Do you drink your two litres of water per day? Do you really? I thought I did drink a fair bit, especially when I added together all the cups of coffee, the teas, the glasses of water, and the wine in the evening... until I started researching and reading more into hydration! The answer is: most probably not!
Dehydration is step one for many issues that we can create for our body: our body cannot function without proper hydration; when we are dehydrated, our body produces histamine resulting in allergy; when dehydrated, our brain shrinks and can this can cause mental health issues, depression and bad behaviour; when we are dehydrated, our body becomes acidic, toxic and cancerous.
To understand hydration properly, we need to take a little step back and look at the composition of our body, our cells and how it should work in perfect circumstances. I will keep it all very basic and easy to follow, but there are loads of books and websites out there on these topics to help getting a much deeper understanding of this fundamental - and often misunderstood - part of our health. After all 80% of our body is made up of water and therefore we should develop a better understanding of the part that this element plays in our life just based on that.
Our body is made up of cells that create tissues, organs and systems. Cells can be quite different and play different roles, but they all have similar characteristic: they have a semi-permeable membrane that selectively lets substances and chemicals through, and fluid within its membrane. 70% of the cell is made up of water, which allows chemical reactions to take place for the cell to be able to function. Most of the chemicals used by our cells are dissolved in water and can be transported through the cell membrane: sodium and calcium (which are acid forming), and magnesium and potassium (which are alkaline forming). The acidic-forming chemicals go into the cell and the alkaline-forming ones are released in the day time, whilst at night the opposite happens – this is what our body does for its pH to keep balanced around 7.
When our pH is below 7 our body is acidic and when our pH is above 7 our body is alkaline. Generally speaking, if our diet includes too many acid forming foods, such as high amounts of meats, grains, dairy, and sugars, the body becomes more acidic. If you eat too many alkaline producing foods such as greens, fruits, and sea vegetables, the body can become too alkaline. What we put in our body has a huge effect on who we are and how we function in the world: balance is key. A virus will only manifest itself in the body if the environment is acidic for example.
Just take a glance at some of the graphic below to get a sense of how this all works.
When we talk about hydration, the first thing to think about is the pH of the water that we put in, which should be 7 or above. This is easily addressed since most bottled water brands these days state the pH on their label. If we don’t, then our body has to work to make its chemicals balance out. In the same way, we should make sure that the water we drink is chemical free or at the very least filtered, otherwise our liver and kidneys must filter dangerous chemicals such as liquefied chlorine, fluorosilicic acid, aluminium sulphate, calcium hydroxide and sodium silicofluoride. Just google some of these chemicals to see how dangerous to our health they really are.
To come back to our body, all chemical reactions produce toxins that need to be expelled from cells, from organs, and ultimately from our body. Toxins are dissolved in water and expelled by the cell through the membrane, then through the lymphatic system or blood, filtered through the liver and kidneys, and finally excreted as urine or feaces. This can only happen providing that the cell is fully hydrated, which means that besides water we need ensure that the membrane is healthy so that it can hold water inside and to allow for chemicals to permeate through. The membrane of the cell is made of fatty acid, therefore omega 3 and omega 6 need to strongly featured in our daily diet if we want to ensure that our cells and body can retain the water successfully. These can be added to our diet through fish, algae, walnuts, avocado, soaked linseeds, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds.
And finally, the part that we started with, how much water should we be drinking to be fully hydrated? An adult body normally needs 4 pints of water, children need 2 pints, and babies and toddlers need ½ pint to 1 pint – providing that we are healthy, do not move, and do not interact with anything or anyone around us!
There are loads of things that can dehydrate us and when this happens then we need to drink more, but what exactly should we think about? And how much more should we drink? AND is there anything else that could help us keep hydrated?
Here’s for the dehydrating factors:
Pollution: emissions, central heating, chemicals
Acid forming foods: gluten, dairy, processed, dehydrated or dehydrating foods
Stress: being in the wrong path, stressful job, relationships, financial matters, discrimination, emotional problems, traumatic events, illness
Technology: mobiles, WIFI, Bluetooth, microwaves, computers
Lifestyle: travelling, exercise, sleep, drugs, alcohol
Now, for the amount of extra water, we should look at how much exposure our body gets to the above factors: the more we subject our bodies to, them more water we should replenish. Just for a couple of examples: for each cup of caffeinated coffee we should drink an extra pint of water, we should drink a glass of water for each hour of travel, and lots of water before we exercise.
We should also remember that our body needs hydration constantly, so water should be introduced BEFORE we lose hydration rather than when we are already dehydrated, otherwise we are asking our body to continue functioning whilst we are deficient.
One more simple thing to remember is to hydrate our food before consumption, in particular any grains, pulses and seeds should be soaked before cooking so that the absorb more water and do not dehydrate us once in our body.
To conclude, when we think about keeping hydrated, we should always think mindfully about our body composition: if we are 80% water, then 80% of what we put into our body should be water – good quality water! If we do anything that creates stress or dehydrates us, then we need to drink more; and we do need to eat nutritious foods in order for our cells to function and retain water to keep us hydrated.