We all know that we can live without food for longer than we can live without water. Water is the most important nutrient for the body, which on average is made up of 60% water. It is absolutely essential for our bodies to carry out soooo many functions, but what is enough and can we have too much?
On the government’s Eatwell Guide we are advised to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day but what does that mean?
I don’t know about you but I have glasses in my kitchen cupboard that hold about 150ml, I have pint glasses and I have glasses and mugs of a variety of sizes in between. So how much is 6-8 glasses of fluid …. 900ml or 4.5 litres (8 pints)?
The government guidelines suggest that 1.2 litres of fluid per day will be adequate for most people in the UK to avoid dehydration, however, from a Naturopathic nutrition perspective I am concerned with getting adequate hydration rather than simply avoiding dehydration, so would recommend a daily intake of 1.5 litres up to 2 litres in hotter weather or if doing sports/exercise.
So back to the question of ‘can we have too much’?
The simple answer is yes, we can have too much and in that case it can start having a negative effect on our bodily functions.
Electrolytes are minerals that are dissolved in bodily fluids and are essential to human health as they can’t be substituted by any other dietary nutrient. If we drink too much fluid the electrolytes can become too diluted and in turn this may switch off many biologically active compounds which will affect functions in the body.
There are 4 common reasons why people might drink too much fluid:
Not counting all the fluids you drink.
There can be confusion about what “counts” as we’re often told to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day so we think we need to do that on top of everything else we’re drinking. In fact all the fluids you have count in terms of quantity – water, tea, coffee, milk (including on cereal/porridge), alcohol, soup, fruit juice, soft drinks – so you may need to think about the quality of the fluids you’re drinking and I’ll address that in a separate post.
Very hot weather, such as last summer (2018) or when on holiday abroad.
When it is really hot you will be losing fluid from your bodily more rapidly than normal due to perspiration so you will need to drink more than usual but still keep an eye on how much you are drinking and try not to go over the 2 litre / day mark.
During of after intense exercise, particularly endurance events such as long-distance running, triathlons, etc.
Again, your body will be using up more fluids when you exercise and so they will need to be replaced, however you need to be careful not to over do it as you don’t want to impair other functions of the body that will be dealing with repair after this kind of exercise by depleting electrolytes.
On a night out!
You go on a night out and drink quite a lot of fluid, potentially more than your 1.5-2 litre daily allowance just in the evening, on top of whatever else you have drunk during the day. When you get home you remember you heard somewhere that if you drink a pint of water it will help to reduce the potential hang-over in the morning … more fluid!
How to measure your fluid intake
If, like me, you carry a water bottle with you, it’s fairly easy to know how much you’re drinking. All I drink is water and I have a 750ml water bottle so I always drink out of that and I know that I should drink about 2 of them a day and no more than 2.5.
TAKE ACTION … I guess most people have their own mug at work and/or a favourite mug/glass they use at home most of the time, so use a measuring jug of water to work out how much fluid the mug/glass holds and work out how many mug-fulls equals 1.5-2 litres. Don’t forget, if you have a bottle of water or soft drink or a glass of fruit juice to factor this into the equation.
This isn’t going to be 100% accurate but it will at least give you more of an idea how much you’re drinking and you might be surprised how much that is!
If you have any questions about fluid intake, hydration or dehydration please get in touch, I’d be happy to answer them.