We take water for granted. So much so that we don’t drink it. Only two out of five people drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day. Our brains and blood are mostly water, we need water to regulate our body temperature and even to breathe!
We all know what it’s like to be thirsty. In fact, we are so used to being thirsty that we mistake it for hunger at times. Being even mildly dehydrated can slow down your metabolism and even brain function. It takes as little as a 2% drop in hydration for the mental focus to slip, for both information retention and basic mathematics to become difficult.
So, how much do you need? Where do you get it and how can you use water to improve your overall health?
Are you getting enough water? Evaluate how much water you take in in a day.
Appreciate your water: Spend a day counting how many times you open the tap to drink water or to prepare something to eat using water.
How much? How much pure water are you drinking in a day? How many times do you go and fill your water bottle or glass?
Working out? Do you take a water bottle to the gym? Not an energy drink or juice but plain old water?
Tea and coffee? How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day? How many cups of tea with milk. Cups of herbal tea or hot water with lemon?
Juice and drinks: How many times a day do you drink juice or fizzy drinks instead of a glass of water?
Fruit and Veg: Do you eat at least 5 fruits and 5 vegetables a day?
Alcohol: Do you have a drink after work? With your meal? During the evening? Do you drink water as well?
Dehydration: How do you FEEL when you don’t drink enough water?
Tired and lethargic when you wake up: Do you feel dry, stiff and sluggish when you wake up? Do you have the faintest little headache and dry eyes? Does your mouth feel like sandpaper? No, I’m not describing a hangover. Many people wake up feeling like this or some of this every day because they are not properly hydrated before they go to sleep.
Dry mouth: Do you have bad breath and dry mouth during the day? Are you constantly drinking juice and coffee or cups of tea and it doesn’t seem to get rid of the dry feeling?
Grouchy much? Are you irritable and short-tempered during the day? Are you tired and listless and easily distracted?
Slow cognitive processes: Do you lose concentration or do simple problems seem so much harder to deal with than they should be?
Chilly? Do you have cold hands and feet or do you struggle to regulate your body temperature?
Headaches & dizziness: Do you get headaches daily? Sometimes just a dull ache that lasts all day? Do you feel slightly wobbly when you get up from your desk?
Oldtimer? Do you have sore muscles and joints? Do you “creak” when you get up? Is it hard to get moving if you’ve been sitting for a while?
Not so gym bunny: Do you struggle to get moving in the gym? Do your muscles feel stiff and sore when you try to stretch or warm up for a workout? Does it take you a long time to start sweating or sweat at all?
The bloat: Do you feel bloated or gassy after every meal? Do you get frequent heartburn or stomach cramps after eating a meal? Do you get constipated often of have uncomfortable bowel movements?
How much should water you should actually get and how to get it?
The general rule is that you should get at least 2 litres of plain water a day. On a hot day, you should try for 2.5 litres. Sip water throughout the day or set a reminder on your phone until you get into the habit.
All herbal teas and juices are a bonus but you should drink an extra cup of water for every coffee, tea, sugary drink, energy drink or glass of alcohol.
When you wake up: Have a glass of water to rehydrate. Get a fresh one from the tap or bottle. Don’t leave water sitting next to your bed in an open glass.
Get the juices flowing: Drink a cup of warm water and lemon before breakfast to kickstart your digestive system.
Put it back: Take 5 to 10 mouthfuls of water every time you go to the bathroom to replace when you have eliminated.
Switch: Replace one of your coffee breaks with a hot water or herbal tea break instead.
Lunch: Drink a glass of water before you have lunch to aid digestion and avoid bloating.
Afternoon coffee: If you have a cup of coffee in the afternoon, have at least a cup of water as well. Avoid having coffee after 15:00.
Dinner: Have a glass of water before dinner to help with digestion and to avoid bloating after a long day.
Nightcap: Have a cup of water for every glass of wine or alcoholic drink.
Broken sleep: Make sure that you have 90% of your water intake before 6PM. If you drink too much in the evening you may be running to the bathroom all night.
Top up: Have 5 sips of water just before you go to sleep. If you wake up and go to the bathroom during the night, have a sip of water if you are feeling thirsty.
Water sources: Where are you getting it from?
Tap and bottled water of course: Depending on where you live, tap water is your easiest source. There are many rumours about tap water but especially in the UK there are very strict regulations on water quality and it is generally safe to drink.
If you are not sure about the quality of the tap water in your area you can filter it or buy bottled water. Just make sure that your bottled water is good quality and that it hasn’t been in that bottle for too long. Some chemicals can leach out of plastic into your water if the bottles have not been stored correctly.
Fruit juices: Not the fizzy or concentrate versions but natural fruit juices. If you can juice your own fruits and vegetables even better. If not, read the labels to check for added sugar or preservatives.
