Q & A with Dr. Kathleen
Most adults drink less than 1 litre of water per day. Is this enough? Most sources say it is not. The Institute of Medicine’s Adequate Intake level for ‘fluids’ is 13 cups for adult males and 9 cups for adult females (1cup = 8 fluid ounces). Keep in mind that about 20-30% of your daily ‘fluids’ come from food.

However, hydration needs are truly individual. Many countries around the world will not set recommended daily intake levels because as individuals we loose water at different rates depending on genetics, climate, level of activity and a myriad of other factors. Understanding the different things that cause dehydration will help you to determine how much water is right for you.

Why is it so important to keep hydrated?

Our bodies are 70% water and just 1-2% loss in this water leads to mild dehydration. Dehydration affects many systems from the brain to the heart to the digestive tract. Consider the following facts:

  • Digestion Fact! When you’re not drinking enough, the colon has to look elsewhere to get the water it needs to function. It will pull water from your stool – making you constipated.
  • Weight Fact! Water, when replacing sugar-sweetened beverages, juice and milk is linked with reduced energy intake. One German study found that when children were provided with an additional 1.1 glasses/day that their risk of obesity was reduced by 31%.
  • Appetite Fact! Water consumed before a meal has been found to reduce food consumption and calorie intake among non-obese older adults.
  • Asthma Fact! Without enough water, your lungs have to work harder to do their job of swapping oxygen for carbon dioxide. If you exercise regularly in an under-hydrated state, chances are you’ll boost inflammation and set yourself up for exercise-induced asthma.
  • Detox Fact! Your kidneys require water for the filtration of waste from the blood stream. Without enough water these toxins build up in the body causing a range of health concerns.
  • Skin Fact! Skin contains approximately 30% water, which contributes to plumpness, elasticity, and resiliency. Dehydration can be reflected in reduced skin turgor with tenting of the skin as a flag for dehydration.
  • Athletic Fact! Under relatively mild levels of dehydration, individuals engaging in rigorous physical activity will experience decrements in performance related to reduced endurance, increased fatigue, altered thermoregulatory capability, reduced motivation, and increased perceived effort.
  • Mind & Mood Fact! Mild dehydration can impair cognitive abilities including poor concentration, decreased reaction time, and short-term memory problems, as well as moodiness and anxiety.

How does keeping hydrated help to keep my skin healthy?

By Improving Circulation (and reducing acne): Hydration promotes circulation, which enables the skin to facilitate healing and repairs, and flush away cellular debris as needed. Circulation alone will improve the appearance of your skin, reduce acne and speed healing time for skin eruptions.

By Increasing ‘Plumpness and Glow’: Hydration contributes to plumpness, elasticity, and resiliency. Although ‘Skin dryness’ is usually associated with exposure to dry air, prolonged contact with hot water and scrubbing with soap (both strip oils from the skin), medical conditions and medications – dehydration can also be a major cause of skin dryness with visible reductions in skin plumpness and glow.

Water intake, particularly in individuals with low initial water intake, can improve skin thickness and density and can improve skin hydration. However, keep in mind that adequate skin hydration is not sufficient to prevent wrinkles or other signs of aging, which are related to genetics, and sun and environmental damage.

By Offsetting Seasonal Effects on the Skin: Interestingly, the changes in the facial skin water content with season and humidity have been visualized by Near-infrared Imaging. The water content decreased in autumn, especially near the eyes and upper-cheek. Compared to other areas on the face, the water content around the eyes decreases more in low humidity as found in many winter climates.

What are the minerals that help keep us hydrated? How do they function?

Electrolytes are certain minerals (i.e., calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium ions) essential to human health. Electrolytes are responsible for directing water (and nutrients) to the areas of the body needed most. Besides maintaining fluid balance, electrolytes help your muscles to contract and relax, maintain normal blood pressure, stimulate metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, assist in other mineral absorption, prevent muscle fatigue, participate in energy metabolism and assist in the transmission of nerve impulses from your nervous system to different body parts.

Reaching for a ‘mineral water’ or ‘electrolyte drink’ already? Hold on a minute! Don’t count on sports drinks to meet your body’s hydration and electrolyte needs. These drinks are often high in sugar and sodium but don’t contain the balance of the essential electrolytes you require to stay adequately hydrated.

What is the best hydrator on the market? What does it consist of that helps ensure adequate hydration?

As you can see by now, hydration is about water AND electrolytes. One of the problems with traditional hydrators is the amount of sugar and sodium. We do need to replace glucose with exercise and dehydration but excess amounts of sugar lead to stomach upset, tooth decay and the additional sodium is unnecessary given the amount consumed in the average diet.

At the Health Shop, we carry balanced electrolyte formulas from professional brands such as Endurlyte by Seroyal and Endura by Metagenics. These are often ideal for athletes who require additional water, glucose and minerals. However, my preference is that people hydrate through diet with mineral rich soup broths, fresh green vegetable juice, and adequate water. At least 7-8 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables also help to meet our hydration and electrolyte needs.

How much should I be drinking on a day-to-day basis as well as during exercise to ensure that I am hydrated?

A good rule of thumb for calculating how much fluid you need is to divide your body weight by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Your weight in kilograms is how many ounces of fluid you need to consume daily. For example if you weigh 150lbs/2.2 = 68kg. A 68kg person will need 68oz of daily fluid (or 8.5 glasses of water) to replace what the body uses at rest.

Many factors affect hydration status for athletes: ambient temperature (cold, heat, arid, humid), altitude, mode, intensity and duration of exercise, fitness level, size and gender to name a few. Due to all these variables, each individual must calculate their own sweat rate to determine fluid needs. Athletes should rely on urine output and color or checking their body weight both before and after each exercise session to gauge water losses. As a general rule, for every kg loss post workout, an athlete needs to ingest 16oz of fluid or 2 glasses. If you are training seriously work with a nutritionist or a naturopathic doctor to help calculate your specific water needs.

What if I don’t like the taste of water?

As wonderful as plain, pure water is, you might not love it. Here are a few healthy ways to freshen up the taste!

  • Filter it! Water filters help to remove the unpleasant taste of chlorine or heavy metals. Although, they can sometimes remove healthy minerals in the process.
  • Infuse it! Use fruit slices, like lemon, lime and orange
  • Spa it! Add sliced mint and cucumber for cooling flavor and relaxation or cilantro for gentle detoxification.
  • Green it! Add green drink powder to your water for extra minerals, electrolytes and energy.

References

Davy BM, Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Wilson KL, Davy KP. Water consumption reduces energy intake at a breakfast meal in obese older adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008

Jul;108(7):1236-9.

Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7.

Egawa M, Yanai M, Maruyama N, Fukaya Y, Hirao T. Visualization of WaterDistribution in the Facial Epidermal Layers of Skin Using High-SensitivityNear-Infrared (NIR) Imaging. Appl Spectrosc. 2015 Apr;69(4):481-7.

Gandy, J. (2015). Water intake: validity of population assessment and recommendations. European Journal of Nutrition, 54(Suppl 2), 11–16. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-0944-8

Kalhoff H. Mild dehydration: a risk factor of broncho-pulmonary disorders? EurJ Clin Nutr. 2003 Dec;57 Suppl 2:S81-7.

Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8), 439–458