Are you getting enough to drink? If you're plagued by dry skin, headaches and low energy levels, you may be dehydrated and not even realize it. If you're reading while indignantly supping on a Coke, bear in mind that the quality of the liquid is also important.
Our bodies are made up of roughly two-thirds water, a balance that's essential for a number of important functions that keep us alive. This includes enabling the blood to transport nutrients and waste around the body, regulating our temperature through sweating and respiration, flushing waste through urination and energizing our muscles. Water also serves to lubricate joints, form saliva and act as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord.
Yet many of us aren't drinking enough water to thrive. The average adult male needs 3 litres of water per day, and the average female 2.2 litres. While some of this is derived from food, many of us simply aren't drinking as much as we should and this can cause a number of health problems.
If you're not drinking enough fluid, your skin may appear dry and wrinkled, and increasing your water intake can improve this to some extent. Don't expect miracles though, as once your skin is sufficiently hydrated, your kidneys will eliminate the excess water, so there's no chance you can 'drink away' your wrinkles!
When the body is dehydrated, the fluid around the brain is depleted and this means the brain can push against the skull, resulting in a headache. Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine or energy drinks may cause dehydration as they have a diuretic effect, encouraging the body to expel water. So if you've been indulging, make sure you have a few glasses of water to recover afterwards.
The brain consists of about 80% water and this is essential for neurological processes. When we're dehydrated our mental performance is affected as the ability to transmit and receive information is reduced. This can make it more difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, whether it's studying for exams or being engaged in a lecture. When concentration is reduced, it becomes difficult to focus and get work done.
If you're feeling tired and sluggish all the time then this is a major sign of dehydration. All bodily functions are about balance and when the body and brain doesn't get enough fluid, blood volume drops. The heart then has to work harder to supply skin and muscles with the oxygen that carries vital nutrients. The solution is to drink water regularly throughout the day.
Dehydration can make it difficult for the organs to get the nutrients they need to work. For example, the liver needs water to release glycogens and other components of energy stores. A water deficiency can result in food cravings, most commonly for sweet or salty snacks and it's because the body is having difficulty with glycogen production. When this occurs, try reaching for fruits and vegetables instead as they have a high water content.