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"I Never Drink Water!" – So, Are You Dehydrated?
It’s almost a matter of pride, isn’t it? From the hard drinker to the tea, from the coffee addict to the kola kid, “water” is a dirty word.
Are humans really among those rare few mammals that require little water to survive? After all, unlike desert creatures, we don’t have a built-in water conservation mechanism. If you’ve read the first Dune sci-fi books, you’ve seen what could be done to get us that way – the “always costume” – but it’s not really real. No, we are not built at all for low water intake.
So, why do so many of us think that we can have a couple of pints of liquid a day, and still drink with diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine in cola, tea and coffee? I don’t think we think about it. Let’s just think about the convenience. Going to pee is an inconvenient waste of time, so avoiding a lot of fluid intake seems sensible. But there is a heavy price for saving those few minutes every day.
If you are one of those low water intake people – and there are many – you will be amazed at how much more alert you are and how quickly the “slow” feeling goes away when you start drinking properly. Doctors don’t freak out for no reason!
Our Miracle Poison Eliminators
One of the fastest ways to attract serious bodily harm is to stop the elimination of poisons. Our bodies are constantly making waste. It is part of the state of being alive. Feces is the obvious; so is breathing (it discharges carbon dioxide); and sweating is another, disposed of salt and other chemicals.
Urine is also a great waste remover. It is the final product of a complex chain of processes, which begin with the elimination of waste from every cell in our body. Just to live and do their job, all of our cells absorb nutrients and oxygen and remove waste products like lactic acid directly through the cell wall. Our blood and lymphatic systems drain this for processing in the liver, and our kidneys extract waste released from the liver, store it in the bladder and pump it out periodically. Alright, so far.
Water is vital for health
The thing is, all these processes depend on an adequate water supply to work. Dehydrated cells cannot excrete poisons properly. A result is muscle cramp. Another is a poor ability to think straight, as your brain malfunctions. Why? Low water in our blood and lymph systems is very dangerous, and your body will pull this water from almost every other part of your body to maintain the functions of the blood without you dying soon – mainly cleaning waste from every cell in your body. . And if, like most of us, you eat a diet high in salt, your body needs more water available to maintain the hydration balance between blood and cells. Or again, die – painfully.
Concentrated urine is an early symptom of dehydration, and can cause all kinds of malfunctions, including kidney stones and gallures. Birds have a mechanism to suck up almost all the water from the urine, giving the familiar white missile on the head! But we have no such ability. When our urine concentrates too much, it is a sign of problems.
A classic result of dehydration is those hallucinations (all those “lost in the desert” stories) as your brain is deprived of water to keep the rest of you alive. Oh, and if you are dehydrated, you will also have digestive problems, mainly constipation.
But we don’t have to go too far down this road to be disadvantaged by dehydration. An early symptom is loss of concentration as water is ripped from our brain to keep everything else going. That can be really expensive. Migraine and headache is another. So, if you want to avoid pain, or lose money due to bad decisions or the risk of an accident, keep hydrated – drink!
How much water should I drink?
It’s simple to do: follow the advice of the well-known doctor to drink seven glasses of water a day. You’ll find you’re more alert, feel fresher and maybe those headaches and migraines you’ve been suffering from under stress will magically disappear. And, of course, you need to pee more often – but that’s natural and healthy!
Water can be any drink with water, which is not a diuretic (see above). So, soup, milk, fruit juice, herbal teas, and so on, everything counts. The water in your meals is not, unless they are very rich in water, and do not forget to count calories in these drinks as part of your food. It’s not my fault if you get fat! And drink constantly during the waking day – not liters at a time!
Maybe you want more specific guidance? Here are three easy tips to help you drink the right amount of water:
TIP ONE: Calculate daily water needs
Calculate your optimal water intake using one of these rough and ready rules – you only have to do it once.
- in pounds, drink half an ounce of water every day per pound of your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 150/2 = 75 ounces of water a day. It is slightly less than 5 US pints, rather less than 4 Imperial pints.
- In kilo, drink 3/100 of your weight in water every day. So, if you weigh 70 kilos, you drink 70 x 3/100 = 210/100 = 2.1 liters (as kilos) of water every day – just over 2 liters.
That may seem like a lot of water, but it’s not! Most mammals voluntarily have a similar water intake. They’re just humans who stubbornly resist drinking just for short-term convenience and despite having those natural “thirst” cues. You can see below how little each hour is.
