Raise a glass to the water of life

We literally can’t live without it, but why is water so important and how much of it should we drink? Helen Budworth has the answersWe’ve had it drummed into us for years that we should drink eight glasses of water a day, but should we really, and if so why? Should we drink more at certain times of our lives, and how can we ensure that our older friends and family are drinking enough?
We can see what a lack of water does to our plants: they go limp, sag and eventually die. We are no different. I know what happens to me if I don’t drink enough: I get sluggish and dull.
Over the years I’ve observed that the slimmest, happiest people I’ve met have one thing in common: they love water and, seemingly as a result, have clear skin and clarity of mind.
Conversely, a number of years ago I met a lady who restricted her water intake because she thought she had a tendency to retain fluid. She was lovely but was also overweight and unhealthy. I couldn’t help thinking that, rather like a stagnant pond that is starved of flowing water, her body was simply not flushing the toxins out.
When it comes to the right fluid intake, surely there is not a one-size-fits-all amount? While eight normal sized drinking glasses a day is a rule of thumb, the Mayo Clinic in America (mayoclinic.org) has a more accurate calculation. Take your body weight in pounds and divide by three - that is the amount of water in fluid ounces you need each day.
So if you weigh ten-and-a-half stone - 147lb - that equates to 49 fluid ounces.
A pint is 20 fluid ounces, so that means about two-and-a-half pints.
Staying properly hydrated does so much more for us than just quenching our thirst. Here are lots of other good reasons for raising a glass.

Brain health
Even mild dehydration - which could be as little as a 2% drop in fluid levels - can affect our brains. Memory loss, mood, concentration and reaction time all fall into this category.

Improved digestion
We all need water to ensure that we digest our food properly, enabling it to release all its nutrients. Insufficient water can lead to irregular bowel movements, bloating, heartburn and other unpleasantries.

More energy
When we are dehydrated our circulation slows down. The flow of oxygen to our brains is reduced so our hearts have to work harder, resulting in us feeling sluggish and less focused.

Weight regulation
Reaching for a glass of water can really help with weight loss and management. It gives us a feeling of fullness, has no calories and can increase our metabolic rate. The National Center for Biotechnology Information in America found that drinking water before each meal resulted in substantial reductions in body mass index, not least because those who had drunk water prior to eating felt fuller and so consumed fewer calories.

Joint activity
The cartilage that cushions our joints is about 80% water. Keeping it plumped up reduces the friction between bones, helping them to move smoothly, which means fewer joint aches and pains.

Temperature regulation
When we are dehydrated our bodies naturally retain more heat, reducing our ability to tolerate high temperatures. Having the right reserves of water helps us to produce sweat, which is our inbuilt cooling system. It is crucial for the prevention of heatstroke and general discomfort in hot weather.

Urinary tract health
Kidney stones are clumps of mineral crystals that form in our urinary tracts.
Anyone who has had one knows just how disproportionately painful they are compared with their actual size. Drinking plenty of water can help dilute the concentration of the minerals which form them and therefore reduce the likelihood of them occurring.
Water also helps flush out our bladders, removing any harmful bacteria that could cause urinary tract infections, which are particularly common in older people.

Healthy blood
As our blood is largely water, insufficient intake can lead to it becoming more concentrated, causing an imbalance of vital minerals known as electrolytes.
Examples of these are potassium and sodium, which are key to heart function.

To rid our bodies of toxins we need to be properly hydrated. Our bodies do this in various ways through urination, perspiration, bowel movements and breathing. Between them they powerfully keep us free from toxins, ultimately enhancing our overall health.

Fewer headaches
Even a mild drop in our fluid levels can cause the brain to contract. I used to take paracetamol when I had a headache, but no longer. Now I reach for a glass of water, which usually cures it in a matter of minutes.