Health

Water, water everywhere

Between wondering why life is so difficult as you glug down three glasses of water each morning and reading about Gwyneth Paltrow’s deep beliefs on water getting affected by bad vibes, one is never too sure on where the facts end and where the mumbo jumbo begins, when it comes to hydrating yourself. Here, doctors and dieticians tell you the truth.

Drinking eight glasses of water a day is essential

FACT: Use it as a guideline, not the gospel, so you’re not dehydrated, and conscious of the fact that you need to sip water.

However, there is no set formula, and the amount of water we should consume differs according to weight, age, level of activity, temperature, lifestyle and even pregnancy.

“As a general rule, and to avoid confusion, we suggest about two to three litres of water a day,” says Dr PN Gupta, Head of Nephrology, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon.

A litre of water in the morning keeps your digestive system healthy

MYTH: Rupali Datta, Delhi-based nutritionist, says, “You wake up fasting. If you drink a litre of water, your kidneys will flush out electrolytes on an empty stomach.”

If you wake up thirsty, she suggests a glass of water, but anything more is unnecessary.

Drinking water keeps your skin young

MYTH: The water we drink does not reach the epidermis or the outer layer of skin. “The external appearance and texture of our skin is dependent on a number of factors, including genes, diet, environment, exposure to the sun and lifestyle,” explains Dr Issac Mathai, holistic physician, founder and medical director, Soukya, Bengaluru. It is only in extreme cases of dehydration that the skin is visibly affected and appears wrinkled and dry.

Drinking water helps you lose weight

FACT: It doesn’t directly trigger weight loss, but it can help indirectly. Datta says, “Drinking water at regular intervals through the day reduces one’s intake of other high-calorie drinks, while helping us feel full. When you’re voraciously hungry, have a glass of water first. This will replenish your body somewhat and prevent you from eating too much.”

There’s no such thing as drinking too much water

MYTH: Though healthy individuals may not be adversely affected if they increased their water intake, Dr Rajnish Monga, Head of Gastroenterology, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon, cautions, “The elderly, people with high blood pressure who are already on a low-sodium diet, and those with heart conditions or kidney problems must not increase their fluid intake without medical advice.” It could result in an electrolyte imbalance.

Consuming water during meals will affect digestion

FACT: It isn’t an old-wives’ tale after all. “Drinking water during your meals dilutes stomach enzymes and interferes with digestion,” explains Dr Mathai.

“Drinking water during meals will add more volume to your stomach contents, causing bloating and acid reflux,” adds Dr Monga.

Dr Mathai suggests a drink of water before meals and about 30 minutes after a meal, to keep your digestive juices flowing.

Water helps remove toxins from the body

FACT: Our kidneys are dependent on a sufficient amount of water to function properly. “Urea, the main toxin in our body, is expelled through urine,” explains Dr Jasvinder Anand, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Medanta — The Medicity, Gurgaon.

Drinking insufficient amounts of water will lead to a build-up of urea and can cause kidney failure. “Water also prevents constipation and helps our bowels expel waste,” he explains. Water acts as a lubricant for the colon, and lack of it can trigger digestive ailments.

All drinks hydrate

MYTH: According to Delhi-based sports nutritionist Lovneet Batra: “People believe tea or coffee can replace water as hydrators, but the fact is that they contain caffeine and are diuretics.” Drinking a couple of cups of tea or coffee may not be harmful, but more than that, and you are likely to be expelling more water from your body.

The biggest culprit, of course, is alcohol. Not only does it suppress the body’s ability to re-absorb water, leading to increased urination, its after-effects, mainly vomiting, just add to the problem.

You risk dehydration if you don’t drink water post a workout

MYTH: Dehydration occurs only when one loses 2% of body weight through perspiration, and this does not happen in a regular hour-long gym session.

Batra suggests that the best way to figure out how much hydration you need after a workout is to weigh yourself before and after. If you’ve lost about 500gm, (which, she clarifies, is just water weight) you need to drink 500ml of fluid with a splash of honey and salt.

After moderate exercise, like a half-hour brisk walk, a glass of coconut water or lemonade with a pinch or two of salt should be fine. If you are an endurance athlete and exercise for extended periods of time, you need extra hydration.

“Marathon runners, bikers and swimmers need about 200ml of fluid every 20 minutes,” says Batra. “They need sports drinks, not just water, to replenish glycogen stores.”

Our water need decreases in winter

MYTH: We may not sweat as much or feel as thirsty in winter, but that does not mean that our water requirement substantially decreases. “The body uses more energy to keep itself warm, for which it needs hydration,” says Datta.

“The air in winter is drier and we need to keep our mouths, throats and noses moist,” she explains. Our body continues with its usual functions, irrespective of the weather, for which it requires hydration.

“We lose about one to two litres through urine, about 500 ml through sweat, about 300-400 ml while breathing out, in both summer and winter.”

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Dec 6, 2020 12:42:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/water-water-everywhere/article18409340.ece

Next Story