Water: the elixir of life

January 28, 2021 by Lisa Bywaters


We’re well and truly into summer now, and it’s hot all over the country. If you’re like me, you’re either sprawled on the couch with the fan pointed directly at you or at the local watering hole/river/pool/beach up to your neck in water. Anything to stay cool.

When it’s really hot it makes it difficult to even think about doing anything productive. But life doesn’t stop because it’s a hot summer’s day. We still have to work, go to school, do our chores, exercise and socialise. Life goes on.

But a really simple thing we can do to make it easier to cope is to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.

Did you know more than half of your body is made up of water?

And while we can survive for weeks without food, we can only survive for days without water. It really is essential for our survival.

The importance of water

Water lubricates and cushions our joints, aids digestion, prevents constipation, keeps our temperature normal and helps maintain blood pressure. It carries nutrients and oxygen to our cells, flushes out toxins, and cushions the brain and spinal cord. It can also help prevent gout attacks, boost energy levels and fight fatigue. It also makes us feel full, which in turn helps us maintain or lose weight.

It’s practically magic, which is why it’s so often referred to as the elixir of life.

We lose water constantly when we breathe, sweat and go to the toilet, so we need to replace it constantly. If we don’t, our body can’t work as well as it should. We start feeling thirsty, and may experience symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, tiredness or a headache.

How much water should you drink every day?

The amount of water you need each day varies from person to person and from day to day. There’s no ‘one size fits all’.

Things like your age, gender, weight, health, the temperature and your environment will affect how much water you’ll need. Other factors such as whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or living or working in environments that cause you to sweat more will increase the amount of water you need to drink every day. As will your level of physical activity. So there are a lot of factors that will affect how much you need. And this may change from day to day.

That’s why the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that you drink ‘plenty of water’, as they acknowledge that the amount needed is so specific to each person.

The old adage of eight glasses every day is not based on any scientific evidence. You should let your thirst be the guide.

Another good indicator as to whether you’re drinking enough water is the colour of your urine. If it’s consistently pale or very light then you’re getting enough water, however if it’s darker, it means that you’re dehydrated and need to increase your daily intake of water. Healthdirect has a urine chart to help you see if you’re adequately hydrated. Check it out and next time you go for a wee, notice the colour. Where does it fit on the chart?

Tips to increase your water intake

Many people find it difficult to drink enough water every day. Hectic schedules and just the general business of life means that we can go for long periods of time without having a drink. Here are some suggestions to help you get enough water every day:

  • Buy a good quality water bottle (or two) and keep it with you at work, in the car, when you’re out and about, or when you’re exercising. Many parks and public places have water refill stations so you can fill your water bottle up when you need to.
  • Don’t forget other drinks (e.g. fruit juice, milk, herbal tea) and many foods (e.g. celery, cucumber, strawberries and melons) all contribute to your daily water intake. While plain water is the best option and should be your hydration ‘go to’, other drinks and foods do play an important role. Read this article from Medical News Today – Hydrating foods: The top 20 and their benefits – for more info.
  • Make it a habit. For example, drink a glass of water as soon as you get up in the morning. You’ve gone many hours without any water and likely have a dry mouth and gross morning breath. A glass of water will help with both of those things. Drink water with your meals and before you go to bed. Building it into your everyday routine means it’ll become a habit and you’re less likely to become dehydrated.
  • Create triggers. This is part of making it a habit. So when you do things like clean your teeth, go to the loo, walk through the kitchen, watch your favourite TV show, or come back from a walk, have a glass of water.
  • Jazz up your water by adding healthy additions that provide a flavour punch. Think about slices of citrus fruits like lemon, lime or orange. Or some mint leaves, ginger or lemongrass. There are so many options. Just be careful if you’re adding teas, infusions or cordials to your water that you’re not adding a lot of extra sugar.
  • Add some sparkle. If you find plain water a little uninspiring, mix it up with some sparkling water. Again – plain is best, but if you’re feeling bored with that, sparkling or carbonated water is a better alternative to soft drinks, fruit drinks and smoothies.
  • Set reminders on your phone or computer. Just as you do to get up and move, set an alarm to remind you to drink some water.
  • Have a glass of water whenever you eat. If you’re dining out, ask for water for your table.
  • Track your water intake on your fitness tracker or health app.
  • Consume alcohol and drinks containing caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, cola) in moderation. They’re diuretics, which means they make you go to the toilet more often and lose water through urine, so be careful of the amount you drink.
  • If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough water, or you’re not sure how much water is right for you, talk with your doctor or a dietitian.

Make drinking enough water an important part of your daily routine. Once you get in the habit, you’ll find it’s something you do automatically, and you’ll notice how much better you feel when you’re properly hydrated.

And with the hot weather making us feel limp and wrung out, it’s the perfect time to get started.

Call our Help Line

If you have questions about things like managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (helpline@msk.org.au) or via Messenger.

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