What is the Big Hype About Hydration? - October 2021

By Miscellaneous

Water is important for our health since it is an essential nutrient for bodily and mental functions and is starting to be identified as one of the key elements for chronic disease prevention. The number one reason for developing kidney stones is dehydration.

How much fluid should you have each day?
Factors such as your health, age, gender, activity levels and where you live will affect the amount of fluids required per day. If the body loses more fluid than it takes in, you can become dehydrated.  Every cell, tissue and organ needs water to work properly.  Water can come from not only beverages but also from foods. The Mayo Clinic cites the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommended daily fluid intake through both water, other beverages and food. This recommendation is based on being a healthy adult living in a temperate climate. Men should have about 15.5 cups per day and women should have about 11.5 cups per day. Many people have heard the goal of “8 glasses a day” and the Mayo Clinic suggests that it’s a reasonable goal. Dietitians of Canada are more conservative than the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and recommend 12 cups per day for men (19 years of age and older) and 9 cups per day for women (19 years of age and older).  Keeping hydrated is especially important for older adults because dizziness, fainting and low blood pressure can result in falls, as well as making constipation worse. PLEASE NOTE: If you have any health problems, consult your doctor before increasing your water intake. Some people are required to limit fluids e.g., people with kidney problems or heart failure.

What are the factors that affect the amount of fluids you should drink?
Exercise: drink water to replace the fluid lost from sweating. Sports drinks containing electrolytes should only be used for intense exercise lasting for more than one hour. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that you should drink an extra 12 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of exercise. 
Environment: when you are in hot and humid environments that make you sweat, you will require more fluid. High altitudes also require you drink more fluids. In fact, it is projected that the number of people diagnosed with kidney stones will increase due to climate change.

Overall health: diarrhea, vomiting, fever, passing kidney stones and urinary tract infections are all conditions that may lead to dehydration. Dietitians of Canada note that it is important to drink fluids when you feel unwell. Sometimes an oral rehydration solution may be suggested, so speak to your pharmacist to find out what would be appropriate for your particular situation. You can contact HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for guidance on how to manage dehydration if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.

Pregnancy or breast-feeding: women need to have more fluids to stay hydrated (10 cups when pregnant and 13 cups when breastfeeding)

Remember that fluids can be obtained through foods as well e.g., watermelon, spinach are almost 100 percent water by weight. You can see a list of foods and beverages and their water content.

What is the best choice for fluids?  
While other beverages count towards your daily goal (e.g., milk, juice, herbal tea, even caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and sodas, and low sodium broth) water is the best choice as it has no calories or sugar, is inexpensive and readily available. According to Dietitians of Canada, coffee and teas are not dehydrating but they suggest limiting caffeine to about 400 mg per day (3 cups of black coffee). If you want to drink more, go for decaffeinated versions of coffee and tea.

How do you know if you have had enough fluids?
Work out with your physician or dietitian the amount of water that is appropriate for your situation. If you urine is clear or nearly clear, and you rarely feel thirsty, you are probably getting enough fluids.

How do you know if you are dehydrated?
One sign is that your urine is dark yellow and strong smelling. Other signs include dry lips/mouth, feeling thirsty, flushed skin, headache, dizziness/fainting, low blood pressure and increased heart rate. What is important to note is that you may be dehydrated even if you DON’T have these signs. EatRight Ontario suggests drinking fluids often, even before you feel thirsty.  Also, the amount of urine you have can also be a sign of dehydration e.g., not making much urine throughout the day. Hard bowel movements or constipation can also be a sign you are not getting enough water.

How can I get in the required amount of fluids during the day?
Drink water with every meal and between meals.
Drink water when you wake up in the morning before your cup of coffee or tea.
Drink water before, during and after exercise.
Thirst is often confused with hunger, so reach for water when you feel hungry.
Flavour your water by adding in lemon juice, lime juice, unsweetened cranberry juice, cut herbs, or cut fruit. Frozen fruit is a good choice because it releases more flavour while thawing. You can use a water bottle designed with a chamber to hold herbs or fruit. Limit sodas that are high in sugar.
Eat fruits as opposed to drinking them, as fruit juices are high in calories and are missing the fibre from the whole fruit.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Avoid high sodium foods. When you consume salty foods you retain fluids to help dilute the sodium. This explains why you can feel bloated and thirsty after eating salty foods.
Keep a water bottle with you at all times.
Remember to drink more in hot weather and when you are very active.

Can you drink too much water?
Yes, it is possible to drink too much water with life-threatening results. Hyponatremia is a condition where the sodium content of your blood is diluted because your kidneys cannot excrete excess water. This is a rare occurrence, and elite athletes who run marathons are at higher risk for developing this condition. 

Source: Mayo Clinic website, Daily Mail UK website, HealthLink BCwebsite, Dietitians of Canada website, EatRight Ontario website, Care2 Healthy Living website 


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