Herbal Tea: Be careful with caffeinated tea and coffee, they are diuretics but herbal or fruit teas like chamomile, ginger or berry tea are fine.
Fizzy drinks, energy drinks and sugary drinks do not count: They do more harm than good. If you have to have them, then try to limit it to one a day and have an extra glass of water to make up for it! They are full of sugar and additives or caffeine.
Fruits and vegetables: You should get 5 fruit and 5 vegetables a day. They are almost 90% water and packed with nutrients. Make sure that you include them in every meal.
Food: You should have at least 3 meals a day or 5 small meals and they should all include fruit and veg. Include fish, beans or pulses in at least one meal a day as a healthy protein source. Include good oils in your meals – like olive and coconut oil.
Plain water: Drink your 2 litres of fresh water every day. This includes tap, filtered, mineral, spring or sparkling water. Find out about the water quality regulations in your country and whether or not it is safe to drink tap water. There is always a small amount of chlorine in the water supply to kill pathogens but it is not harmful to humans in such small quantities
When travelling you should probably stick to bottled water as the mineral content in tap water could upset your stomach. In certain countries, the rules on water quality can be less strict than those you are used to so it’s probably better to just stick with bottled water.
Cold water: Water tends to take on the tastes and smells of its environment. If you keep your water in the refrigerator, keep it in a closed bottle or jug so it doesn’t take on the tastes of your food.
If you buy bottled water in bulk, store it in a cool, dark place in your house. Keep it away from heat and direct sunlight.
Don’t keep water in plastic bottles in your car: The heat from your car can leach chemicals from the plastic into your water. Water bottles that have been opened, used and then left in a warm car are also more likely to be full of bacteria. Recycle those bottles, don’t use them again.
Clean your water bottles regularly: Many of us walk around with a plastic or glass water bottle that we refill all day. They can be a breeding ground for bacteria if you do not keep them clean. I use the sterilising tablets for baby bottles to clean out my water bottles.
How does your body use water?
The skin: The first part of our body that shows that we are dehydrated is definitely our skin. We get spots, dry patches, blotches, rashes, wrinkles and sagging. We also become pale or grey looking when we haven’t been drinking water.
We expel toxins and waste through sweat. It also helps us to regulate our body temperature so we do not overheat. However, when we are dehydrated we can feel cold because blood vessels in the skin contract and blood can’t reach the skin surface to warm it.
The lungs: The lungs are our air filters. They allow us to breathe in and absorb oxygen but they also allow us to expel waste products like carbon dioxide and the toxins we breathe in.
Your body moistens the lungs and air passages with water to help with the absorption of oxygen. If you are dehydrated the mucous in your lungs can thicken, which makes it harder to breathe and absorb oxygen effectively.
The liver: The liver removes toxins from the body and moves them on to the intestines for elimination. It is very important that we take in enough water to allow the liver to get rid of the toxins that we ingest with food, drinks and the environment.
The kidneys: They regulate the fluid balance in the body while removing toxins from the blood and passing them into the urinary system for elimination. They regulate the PH in our bodies as well as the levels of potassium and sodium.
Dehydration overloads the kidneys and gives them infections, kidney stones and causes bladder stones.
The lymph system: It removes toxins and pathogens, germs and waste from the blood and expels them from the body. The body uses water to expel these toxins out of the body through urine, sweat and bowel movements.
The Intestines: The liver and lymph systems send waste to the intestines for elimination. The intestines pass solid waste from the body. We take in food, the body absorbs the nutrients and expels the waste products through the bowels. Water helps to keep this process regular and comfortable.
Here are a few ideas on how you can use water to improve circulation, boost your metabolism, strengthen your immune system and get a beautiful glowing skin on top of it all.
Hydrotherapy Shower: Your bathroom should be quite warm and comfortable before you start. Keep some towels handy as well. Hydrotherapy helps to improve circulation, tighten the skin and can help to strengthen the immune system.
Step1: Start by standing under a warm or hot shower. Make sure that your whole body is warmed up properly.
Step2: Turn your shower to the cold setting and stay in for 30 seconds. Turn around so that your whole body is showered with cold water including your face. Try not to hold your breath.
Step3: Turn the temperature back to warm and stay there for 2 minutes.
Step4: Turn the shower to cold again for 30 seconds.
Step5: Repeat the hot then cold cycle one more time.
Make sure that you end the session on cold water and get out of the shower. Wrap your body in warm towels and lie down for a few minutes to warm up. You will feel energised and your skin will glow.
Sitz Bath: It helps to improve the circulation in your lower body. You will need two plastic bowls that are big enough to sit in. Fill one with hot water that will not burn you and the other with very cold water. (you can add ice cubes).
