammation.1
After reviewing all the health advantages, let's explore some daily routines and recommendations that can improve your level of hydration and consequently your overall wellness.
Hydration on a Daily Base in a Busy Life
In addition to drinking water, you may control your level of hydration by eating the right foods. Approximately 20% of your daily hydration requirement is provided by food, with the remaining 80% coming from beverages.3
The best way to contribute to your water balance are those 6 recommendations:11
- Consume water-rich vegetables, like spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers, to stay hydrated!
- Fruits with high water content, such as watermelons or strawberries, are perfect!
- Another great way to enhance your hydration is Lettuce! (It’s made up of almost 96% water)
- Drink coconut water!
- Dairy products like milk and yogurt can help you stay hydrated all day
- By including more soups, smoothies, and other fluid foods in your diet, you automatically increase your water intake
Alcohol, caffeine, soy sauce, salty foods, and artificially sweetened drinks should be avoided, since they might further dehydrate you.
With these tips you can balance your hydration easily on a daily basis, but how about Hydration in a more active or busy life? Let’s discuss the scientific recommendation for these situations.
Hydration and Sports
A large number of studies on water balance and its impact on human health have concentrated on how a low water intake affects exercise capacity, particularly in hot climates.
Studies have shown that dehydration as result of exercise is frequently associated with increased plasma osmolality, reduced blood plasma volume, and elevated biomarkers in the urine, and that it can even vary up to 2 to 5% of body weight. 8 Making rehydration an important and highly discussed topic within the sport community.
Hydration or Fitness drinks can assist in this problem and enhance your energy during and after exercise, as well as protect you from post-workout exhaustion and muscle pain. Mostly, they feature electrolytes, proteins, amino acids or exercise-enhancing substances, such as L- Carnitine or Citrulline Malate.
Likewise, such hydration beverages will help you when you don't have time to monitor your water and electrolyte consumption throughout an intense day.
An optimal level of Hydration is essential for good health and proper functioning of the body. It can reduce the risk for several diseases and maintain good organ health. Furthermore, an adequate amount of water intake can help you with a busy and active lifestyle and maximize your fitness goals in the gym by supporting your body’s elevated requirement for water.
By supplying your body with enough water, electrolytes and water-rich foods and vegetables, you can optimize your fluid balance and increase your wellbeing!