Water is essential for human life. If we are dehydrated our bodies cannot function optimally, irrespective of how well we have eaten in a day. Signs of dehydration can include; extreme thirst, headaches, weakness, dizziness, confusion, palpitations, tiredness, fainting, constipation and even hunger.

Dehydration will affect how a person feels generally day to day, with the biggest concern being in children and athletes. Both concentration and athletic performance can be significantly compromised with even the slightest drop in hydration levels.

We have all heard of the generic advice of 8 glasses, or more specifically two litres of fluid per day. What counts as fluid? How much fluid should each individual be drinking?

Any fluids can count to one’s total fluid intake. Waters, teas, coffee, juices, sports drinks and even some alcoholic beverages. One however needs to consider the other elements that various fluids contribute to one’s nutritional intake. For example they can also provide extra unnecessary energy, either in the form of glucose or frusctose (or sugar) and/or alcohol, that can lead to weight gain. These fluids tend to also contain chemical additives such as colourants, flavourants and preservatives which can have negative effects on health.

When it comes to maintaining hydration, water will always be the best thing to use.

The quantity of water per day should be individualised for each person. A reliable way to determine this is by monitoring the colour of urine. The darker yellow it is, the higher the level of dehydration. The target is to maintain urine of a pale to light yellow colour. Fluid needs will change from day to day and throughout the year depending on the season, environment as well as physical activity levels. Keeping a close eye on hydration levels and maintaining a good level of hydration will help to keep the body functioning optimally.

Another aspect to consider is where water comes from. The majority of tap water is clean as it is treated with chlorine, however there are potential negative health effects of long term chlorine intake. Store bought, plastic bottled water has similar concerns due to the potential for hormone-like chemicals they can contain.

So what to do? It is advisable to obtain water from a reliable purification store or alternatively invest in a water purification system at home that will not only filter water, but will also remove the chemicals used to ‘clean’ it.

Article Credit: Kerryn Wuth. Dietitian. Kerryn is a dietitian in private practice specialising as a paediatric dietitian (child nutrition) and a sports dietitian (sports nutrition). She works in both Umhlanga and Ballito.