Smorgasbord Health A – Z of Common Conditions – Dehydration – At 75% water our bodies do need a top up from time to time!


Recently I noticed that there were a few articles by the experts in the field of nutrition on the subject of hydration. What worried me in particular was that they were touting the belief that you don’t need to drink anymore than your usual cups of tea and coffee as you will obtain sufficient from the food that you eat.

It is true that eating fresh vegetables and fruit will provide you with some fluids but it is still not enough to supply your body with life giving fluids.

We can live for around 6 minutes without air, 6 days without fluids and 6 weeks without food. The very young and the elderly however have a much shorter window than 6 days before dehydration begins to cause severe health issues. In my experience of elderly care most are suffering from borderline dehydration resulting in urinary tract infections, increased symptoms of dementia and if not reversed can become life-threatening very quickly.

Why do we need fluids?

We are as humans made of protein with the few other bits and pieces thrown in. Protein has an extremely high water content and if we were wrung out to dry we would lose approximately 75% of our body weight. It would be a great way to lose weight if we could just plug in a hose and siphon off a couple of gallons from time to time but unfortunately that would be another failed fad diet.

We need oxygen, fluid and food in that order and we can live for about 6 minutes without air, 6 days without water (in a cool and wet environment) and 6 weeks without food.

There are a number of people who will tell you that drinking water is not necessary as we can absorb enough fluid from the food that we eat (also water containing) and from drinking tea, coffee, alcohol and soft drinks.

It actually goes back again to the quality of the fluids that you then are taking in. If you are eating a highly processed diet the fluid in the food will be contaminated with artificial flavourings, colourants and hydrogenated fats in many cases. Coffee is caffeine, which acts as a diuretic, and alcohol is a toxin that not only dehydrates but also impairs your kidney and liver function preventing them for removing those toxins from your body.

There is no substitute for water full stop. Here are the symptoms of dehydration that reinforce that concept.

Fatigue and sluggishness.

Our bodies are about balance and they work very hard to maintain the equilibrium whether it is between calcium and magnesium, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, acidity and alkalinity. Even the smallest changes in fluid balance can affect all the other functions within the body including heart function as the organ has to work harder in order to supply the body with the oxygen and nutrients it requires.

As you become more dehydrated your body will begin to make some executive decisions in order to ensure its survival if fluid intake ceases altogether. It redirects blood to the muscles and away from skin areas resulting in a malfunction in our cooling and heating system. We heat up internally resulting in muscle cramps, light-headedness and fatigue.

Because most of us take in at least some liquid our bodies are left in a state of readiness, not quite dehydrated but not receiving the essential fluids it needs to perform efficiently. This means that we are in a constant state of near exhaustion and with inefficient processing power.

Headaches

As in any part of the body, the brain relies heavily on fats and fluid in the correct balance to function. Loss of fluids thickens the blood, causing the heart to work harder to pump oxygen and nutrients around the system. The brain function is dependent on both oxygen and nutrients and if you are dehydrated it will be affected to varying degrees. Headaches will also vary in severity to mild, just behind the eyes to full blown migraines.

The other consequence can be a feeling of disorientation similar to mild forgetfulness with a touch of dizziness and vertigo.

Skin problems.

There are two issues regarding our skin health and dehydration. One is the inability to flush out toxins from the body, which accumulate in the tissues and in the kidneys and liver. This can result in dry, scaly skin and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Additionally water is nature’s moisturiser not only keeping our tissues moist and flexible but also keeping the nutrient rich blood flowing to the tiny capillaries near the skin. Water is actually one of the most effective anti-ageing agents you can use and it is very cheap.

Painful joints and muscles.

Cartilage has a very high water content and dehydration will affect its ability to cushion joints preventing friction, pain and swelling.

I have already established that with sufficient water you can dilute toxins and help flush them from the body but if you are hydrated the immune system controls are unable to function and bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, poisons accumulate. If you combine lack of exercise to stimulate the circulatory system and dehydration you will suffer both joint and muscle pain.

Poor digestive function.

