What Colour’s Your Wee?! Water: Part 1 – Are You Hydrated?

(Spoiler alert: We are talking water, wee and whoopsies!)

Whenever my 85 year old mum comes to visit, I am struck by… Oops, sorry, Mum… I’d better quickly explain that no, I am not going to be discussing the colour of my mum’s wee!!

Let’s start again:

Whenever my 85 year old mum comes to visit, I am struck by her antipathy towards drinking plain, unadulterated water. The only water that passes her lips is a sip to wash down her medication. She only ever drinks coffee throughout the day and a glass of wine with dinner. Very rarely, in hot weather, she drinks a glass of orange squash.  I can’t persuade her even to finish the glass of water when she has her tablets. Yet, a lot of the time she is tired, confused and has difficulty walking due to problems with her leg muscles. These are just three of the typical symptoms of dehydration.

Dehydration in the elderly is of particular concern as symptoms can be mistaken for those of dementia, and they are often given yet more drugs to help counter its effects and slow its progression.

But it is not only the elderly who risk becoming dehydrated. As we (hopefully) approach Summer, we all could do with assessing our intake of such a vital substance as we become more active, expelling more breath and perspiring more in the (slight intake of breath) warmer temperatures. (One can but hope!)

Water makes up about 60% of our bodies and is essential in lubricating our joints, spinal discs and chord, transporting nutrients, and expelling waste products and toxins; it regulates our temperature and keeps the tissues in our ears, nose and throat moist. Water helps keep your blood thin and your Blood Pressure down and flushes away unwanted fats. We need to keep hydrated to keep healthy.

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How do we know when we are dehydrated?

There are lots of signs that you are not taking in enough fluid:

  1. Constipation
  2.  Brain fog, feeling unfocused
  3. Confusion
  4. Headache
  5. Dizziness
  6. Muscle fatigue
  7. General fatigue
  8. Dry mouth
  9. Drowsiness
  10. Dark or strong-smelling urine: if you are well-hydrated, it should be straw-coloured.
  11. Stiff joints, disc problems
  12. In children, they are less active than usual
  13. Drinking too much coffee and/or alcohol  – they are diuretics

Many experts think that if you wait until you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. They advise drinking small amounts of water throughout the day.

Drinking large amounts of water infrequently can put your body under stress.

Carrying a water bottle helps. Preferably not plastic.

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(See Jerry Stainless Steel Bottles, a non-profit company supporting clean water projects in India and Africa).

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Image courtesy of Jerry Bottles

(Colour may be affected by medication or Vitamin supplements – 1 person I know had a shock after taking a Vitamin B supplement!)

How Much Water is Enough?

The European Food Authority recommends 2.5 litres of total fluid per day for men and 2.0 litres for women, whilst the US Institute of Medicine recommends 3 litres (13 Cups) for men and 2.2 litres (9 Cups) for women. These amounts can vary according to health, weight, intensity of activity and where you live, temperature and so on.

70-80% should come from fluids and 20-30% from foods.

Children need 6-8 glasses of fluid over and above what they access from food, with younger children needing smaller drinks of 150ml size.

A general guide is to take your weight in pounds, divide by 2 and that is your amount of fluid required in fluid ounces.

Getting children to drink water can be really hard. Adding a slice of fruit or a strawberry may help. Starting them off as babies is perhaps the best policy and if they see you drinking water regularly, they will soon adopt the habit. Schools could do more to ensure children have the opportunity to drink throughout the school day, they would see results in the classroom in terms of concentration and energy. Parents can also ensure they take sugar-free drinks in their lunchboxes as well as hydrating foods.

All of us can benefit from eating more hydrating foods. Cucumber is well-known for its hydrating properties  (I juice it every day), but also celery, carrot, tomatoes, beets, fruits and salads. Most whole fruits and vegetables are made up of 80-90% water and go a long way to helping us keep up our fluid intake as well as giving us all their essential nutrients.

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Your skin will benefit from all the extra fluid, vitamins, minerals and healthy oils while your eyes will be sparkly bright! Your brain will function better, you’ll feel more alert and focused. You may also get relief from some of the aches and pains in your joints and muscles.

Having trouble with your weight? Keeping up your fluid intake helps keep your weight in check: your body often interprets extreme thirst as hunger and so you eat more. If you ignore normal signs of dehydration, your body thinks, well if she’s not going to give me any actual fluid, I’ll have to get it the hard way – through food. And so you eat, and snack, until it gets what it needs.

