Nutrition Meets Food Science

Hydration: The Key to Detoxification

Try to imagine life without water! From the moment we wake up till the end of our day water plays a key role in our daily routine. Not for just drinking & cooking but all our day to day activity is carried out with water playing a major role; survival of underwater lives (all water animals), agriculture, farming, animal husbandry, thermoregulation, production of light & electricity & many more… On a lighter note, we can say that we all are dependent on water. Can we use any other resource as a substitute for water? The answer is NO; we need water to sustain our life on earth. Water is more essential to our body than food. We can live up to 2-3weeks without eating food but we cannot survive a single week without water.

Did you know?

Nearly 600 million Indians are facing high to extreme water stress where more than 40% of the annually available surface water is used every year.

About 200,000 people dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water, the situation is likely to worsen as the demand for water will exceed the supply by 2050.

(Report by Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), June 14, 2018).

Water level in the body varies depending on age. It is quite high in infants & children compared to adults but it is important for all age groups. With the decreasing rate of safe drinking water & increasing water pollutions, water availability in coming years is a big matter of concern.

Water & the human body

Around 60% of the adult human body is composed of water, in some organisms it is near to 90%. It is stored in our body in various sites &organs like

Body organs Water content
Lungs 83%
Kidney & Muscles 79%
Brain & heart 73%
Skin 64%
Bones 31%

In addition, the blood plasma which carries nutrients, proteins & hormones throughout the body & takes up waste out from cells are made up of 90-92%water& 8-10% of other solutes.

At cellular level, water is stored as intracellular fluid (within the cells) & Extracellular fluid (between the cells). Each cells relies on water for its survival, growth & multiplication to form new one.

What are the functions of water in our body?

  • Water acts as carrier for transporting all the nutrients to the cells, oxygen & blood to our brain & heart.
  • It helps in digestion & absorption of glucose, amino acids, vitamins & minerals from the intestine.
  • Various biochemical reactions are carried out in body with the help of water (hydration reactions)
  • Also, it helps in regulating our body temperature. Water has a high heat capacity it means that it can absorb & transfer heat well. For example whenever there is more heat inside body, water expels the excess heat out through sweat or water vapours from respiratory tract.
  • Our body uses water to eliminate toxic & waste substances in the form of faeces, urine & sweat. Kidney requires water to flush out waste products from the blood in the form of urine.
  • It also lubricates our bone & joints & keeps our skin healthy & glowing.

Image Source : usgs.gov

Now you know why it’s so important to stay hydrated to keep our body functions well. Experts says that good hydration is a part of healthy diet & remedy to half of your diseases.

If you don’t get enough of water you may get dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when your body loses fluids more than you consume.

What can be the causes of dehydration?

Dehydration can be caused due to simple reasons like traveling to hot places, too busy, working tiredlessly, camping, trekking, having no access to safe drinking or cultural practices like fasting. Also, many people are quite prone to dehydration due to their poor drinking habits.

Diarrhea & Vomiting: Diarrhea is the most common reason to cause excess loss of water. Severe episodes of diarrhea or vomiting make you lose lot of waters & electrolytes in a very short time span. It is even more risky if you experience both vomiting & diarrhea at a time like in case of food poisoning.

Increased urination: Certain medications like diuretics & blood pressure tablets may cause more urination. Also you tend to urinate more if you have high or uncontrolled diabetes.

Fever: High fever results in dehydration even more if it is associated with other illnesses.

Common signs of dehydration

Clinically dehydration is divided into three stages depending on the rate of fluid loss into:

  1. Mild dehydration – flushed face, thirst, headaches, cramps in arms & legs, dry mouth & tongue, feeling unwell, irritable, light-headedness (worse while standing), etc.
  2. Moderate dehydration – severe headaches, low blood pressure, dark yellow urine, severe muscle contraction, little or no tears, convulsions, stomach bloating, heart failure, etc
  3. Severe dehydration – here effects are more pronounced like decline consciousness, lethargy, unable to urinate, cold hands & feet, hypovolaemic shocks, if not rehydrated immediately it may result to death.

How to diagnose it?

Thirst is the first sign of dehydration. You should not wait for feeling thirsty to drink water because thirst itself is a signal sent by the hypothalamus of the brain that your body has already lost 1-3% fluid. Immediately get enough of water or fluids whenever you experience any little sign of dehydration. Progression from mild to moderate & severe dehydration needs quick medical attention.

How much fluid one must drink in a day to avoid dehydration?

We all have heard drinking 8-10 glasses of water is best but recommended water intake actually varies person to person with respect to age, weight, geographical area, climate& medical condition like illness, etc.

For an Adult Women, drinking 2.5-3 L fluids in a day is best way to stay hydrated. Moreover a pregnant & lactating women needs to take a little over 3L to meet the body’s increasing nutrient demand, to support growing foetus & milk production.

Generally, men are more involved in moderate & high physical activities therefore they require more hydration than women. Around 3-3.5 L of fluid must be consumed by adult men.

You need to drink more water if you have fever or travelling in a hot weather as you tend to sweat more in such cases.

Kids should be fed with 1-1.5 L of water every day for good hydration. The demand may increase when they play or engage in any sports activities or exercises. We can modify the plain water drinking with flavoured & coloured home-made fruit juices, porridges & soups which can be more desirable for children.

Tips for Drinking More Water

  • Drink a glass of water as soon as you get up each day.
  • Every morning, fill a 2 to 3 litre container with water for the day. When you drink all the water in the container, you have met your daily water need.
  • Drink water with meals and snacks.
  • Add slices of lemon, lime or orange to water for a hint of flavour.
  • Start your meal with soup occasionally.
  • Enjoy water breaks instead of coffee or tea breaks.
  • Take water bottles with you to work and when running errands.
  • Keep a cup of water on your desk to sip on as you work at the computer.
  • When passing a water fountain, stop and take a drink.
  • Instead of a soft drink, or soda, reach for bottled water in the convenience store, as well as from the vending machine.
  • At social gatherings substitute sparkling water for alcoholic drinks, or alternate them.
  • Pack bottled water in your carry-on luggage when travelling by plane. Drink 1 cup of fluid for every hour of your flight.
  • Drink water before, every 15 minutes during, and after physical activity.
  • Weigh before and after exercise. The difference is almost all water. Replace each 500g lost with 2 cups of water.

(Source: Home & Garden Information Centre)

Health Benefits of drinking Water:

  1. It forms mucus & saliva.
  2. It supplies oxygen to all body parts.
  3. Water keeps body well hydrated.
  4. It helps to regulate blood pressure level.
  5. It lubricates bones, tendons & joints.
  6. It flushes waste out from the body in the form of urine & stools.
  7. Helps in digestion of essential nutrients.
  8. Water balances the pH & temperature of the body.

Foods that are high in water content:

  1. Watermelon
  2. Strawberries
  3. Peaches
  4. Rockmelons
  5. Oranges
  6. Skim milk & soy milk
  7. Cucumber
  8. Lettuce
  9. Broths & soups
  10. Celery
  11. Tomatoes
  12. Coconut water
  13. Green veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale & cabbage.
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Abir Ansari

Jr. Nutritionist, PFNDAI

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