Are you really hydrated? Water shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to holistic health.

The human body is made up of around 60% water. This is variable with age, sex and hydration levels. Water is one of the 5 elements and is essential for all life and the functioning of the cells that make up the human body.

Hydration doesn’t just come from drinking water. There are many factors in maintaining a healthy balance of water and essential minerals (electrolytes) in the body for optimal health. Hydration is affected by the food and drinks you consume, the climate and environment you live/work in and your activity levels. One day we can feel/be hydrated and the next not. The body uses water in so many different ways and this article could help you understand and appreciate it on a new level. It may also help you to recognise if you are dehydrated.

Drinking water is only the beginning of hydration

Adequate water in the body allows for ease of movement throughout the musculoskeletal system, detoxification via the kidneys, excretion such as sweating and crying, temperature regulation, the flow of blood and lymph, healthy digestion, and brain function. Water is held in around 70% of the fascia, which is a sheath of connective tissue supporting the structure and movement of your body. When fascia can move freely and glide over the soft tissues, it allows for the range of motion and ease of movement for the muscles and joints. If you’re dehydrated, fascia can become sticky and sluggish and make your feel stiff. It is also linked to unexplained pain in the body. Fascia can also be negatively affected by lack of movement or by physical trauma, but the focus here it’s reliance on water. I’ll release a future blog on the wonders of fascia.

Water has many other roles to play in the body and staying hydrated is a great way to boost overall health and increase vitality.

Although many people drink the recommended amount of water in a day, they can still experience the effects of dehydration. A lot of the time, people don’t realise they are dehydrated. Especially if they are drinking so much water, how could they be?

Signs and symptoms of dehydration include dry skin, mouth and eyes, lethargy, headaches, dizziness, dark coloured urine and constipation. Some of these symptoms could be subtle and unnoticeable unless you bring your awareness to them. There are some diseases that could be attributed to prolonged dehydration, such as arthritis. This is because water is drawn from the tissues of the body to aid digestion if it doesn’t have enough from consumption. We need lubrication in the joints for them to function well. We also need hydration for the healthy flow of lymph fluid. Dehydration can cause the lymphatic system to become stagnant and congested, thus affecting detoxification and the immune system. These are just a few examples of how important water is for us to function well.

Certain foods and drinks can cause dehydration. When we consume water, it is absorbed and used throughout the digestive tract. But if we are eating things that absorb a lot of water, it means there will be little left for digestive function. This is when water is drawn from the cells of the body, causing a higher risk of dehydration. Some of the foods that cause dehydration are those that, if left to soak, will swell and take in the water. I would recommend getting into the habit of soaking foods such as nuts and seeds, grains, pulses and legumes and dried fruits like goji berries. I took this advice from a Ayurvedic Heath Practitioner and it has stayed with me ever since. I was one of those people that drank copious amounts of water, peed a lot, but still had a dry mouth and dry eyes. I now soak all these types of foods overnight, then add them to my dishes as normal after rinsing. There are other nutritional benefits to soaking nuts and seeds and more information can be found on this topic in my eBook.

Alcohol and caffeine are diuretics which means they make you urinate more which could lead to dehydration. They are well-known for their dehydrating effects on the body, but this study shows that caffeinated coffee isn’t as dehydrating as we once thought. Most people will feel the need to drink more water if they are consuming excess alcohol. And alcohol most definitely is a causing factor of dehydration, especially when you consider the body’s recognition of this as a toxin.

Intake of sugary, oily and salty foods is also linked to dehydration and should be kept to a minimum. This is mainly from ultra-processed foods that hold a whole host of other disadvantages for your health. Despite some misconceptions, sodium (from salt) is an essential mineral and is actually hydrating in the correct quantity. The key is getting the right amount, which is unique to you, and not overconsuming table salt like that found in ultra-processed foods. You could opt for healthier, less processed salt such as Himalayan. I add this to most of my meals freely, and I am aware that opinions differ on whether it is genuinely a healthier alternative. More research is needed in many aspects of nutrition and new information is being released all the time. I’m a believer in intuitive health and listening to your own body and its needs. We are all unique, and my tips and guidance for staying hydrated could differ from another health professional’s advice. I encourage you to seek out more information as you feel necessary and find what works best for you.

As well as drinking enough water, consuming foods that contain a high proportion of water every day is a great way to stay hydrated. My favourites are watermelon (or any type of melon because I love this fruit so much!), cucumber, grapes, juicy peaches, homemade soups, and smoothies with plant milks (these are usually made up of at least 90% water). I like to add ground flax and chia to a smoothie and let it swell overnight. Then I add more water! This makes it extra hydrating as the seeds have already taken the water they need and so they won’t absorb as much during digestion. Hydrating foods have so many other benefits for the body as they usually contain antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. I’m a huge advocate for eating a wholefoods plant-based diet and feel that with the additional little hacks, it serves me well and contributes massively to hydration as well as overall health and vitality.

The body can only absorb a certain amount of water at any given time, so if you have a huge drink all at once, the chances are you’ll be needing the loo shortly after. This is why it’s better to drink little and often. Fluids are lost through sweating, so I always use an electrolyte supplement during and after intense workouts, or if I know I need to boost my minerals for any other reason such as occasional longer fasts or after a busy working day. When you take an electrolyte supplement, you’ll notice the benefits almost instantly. I call it a ‘come alive moment’. I use this powder supplement from Bulk as I think it’s really good value for money and comes from one of my trusted brands. A bag of this will usually last me 6+ months.

Water is sacred and shouldn't be taken for granted

Not only are we made up of mostly water, but the Earth and other life is also. When we live with the understanding and awareness of our interconnectedness with all life, we can flow more freely, with ease. I often guide people into meditations using water as a metaphor for moving forward without resistance. Like a river flows effortlessly despite obstacles, we can too. If you’ve had a 1-1 treatment with me you may have heard me pass on the affirmation, “I flow through life with effortless ease”. Although water changes its state, it is in constant motion in its cycle. It continually flows with effortless ease, even if you can’t always see it.

Next time you relax or meditate, close your eyes and visualise the flow of water within the cells of your body. Tune in to the healing and cleansing aspect of water and have a deep appreciation for the abundance you have available when it is so scarce in some areas of the world. Access to water is a blessing, so let’s have gratitude and savour every sip and sensation that it brings.

References and useful further reading:

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