If you don’t drink enough, you become constipated and your body reabsorbs fluid (and thereby toxins) from your stools. Now there’s a pleasant image!

I find cold water difficult to drink, so I prefer it out of the kettle. Hot water with a slice of wax-free lemon first thing in the morning is a great start to the day, it rehydrates, wakes up the liver and kick-starts the metabolism.

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I also drink a variety of teas: green tea with jasmine; licorice and cinnamon; lemon and ginger; chamomile and some fruit teas.

There are lots of interesting and flavoursome ways to increase your fluid intake and nurture your body.

We in the developed world are fortunate that hydration for optimum health is pretty much our main concern when it comes to water intake – give or take the odd chemical spill. There are millions of others who struggle to get enough clean water just to survive. We literally have it on tap, so let’s use it to keep ourselves and our families hydrated and healthy.

By the way, what colour is your wee?

(Watch out for the beetroot!)

This is Part 1 of 2 posts on water. Part 2 is about 3 socially responsible businesses who donate all their profits to clean water projects in developing countries. Please read and see if you can support their efforts.

Water: Part 2 – They Can’t Get Enough

N.B. If you are at all concerned about dark-coloured urine or any of the other symptoms listed, please see you doctor.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Magnesium: Are You Getting Enough?

Do you remember those old adverts for Milk of Magnesia, sold in attractive cobalt blue glass bottles? It was sold as a remedy for indigestion and constipation.  Indigestion is a common complaint these days and is just one of many symptoms of magnesium deficiency – along with constipation – a deficiency that can occur through consuming a highly processed diet based on refined flours and sugars. This happens in two ways: firstly, the refining process strips the whole foods of their magnesium content and secondly, magnesium is stripped from the body in having to process all those refined foods.

Do you also recall the age-old advice to have a drink of hot milk at bedtime to help you sleep? Milk is one source of Magnesium, an essential mineral which helps your muscles relax and therefore helps promote a good night’s sleep. (There are many plant-based sources too and I’ll provide a list below and see also my Magnesium-Rich Hippy Hippy Shake).

Did you know low levels of magnesium can be a contributory factor in mild depression?  A couple of handfuls of cashew nuts is said to have the equivalent effect of one dose of Prozac on mood and mild depression due to the high levels of magnesium, tryptophan and B6? (This is the subject of some debate, please do not stop taking medication without consulting your doctor).

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So, Could You Be Deficient?

Many people are considered to be deficient in magnesium and you may be too even if you consider that you eat reasonably healthily. Our soils are more depleted of natural magnesium nowadays and we often lead both physically and psychologically stressed lives – stress being a major factor in magnesium depletion in the body.

We drink more caffeine and phosphates in fizzy drinks which both increase excretion of magnesium and bind to it, which prevents absorption of this important mineral.

Certain medications increase excretion of magnesium via the kidneys, for example, diuretics, heart and asthma medications and birth control pills, while alcohol is also a diuretic.

People over 55 years old tend to eat less and have less efficient digestive systems, so they may be particularly prone to deficiency.

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency include:

Muscle cramps, Poor Sleep, Anxiety, Fibromyalgia, Headaches and Migraines, IBS, Irritability, Palpitations, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Acid Reflux, Constipation, Bloating.

Magnesium deficiency is considered a major factor in causing Chronic Inflammation, believed to be the cause of many of today’s chronic conditions. Magnesium also aids bone health as it improves Calcium absorption.

Are you getting enough?

The Recommended Daily Allowance for Magnesium is currently around 300mg for women and 400mg for men, but this is considered by many to be on the low side and it is expected that these will be increased in the near future.

The following is a list of Magnesium-rich plant-based foods:

Green Leafy Vegetables

Wholegrains

Nuts – especially Cashews

Potatoes

Garlic

Sunflower Seeds

Hemp Seeds

Kelp

Millet

Figs

Dates

Avocado

Beans

Hard Tap Water.

See my magnesium-rich Hippy Hippy Shake recipe!

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It is best to get your magnesium from food sources rather than supplements.

NB Some medications interact adversely with magnesium eg thyroid and diabetes medications as well as some antibiotics. People with kidney damage should also avoid magnesium supplementation. Do not reduce or stop any medication without consulting your doctor.

Copyright: Chris McGowan