Sit in the bowl with warm water and place your feet in the bowl with cold water. Stay there for five minutes. Get out and switch by sitting in the bowl with cold water and placing your feet in the hot water. Stay there for five minutes then get out and dry yourself off. Wrap up and rest for 10 minutes.
Cold Bathing: This one is pretty simple. You just have to run yourself a cold bath and immerse your body in it for at least 10 to 15 minutes. It improves circulation, speeds up the metabolism and improves the immune system because it increases the production of white blood cells that destroy toxins and infection.
Water and beauty
Dehydration has a profound effect on our appearance. When we drink water it hydrates the inner layers of the skin. If there is not enough water in our bodies the outer layers of skin don’t get enough moisture and we look pale, wrinkled, blotchy and tired.
Besides drinking water there are a few other ways that you can use water to enhance your natural beauty:
Mist before you moisturise: Spraying your skin with a little water before you apply your serums, moisturisers and oils will soften your skin and allow it to better absorb all the ingredients in your beauty regime. Your oils will also seal in some of that moisture to keep your skin plumped and supple.
Steam: There are several beauty benefits to steaming your skin:
Cleansing: Steaming helps to warm and soften the outer layers of skin, making it easier to remove dirt, excess oil and dead skin cells. This helps to prevent acne and clear away existing breakouts.
Removing Toxins: Steam heats the skin and makes you sweat. Just like steam baths, steaming your face is helpful in removing toxins from the body through sweat.
Removing blackheads: They are a pain, they really are. Squeezing blackheads can cause redness and inflammation as well as further breakouts. It’s best to steam the skin first to soften it and to loosen up the dirt and sebum. Then gently squeeze with your fingers covered with tissue paper.
Anti-ageing treatment: When we warm the skin and sweat, we bring blood to the skin surface. That’s why we go red or pink. As an added bonus that increased blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients to the skin surface. It feeds the skin and gives us a healthy glow.
Your everyday shower: Your daily shower is an opportunity to refresh your body and give it a quick treat. Use your favourite shower gel and a textured sponge to exfoliate your whole body. You can also add a quick blast of cold water at the end of your shower to increase blood circulation and give your skin a healthy glow.
Epsom Salt Baths: They do wonders for sore, stiff muscles. Epsom salt baths help you sleep and even treat some skin conditions. You can read a full post about The Beauty Benefits of Epsom Salts Here.
Relaxing in water
A bath should never be rushed. They are a little luxury. Your bath time is also the perfect opportunity to take care of your body:
- Use a pumice stone to smooth your feet. How to get gorgeous feet almost overnight.
- Use a brush or loofah to exfoliate dead skin or to improve the appearance of cellulite.
- Put on a face mask to treat your skin – The spa in your kitchen.
- Use a deep moisture mask on your hair
- Use the last few minutes to shave. How to get gorgeously smooth legs.
Your bath should never be too hot because it can increase your blood pressure but a pleasantly warm bath helps to relax the mind and body. A bath that makes you drowsy is too hot. If you have a tendency to develop spider veins you should not bath in water that is more than about 35ºC. You should stay in for at least 15 minutes but not too much longer than 30.
Add some aromatherapy oils or bubbles. Light some candles and listen to soothing music or an audiobook. You can also add milk to your bath to soften your skin.
Saunas and Steam baths:
Most health and fitness centres have at least one of these now. They can be very helpful to detoxify your body. The best way to use a sauna is to stay in it for about five minutes, then go for a cold shower or swim. Repeat a few times. It increases blood circulation and helps you to sweat out toxins. Take breaks in between if you feel too hot and stop if you feel ill or dizzy.
Steam baths are a little more gentle because they aren’t as dry. You can do the same as with the sauna. Stay in for five minutes, take a cold shower and back in for 5 minutes. You can repeat the process multiple times. Just be careful not to overheat.
Water and exercise
Swimming and treading water: Swimming has long been known to be one of the best forms of low impact exercise. It tones and lengthens muscle without any impact on the joints while raising the heart rate and giving you a cardio workout.
Treading water is very effective for toning the whole body including the abdominal muscles. It also helps to train the body for endurance. Start by treading water for one minute and slowly increase over time.
Aqua Aerobics: This is a fun way to get a cardio workout if you suffer from joint or back pain. There is little to no impact on the joints and in most classes, you can work at your own pace to minimise any threat of injury. Ask your instructor for alternative movements if you have a specific injury.
If you are not ready for the gym or going for a run but you would like to get fitter, this is an easy way to get your body used to exercise for longer periods of time. You can turn a class into a high-intensity workout that suits you. Again, ask the instructor for alternative movements if you want to get a little more out of your session.
We take our water for granted and very few of us get enough! Try the suggestions above to get a little more and you will feel the improvement almost immediately.
Look and feel gorgeous!