Water: They Can’t Get Enough, But We Can Help!

Recently, while I was thinking of writing a post on hydration, there was a sudden deluge (pardon the pun) of articles and tweets on the subject. Everywhere I looked, someone was urging that I drink more water. I thought to myself, If I drink any more, I’ll float away! But as I sipped my regular morning hot water and lemon and then had a shower and washed my hair, cleaned my teeth and flushed the loo, I started musing on how much we take our clean water supply for granted and how much we complain about the incessant rain.

Have you ever experienced a drought, even temporarily? I have.

Have you ever had to use a stand pipe down the street in one of the hottest summers on record and queue up for a restricted amount of water, carry heavy containers home, ration it out, use the same washing water for all the family, then use it to flush the toilet that has had to be used several times without? I have.

Have you had to do this with a toddler still in nappies – cloth ones that needed sterilising? Or with a baby using feeding bottles? I have. Have you ever been heavily pregnant during a hot summer and had the water go off because of a burst pipe, making it necessary to walk a couple of streets away to the nearest public toilet for a day and a night? I have. During that hottest summer, I was also coping with a slipped disc.

It was indescribably difficult.

Yet our difficulties and inconveniences (pun intended) were nothing compared to those endured week in week out, by millions of families in developing countries where mainly wives, mothers, sisters and daughters spend hours every day walking miles to collect water that is often contaminated with bacteria, parasites and disease, for example E. Coli, Cholera and Hepatitis A.

Between 600 and 700 million people have no clean drinking water, while over 2 billion do not have access to toilet facilities.

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Image from Jerry Bottles

While I was contemplating this, tweets began appearing on my timeline about Matt Damon and Gary White’s charity Water.org and the British organisation, Water Aid UK. Then purely by chance, someone called @jerrybottles liked one of my tweets. I looked them up. While I did so, two other companies showed up: Conscious Step and Three Avocados.

These companies have one thing in common: they are non-profit businesses that sell unique products to raise money for clean water projects around the world.

100% of their net profits go to these projects.

This all seemed serendipitous and I decided to promote their organisations via my blog. If one person buys one item after reading this, then I will feel like I’ve done something worthwhile.

These companies sell very different quality products and I want to point out that I haven’t been given any to promote, nor have I purchased or used any of them. Purely and simply, I looked at their web sites and products, read their missions and wanted to help in this small way.

First up is Jerry Bottles

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Leicester-based businessman, Harun Master, set up his charity in 2011 to help fund and co-ordinate clean water schemes in India and Africa. Their stainless steel bottles – named after the large jerry cans used by women to collect their water – are stylish, dishwasher safe and sustainably produced. Along with Tobias Gould and Taj Bharma, he built a company whose mission is to educate about pollution caused by plastic bottles, encourage the use of refillable steel bottles and use the profits to provide safe, clean water – starting in Tanzania. As a bonus, the co-ordinates of each project will be printed on the base of the bottles so you can see where the proceeds from your purchase have been put to use. They keep costs and staffing low to maximise the funds available for the schemes.

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They are also working with local shops and businesses to build a scheme whereby you can refill your Jerry water bottle for free when out and about. They aim to add to their range by working with designers to create additional quality bottles and accessories. The web site is informing and fun, as are their tweets!

Three Avocados is the fascinating name of a coffee company in St Louis, Missouri, founded by Joe Koenig in 2010 after a trip to Uganda. The poverty surrounding him inspired him to set up a company which sells 100% Arabica coffee – produced by small farmers in Uganda and Nicaragua for fair prices – and donates all its net profits to clean water projects worldwide. One of their partners is a women’s co-op which uses the money earned from growing coffee to send their children to school.

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In Uganda alone, without clean water, 63 children die every day. Since the company started, over 20,000 people have benefited.

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Women and girls are usually the ones who walk miles every day to collect large jerry cans of contaminated water. They are unable to work or attend school. They are at risk of assault. Providing clean water allows them to gain an education and employment as well supporting a healthier community.

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Oh, and why is a coffee company called Three Avocados? Well, visit the web site and read their story – just have some tissues handy when you do.

Conscious Step is the brainchild of 3 like-minded men: Hassan Ahmad, Adam Long and Prashant Mehta, left their respective careers at the World Health Organisation, Engineers Without Borders and in Microfinance, and came up with the quirky idea of selling uniquely designed and manufactured Socks for Causes,  to combat Hunger and HIV/Aids, promote Education and provide Clean Water.

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In partnership with Water.org net profits from these blue Argyle socks provide clean water for one person for 18 months!

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(Images from Conscious Step)

The socks are certified Fair Trade and are made from organic cotton using non-toxic dyes.

I asked in my previous post ‘ What Colour’s Your Wee?! Water: Part 1 – Are You Getting Enough? Well, for some, this question is moot. They can’t get enough. What they can get is more often than not a long trek away and unsafe to drink.

You can help change that.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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