Are you well hydrated?

Have you ever heard the saying “Healthy body, healthy mind”? There is a lot of wisdom in this saying.

Nutrition is a very broad topic and since I know that many people will stay away from articles which are too long, I am just going to talk about hydration here as it is the first and most important thing when thinking about nutrition for stress.

When I talk about hydration, I mean drinking water. Water is needed in all vital processes of the body. It is a solvent for most of the nutrients. It is used for the removal of toxins from your body. It is used to cool your body down through perspiration and breathing. You need water to lubricate your joints. Water helps in digestion by helping to break down larger chunks of food. It helps to boost your metabolism. In a nutshell, water is essential.

Although we have heard about the importance of drinking water, when we are stressed, water does not seem to be our first choice. How often do you reach for tea or coffee, rather than water? Yes, tea and coffee do contain caffeine and this is what gives you a temporary boost but at the end of the day caffeine is still present in your body and adversely affects your sleep. Moreover, caffeinated drinks, especially coffee, dehydrate your body. They do not count to your daily intake of liquids, on the contrary, when you drink a lot of caffeinated drinks, you need to drink even more water to make up for the loss of water from your body.

What happens when you do not drink enough water? One symptom is pretty obvious: you don't feel the need to go to the toilet. Good, isn't it? No, it's not! It means you are dehydrated. Other immediate symptoms include: headaches, feeling dizzy, sleepiness, feeling tired or constipation. Severe dehydration can cause rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, sunken eyes, fainting and dry skin. These are the symptoms that you can observe. What you can't see is the increased level of toxicity in your cells and slowed down cell processes.

How much water should you drink? It much depends on your daily activity. There are different opinions. Some dieticians advise 8 cups of water, which is about 1.5 litres of water daily. Obviously, when you do a lot of physical activity or sweat a lot due to hot weather, you will need more water. Some advice I've heard refers to you feeling thirsty. It is said that if you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. I like the advice that I heard a few months ago: if your urine is colourless, you are fine, if it is intense in colour, you are dehydrated and you need to drink water.

It is a good idea to start your day with a glass of water. During the night your body uses the water. Did you notice that your urine tends to be very dark and often smelly in the morning? That's the symptom that your body needs to be hydrated. I like Marilyn Glenville's idea of drinking a glass of warm water with a few drops of lemon juice (some people say the juice from half a lemon and this is far too much for me!). I usually add a pinch of pink Himalayan salt as well to increase the level of electrolytes as they are lost when you sweat.

I was recently asked a question: is there anything else you can drink apart from water? Yes, there is. Freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices have high water content, and they give you the benefit of vitamins and micro-elements. Also, herbal tea infusions are an excellent choice. They do not dehydrate your body and they give your body additional benefits. You may have heard about the calming effect of chamomile tea or perhaps peppermint tea for digestion. Remember, though that green tea contains caffeine, however in much smaller amounts than coffee or black tea so drinking it just before bed may not be the best idea.

So, if you haven't been to the toilet for more than two hours, it's time to get a glass of water.

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