An opinion piece written by a Scottish doctor and published in the British Medical Journal has sparked controversy over whether the recommended eight glasses of water we are advised to drink each day are really necessary.
Despite Dr. Margaret McCartney stating that the recommendation to drink that much is “thoroughly debunked nonsense”, many nutritionists of the world are up in arms that a qualified doctor has taken it upon herself to tell people they don’t need to drink so much water.
Water is absolutely essential for human life. Our bodies are two thirds water by weight, our blood is around 90% water and our brains are about 96%water so it is pretty crucial stuff. We continually lose water through sweat, breathing, and urination, so replenishing our water supplies throughout the day is vital.
The Symptoms of Dehydration
It is a sad fact that people in developing countries are dying through lack of clean water while in the western world we have access to plenty of clean and healthy water, but the majority of us are still suffering from chronic dehydration because we choose to drink soda instead.
Most people say they aren’t dehydrated because they don’t feel thirsty, but actually the more dehydrated we become the less effectively our thirst signaling mechanism functions. Generally by the time we feel thirsty we are already dangerously dehydrated. When people do begin to drink more water many are surprised to find they feel thirsty, but that is simply because their thirst signaling mechanism is finally coming back to life.
The initial symptoms of dehydration include dark colored urine, small volumes of urine, headaches, poor concentration, confusion, and irritability, but chronic dehydration can cause far more serious problems.
In a recent radio debate on the subject, the man being interviewed stated that he had never drunk more than one glass of water a day, but that he had never suffered any ill effects from this. When questioned further about his health it was discovered that he suffered from high blood pressure, persistent back ache, and arthritis; three conditions that have a direct link with dehydration.
Chronic dehydration has also been associated with digestive disorders, weight gain, asthma and allergies, and joint pain. Given that water is necessary for every chemical reaction in our bodies, that it is needed for digestion, waste disposal, and circulation, and that it controls body temperature, just about any medical condition you can think of may have a link to chronic dehydration.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
There is some controversy over exactly how much we do need to drink, but the fact remains that it is very difficult to drink too much water because the body should simply excrete it. The standard eight glasses of water per day still seems to be a sensible figure. Some people prefer to judge their water intake by the color of their urine, which should be a very pale yellow, while others simply drink a glass of water before and several hours after each meal.
However you choose to measure the amount of water you drink in a day; don’t wait until you feel thirsty to have a glass of water as you may well be already dehydrated. Making sure you drink enough water, as opposed to soda, caffeinated drinks, or alcohol, is a major step towards good health and could help you to avoid a huge number of chronic health conditions.