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Welcome to the Health Defence Blog - a blog about health, wellness and a healthier you. Brought to you by the Health Defence team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, you'll find up-to-date information on a range of topics from what's in your food to the latest advice on e-cigarettes!

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Megan - Health Promotion Specialist

February 26, 2017

Tiredness; poor concentration; slower reactions; headaches; loss of strength and stamina; mood changes… Do you recognise any of these symptoms? Does it surprise you that all of them can be a result of not drinking enough fluid?!

Staying hydrated at work plays a big part in staying alert, being productive and functioning at our best! Water is the second most important thing after oxygen, that we need to survive. We simply cannot do without it. In fact, every day we can lose up to 3 pints of water (1720ml) just from daily living, for example, breathing,  sweating, exercising or through illness (vomiting, diarrhoea, fever).

About 70% of our body weight is made up of water, so it’s essential that we maintain these levels to ensure that our vital organs, such as our brains, kidneys and heart, can work properly all day, every day. So how do we know if we are well hydrated?

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when we don’t take on enough water to balance out what our body is using. Dehydration affects the balance of salts and minerals in our body which can affect how well our body functions.

Dehydration can often be mistaken for hunger, when in fact; it’s just our body’s way of telling us that we need to top-up our fluids.

Staying well hydrated not affects our mental function, drinking enough water helps to flush out toxins from the body, maintain good blood pressure, reduces the chance of kidney stones and urinary tract infections; and helps to keep us regular (too little fluid can result in constipation).

How to monitor hydration?

One of the easiest ways to check your hydration status is to look at the colour of your urine (wee). A clear, straw coloured or pale colour of urine is ideal and the chart below can help you to check.

Dehydration or urine infections can make urine darker or strong smelling, if in doubt, seek medical advice. Similarly, different medications can affect our urine. Always ask your GP if you are unsure.

Other signs to look out for:

  • Feeling thirsty! (Thirstiness can indicate mild dehydration - have a drink!)
  • Dry mouth or lips
  • Tiredness or headache
  • Dry skin
  • Passing urine less often that you normally do
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

Fill up on the right fluids

How much fluid do we actually need? Well, this varies from person to person and can depend on a number of factors such as the temperature (we need more fluid in warmer weather), exercising (we need to replace lost fluid (sweat)) and age. Generally speaking, 6-8 cups of fluid each day (1600-2000ml) is enough to keep most of us hydrated – remember, looking at the colour of your urine can help to check if you are getting enough.

Water is the best option to re-hydrate – its free (tap water is fine), has no calories and no sugar!

  • Add lemon, cucumber or fresh mint to water for a refreshing flavour.
  • Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere you go – this will remind you to sip water throughout the day.

Other good sources of fluid include low-fat milk, sugar-free drinks and tea and coffee.

  • Tea and coffee contain water which helps to prevent dehydration. If you drink a lot of tea or coffee, monitor how much caffeine you are having. Having too much caffeine can make us anxious, irritable and affect sleep.
  • Limit sugary drinks – the high sugar content can contribute to tooth decay and weight gain. Try diluting fruit juice with half water and limit non-diluted fruit juice to 150ml per day.

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation (read our blog to find out what ‘moderate’ intake means).

  • Alcohol can contribute to dehydration, so alternate alcoholic beverages with a non-alcoholic drink.

Increasing your fluid intake may mean more trips to the toilet – this is normal until your body starts to adjust to the increased fluid intake.

  • Avoiding caffeinated drinks in the evening and limiting fluids two hours before bed might help to avoid a mid-night bathroom visit!

Note: sometimes it is necessary to have a fluid restriction due to a medical condition. Always follow the advice of your GP or practice nurse in the first instance.

***Disclaimer: always seek medical advice before starting a new diet, exercise regime or medication. The information in these articles is not a substitute for professional advice from a GP, registered dietitian or other health practitioner.

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