TIP TWO: Spotting Dehydration
First, look for a loss of concentration. If you forgot to drink in the last hour or two, then you probably found the reason. But also keep a general vigilance on your urine concentration. Most people’s urine is dark yellow, and this is considered normal. But most people are dehydrated! A simple motto is, PEE PALE. It’s that easy. Apart from maybe the first time you go in the day, or if you are sick or eat something poisonous like whiskey and detoxify quickly, expect your urine to be a pale color. If it gets stronger, a definite deeper yellow, drink it! It really is that simple. And yes, you may have to look into the bowl to check. It’s not that bad, is it? I bet if you’re male you’ll find yourself peeking into the next stall in the public toilets – just to check what color it is… Betcha!
TIP THREE: The Balance of the Day
Your body is naturally good at maintaining a water balance – if not as dehydrated as many in the West. If you are a little dehydrated, your kidneys allow less water that contains a stronger concentration of waste in your bladder – this is where the bright yellow pee comes from.
Suppose you don’t pee, even when you have the signs that your bladder is full and you need it (a 3-hour movie? Watching a long run?) or suppose you’re really dehydrated and lacking water. Then your kidneys stop processing waste – and the level of poison in your blood starts to rise. Many people are at that high level of poison all the time, and concentration and body processes like effective digestion and removal of waste from your cells begin to deteriorate.
If, at the other extreme, you have a lot of water in your blood, then your bladder fills up quickly. You should pee more often, and your pee will be very pale.
Within limits, then, you can face a fairly wide difference in water intake without problems. But if you overhydrate or seriously underhydrate, you will get pathological conditions.
It will work best if you have a regular intake of water – just the right amount every hour you are awake. So aim to drink your optimal amount of water every day evenly during the waking day. (When you sleep, the system shuts down nicely anyway. That’s why a tall glass of water is a good first thing to do when you wake up.)
Suppose you are a man of 130 Kg, 150 lb, and your optimum is about three liters a day. If you are awake 16 hours a day, this is about 200 ml (about 7 ounces) every hour, and one hour you eat a meal that is mostly water – say, fruit or soup. If you are a slim lady, and you need two liters a day, do about 150 ml per hour (about 5 ounces). Now, even if you are one of the dehydrated majority, it doesn’t seem like an impossible amount to drink, does it?
If you find that you have become dehydrated, or you realize that you have forgotten to drink for several hours, drink an hour immediately, then another in 20 minutes to half an hour. That will get you back on track and your body will rebalance pretty quickly. What you should not do is try to make up for all the missing fluid. You have already adapted to its loss, and drinking it at once will hydrate you.
Be sensible in managing your water balance
These are pretty big and ready figures in Tips 1 and 3, so don’t be too rigid. (You may have noticed that the conversions of pounds and kilos are not the same, but they are simple to work out.) If you drink double the amount indicated, you will overwork your kidneys – not a good thing. If you drink half, you are quite dehydrated. Be sensitive about it.
If you drink diuretics, you will force your kidneys to process more water than you should, so you pee too often. The result is that you have to drink more to stay hydrated. The most common diuretic drinks contain stimulants such as caffeine and taurine, or alcohol, or perhaps both! So anything with strong alcohol, especially shorts, liquors and wine, will need water to balance. So tea, coffee, chocolate, cola and sports/energy drinks (Red Bull, for example) – and the stronger they are, the more water you need to balance them. They all contain poisons and cause a detox effect anyway, so judging the right balance is not easy. Weak tea or coffee, or most colas, do not need a lot of water to balance. Strong things like extra-strong tea, coffee shorts, and taurine-kick sports drinks may need more water than the drink itself to balance it out. Italians don’t drink water with their coffee for nothing!
One last point: if you sweat freely, the rules are different. I think about extreme conditions, like being in a bloody temperature, a humid environment or working hard in a very hot environment, or working super-hard anywhere. Examples are: long-distance runners, cyclists and swimmers; underground coal miners; furnaces; remote open air rifle shooters, sugar cane cutters. Under these conditions, you can quickly excrete more water than your body can afford to lose. You can also lose too much salt, one of the few situations where you can have a lack of salt. The answer, right while the heavy sweating is happening, is to drink extra water to return the sweat losses, with a pinch of salt added to each liter. There is no need for expensive specialist drinks – if you need sugar for blood sugar, use honey or a low-acid fruit juice (for example, melon) in the water. There are no stimulant poisons in home brew and you know what you are getting!
In general, your attitude to hydration should be simple: be sensible. Tip 2 is your common sense guide – pale pee!
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