The digestive process requires fluid. If you drink a pint of water half an hour before a meal (you should not drink excessive amounts with a meal as it dilutes the stomach acid needed to process food) it will pass through the stomach into the intestine and back into the mucous barrier of the stomach. This barrier retains sodium carbonate, which is needed to neutralise acid as it passes through the mucous. If you are dehydrated too much acid passes through and causes cramps.

Food intolerances and immune system malfunction.

When the body is dehydrated and toxins have accumulated the body’s defence mechanism is activated and histamine is released causing a reaction to anything else that you then put into the system such as food. There are certain foods that have a profile that is allergenic, for example, wheat, tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, seafood, aubergines and peppers. If your body is on the defensive the whole time it will react negatively within a very short space of time. This immune system overload obviously leads to an inability to fight infections, resulting usually in antibiotic intervention and a vicious circle develops.

Thirst and hunger.

There are two issues here. One is the lack of nutrients that are getting around the body in a timely fashion and the other is the hunger/thirst triggers for the body.

Lack of fluids kills the body within about 6 days and over our evolution the body has set up a communication system that will flash messages from the brain to your mouth which will then get dry and uncomfortable until you drink water. Unfortunately we override this messaging system by drinking anything we can lay our hands on in the form of sugar-laden soft drinks, coffee, tea and alcohol. As these really do not satisfy the body’s requirement for pure water to work with you end up being thirsty again in a very short space of time. We develop cravings in an effort to satisfy the demand, which usually includes salty or sweet foods.

Hunger pangs are other signals that your body requires nourishment but if the body is dehydrated it can get confused with the thirst messages. After two or three days of drinking sufficient fluid in a day you will notice a marked reduction in both cravings and hunger pangs.

How to drink fluids.

I have a large glass first thing in the morning – in the winter I have hot water with the juice of a lemon. This not only gives me a shot of Vitamin C but has an alkalising action on the body. Viruses and bacteria thrive in an acidic environment.

I drink a normal tea and a coffee in the morning and three peppermint or green teas in the afternoon.

I have a litre bottle of water on the go all day that I sip from when I am working.

During the summer months with warmer temperatures I will add an extra litre per day.

If I am on the treadmill for 30 minutes I also have an extra glass (of water)

And I might have a glass of wine… but more than that and it begins to have a dehyrating effect.

I hope you have found helpful. As the warmer weather begins make sure you have a bottle of water in the car, out for a walk and make sure small children are kept hydrated with small drinks regularly throughout the day. This also applies to pets who can only pant to cool down and should always have fresh water available. Many of them will also enjoy an icecube as a treat.

Please feel free to share – Thanks Sally

You will find the other posts in the A-Z of Common Conditions in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-a-z-of-common-condition/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Weight Reduction – The Plateau and Fluids


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Experienced dieters will dread that  plateau that everybody seems to hit five or six weeks into their weight reduction programme.

A pound of body fat is generally equated to 3,500 calories. However, you will not be losing just pure body fat in the first few months since 15% and 22% of the weight of a fat cell is excess water, and this must also be reduced. This water loss is one of the reasons why people tend to lose weight faster during the first few weeks.

Anyone who has dieted, or read about dieting, will know about the dreaded ‘plateau’. There are a couple of major reasons why this occurs.

The first relates to the ability of the fat cells to shrink in the 5th to the 8th week of a weight loss programme.  As fat leaves the cells to be used as a food source, the body has the task of shrinking the fat cell back to its normal size. In some cases this does not happen immediately, and the cell has an empty space, where the fat used to be. Since the body cannot have ‘empty spaces’, water and salt automatically flow into the fat cell to replace the fat. As the body catches up with the shrinkage of the cells this water will be expelled, but the plateau can last from 2 to 8 days. Since water weighs more than fat you may even see a slight weight gain during this period, but, you will still be losing fat if you continue with your diet.

If you ensure that you are drinking sufficient fluids that I outline in the next section, and have a regular exercise schedule, this will resolve itself naturally.  I do not recommend that you take diuretics to eliminate the excess fluid as these can do damage to your kidneys.  It will also artificially affect your fluid balance and once you stop taking them it can take a while to correct that.

The other reason you are likely to plateau is starting your eating programme with too few calories.  If you read the earlier post on how many calories you should be taking in… you will have identified your BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate, which for women is around the 1500 nutritional calories and for men 1800.

