HOW much water do you drink per day? Probably not enough.
With approximately 60 per cent of your body being water, it's no secret that water should be a very big part of your diet. In a warm country like Jamaica, especially in the scorching summer months, it is especially important that we keep chugging down the good stuff to prevent our bodies from becoming dehydrated.
Registered nutritionist, university lecturer and president of the Jamaica Association of Professionals in Nutrition and Dietetics (JAPINAD), Dr Vanessa White-Barrow, says it is recommended that men drink at least 3.7 litres (15 ½ cups) and women drink 2.7 litres (11 ½ cups) per day.
“But during warmer months one can use their body weight to determine the minimum amount to drink,” she says.
You can do this by drinking one ounce (oz) of water for every two pounds that you weigh. Simply find out what is half your weight, and drink that number of ounces of water per day, the nutritionist recommends.
“So someone weighing 160 pounds should consume a minimum of 80 oz (10 cups) of water,” she says. She recommends, however, that individuals with kidney disease get guidance from a dietitian or nutritionist about how much fluid to consume.
White-Barrow emphasises the importance of constant water intake, especially in warm weather, because of how easily our bodies lose water.
“Daily, humans lose water mainly by urination, sweating and defecation. On warm/hot days and during exercise, sweating contributes to most of the water lost from the body. The higher the temperature and the more prolonged and vigorous one's exercise/physical activity routine is, the more water will be lost from the body,” she notes.
She points out, too, that certain foods, illnesses and medication can cause you to lose more water.
“People who take diuretic medications (also called water pills) will also need to monitor their fluid intake as diuretics are substances that increase water loss by urination,” she says. “Foods, drinks and spices that contain caffeine, alcohol, hibiscus and parsley can also have a natural diuretic effect.”
She adds: “Illnesses like diabetes that cause frequent urination, and those that cause fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhoea can also lead to dehydration.”
The nutritionist highlights some of the benefits of keeping your body well hydrated.
“Adequate hydration keeps the skin soft, elastic and supple, enhances one's complexion and delays signs of ageing such as wrinkles as well as flakiness,” she says. “Hydration also contributes to combating skin disorders by increasing metabolic rate and contributing to the removal of toxins from the body.”
Though water drinking should be a habit that you practise regularly, White-Barrow shares some cues that your body will give off to tell you that it is dehydrated.
“Common signs of mild to moderate dehydration are feeling thirsty, fatigue, dry mouth/lips/eyes, feeling dizzy or lightheaded and difficulty concentrating. You can also tell that you need to drink more water if you are producing a small quantity of urine or urinating less frequently (less than four times daily). Dehydration can increase your risk of muscle cramping, laboured breathing and hypotension (low blood pressure). The urine colour varies from light yellow colour to a vivid canary yellow colour.”
In more severe cases of dehydration, however, symptoms can become very serious and even life-threatening.
“Signs of chronic to severe dehydration relate to the heat-related disorder heat stroke which is characterised by lack of sweat, dry, hot skin, muscle incoordination, mental confusion/disorientation,” White-Barrow says. “Individuals will also experience muscle spasms, indistinct speech, poor circulation, and eventually kidney failure. Urine colour in severely dehydrated people varies from almost orange to a dark almost olive-brown colour.”