If you decide that you are going to starve your body into submission with 1000 calories a day and lots of exercise, your body will begin to move into Nutritional Deficiency Syndrome.  Your body has some survival traits that will kick in once it perceives that there is a famine or drought and one of those is to hang on to what is in its fuel cells – in other words the fat and water gets locked up.

Even on days when you think you are eating sensibly your body will decide to top up the fat cells.. and if you go on a holiday break or over Christmas your body will take full advantage.

If you want to reassure your body that there is not going to be another famine… stick to a your eating plan and do not drop below the recommended calories.

So if you start your programme at a minimum of 1500 nutritional to 1800 calories depending on your BMR – with normal activity and exercise you can create the 500/ 750 calories per day to achieve your 1lb. to 2lb weight loss per week.

Work through the natural plateau as your cells shrink and instead of reducing your nutritional calories (make sure that what calories you do consume are nutrient packed)increase your activity levels to maintain a steady weight loss.

Fluids to keep you healthy.

Fluids are important for the body.  We are 80% water and this is essential for life.  You can live without air for about 6 minutes, without food for about 6 weeks (not me certainly) but you only live for about 6 days with fluids.  Every organ in the body relies on a certain level of fluid to function and fluid washes over all the cells in our body keeping them healthy by removing toxins. When you are losing weight this is even more important because you will not be just losing fats from your cells – you will be losing stored toxins too.

You notice that I say fluids not water.  It used to be that it was recommended that you drank at least 2litres of pure water per day.  Well, we now know that certain water rich foods,your teas and coffees add to your fluid intake.  But, fizzy drinks, too many fruit juices and alcohol are not acceptable due to their high sugar content.  The odd glass of wine or fresh squeezed juice, or even B-vitamin rich Guinness a few times a week is good for you. But, at the end of the day you cannot beat good old fashioned tap water.

Those of us who are lucky to live in countries where it is safe to drink water straight from the tap should take full advantage of this very inexpensive alternative to bottled water. I enjoy a glass of sparkling water from time to time but you will get less sodium and depending on local conditions, plenty of minerals from your own tap.

It amuses me when people moan about the price of petrol and then go into a bar and pay £2 for a glass of ‘mineral’ water with a bit of ice and lemon.  That makes it around about £5 per litre or more.  Petrol sounds pretty cheap in comparison.

In recent months it has emerged that the cheaper mineral waters for sale in supermarkets for under 50p per bottle is actually just filtered tap water.  You can do that yourself if you wish either with a filter attached under your sink or by using one of the jug filters.

There is a knack to drinking your water so that it does not interfere with the digestive process.  If you drink a couple of pints of water with your meal you will dilute the gastric juices and the process then becomes less effective.

Try to drink a glass of water when you get up in the morning – a half hour before your main meals and about 90 minutes afterwards.  I will drink green or peppermint tea after a meal however; I find that particularly mint tea helps with digestion, which is why many cultures drink so much of it.

Another fluid that is good for your health, by giving you a boost of Vitamin C, kick starting your body after a night’s rest and is great for your skin, is hot water and a squeezed lemon before you have breakfast.  The other advantage to this particular drink is that if you are suffering withdrawal symptoms from giving up sugars in your diet, the lemon will retrain your palate quite quickly.

So with water first thing, hot water and lemon, a tea or coffee mid-morning, a glass of water 30 minutes before your lunchtime and evening meal and one 90 minutes afterwards, a cup of tea mid-afternoon and water rich salads, fruits and vegetables and you will have consumed at least 2 litres of fluid.

If you do 30 minutes of intensive exercise drink another glass of water before and afterwards. If you drink a couple of glasses of wine occasionally, have at least one glass of water afterwards.

If you drink a little more water you will not come to harm, but do not drink too much either as excess fluids can cause you to lose essential nutrients and make you feel very unwell.

Next time.. whilst I am not going to tell you what to eat for your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks… I know how easy it is to fall into a routine of only eating a few foods in case you put weight on.. In the next post… some suggestions for light meals and snacks.

You can find all the other posts in the series on Weight Reduction in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-reduction-programme-2017/

©sallycronin 2016

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me sally.cronin@moyhill.com.