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  • Writer's pictureAmy Donovan (BNatMed)

Water/Wai - the 'why' behind water

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

"Hydration - the act or process of combining or treating with water"

We are right in the throws of summer now!

With such sunny days here in the Waikato it's no wonder all the beach hot spots around here have been hit with both New Zealand and international traveler's alike.

We are coming out of a season of partying, eating, drinking, swimming, beach walks, reading, and relaxing more than we are used to.

We may have been so busy with all things fun that we can so easily forget about something so many of us struggle with anyway - our water intake!

I'm sure you've all heard of the '2 liters a day' rule,

but I'm going to give you a bit of a run down on why the old H2O is so important and

just how much you should actually be drinking.

I'm also going to give you some hacks on ways to make water more interesting

in the hope it helps you feel a bit more inspired to get your intake up -

if in fact you need to at all!

Let's go for a trip down memory lane - Science 101!

Before we move on to how much water we should be drinking, let us first get to know the 'why' we need to make water our primary source of fluids each day.

Around 60-80% of almost any living cell's volume is made up of water,

therefore it has so many crucial roles in our body such as...

1. It's ability to help keep our body's temperature regulated. Water does this by being able to absorb and release large amounts of heat. This high capacity for heat means water can take a lot of heating before it's temperature changes too drastically which means we experience less fluctuations in our core temperature.

2. Following on from above, this ability to absorb heat so well

means it takes a lot of heat to break hydrogen bonds and initiate vapourisation.

This breaking of bonds due to heat is visible when we sweat, which also acts as an external cooling feature to help dispel some of the body's internal heat.

3. Water is the 'universal solvent' meaning the body relies on water for any chemical reactions within to occur. Water is our main transport solution to traffic around the gases acquired through respiration (breathing), as well as nutrients from the food we eat,

and to allow the removal of waste.

4. Water is able to break apart the bonds between the foods we eat into smaller nutritional building blocks through the process of reactivity.

5. It also kindly provides our tissues, joints, and organs with cushioning and protection.

Having adequate hydration means all of the above processes and more

are able to be performed efficiently.

Two states of severity

1. Hypovolaemia aka low blood volume or dehydration

(common causes are vomiting, diarrhea, a large volume of blood loss,

or simply not drinking enough water)

2. Hypervolaemia aka high blood volume

(certain medications and hormonal imbalances can cause this)

These two states are (hopefully) a rare occurrence as our body does a pretty damn awesome job at regulating our water balance through either down-regulating kidney function to promote the re-uptake of water, or promoting accelerated water removal through the urine. These processes are going on all the time in our bodies -

let us all give a moment of thanks!

How does dehydration impact on our health?

Have you ever noticed that when you feel thirsty, you also begin to feel tired? Sometimes dehydration even masks as hunger, so I suggest drinking a glass of water and then waiting 10-20 minutes to see if you are still feeling hungry (particularly those with weight loss as a goal).

Being dehydrated can lead to:

brain-fog and poor concentration;

headaches and migraines;

low mood and irritability;

dull hair and skin;

slowed elimination through the bowel (and a tendency toward constipation);

bad breath;

poor liver function and toxin build up;

plus much more...

So, how much should we drink?

A general rule of thumb I like to follow when working 1:1 with clients is to achieve

30 milliliters of water intake per kilogram of body weight.

For example:

a 60 kilogram person drinking 30 milliliters per kilogram = 1800 ml (1.8 liters)

This rule of course varies with each age and stage of life.

Children may need to get around 30-40 ml/kilogram body weight,

and elderly around 25-30 ml/kilogram of body weight.

This amount should also increase in regard to demand too i.e. increased exercise, hotter temperatures, water loss through vomiting/diarrhea.

In general though I find this rule much more applicable than the old '2 liters a day' broad spectrum approach, as it is more relevant to what your body requires in proportion to it's weight and volume.

Important side note: Coffee, tea (black, green) and alcohol do not count towards your water intake. These all have a diuretic action, which means they push water out of the cells and promote urination resulting in an increase of water lost.

Herbal (decaffeinated) teas absolutely do count towards your water intake though. Plus you get the added benefit of the therapeutic effect of the herbs

- what could be better?!

Something for the battlers

If I had a dollar for every time I asked a client

"How much water do you drink each day?"

and they answered with a sheepish "Not enough"

I'd be having a lot of free drinks!

It seems to be a common complaint that water is simply, boring.

Here are a few of my favourite ways to get my water intake up and I hope they help provide you some inspiration for ways to make water more interesting.

1. Start each morning with 400 ml lukewarm water and

add the juice of 1/2 lemon or lime* or use a teaspoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (Braggs or Ceres are good brands). This routine starts our day right by giving our gut, liver and kidneys a helping hand and starts detoxification and elimination processes.

I like to think of this morning ritual as an internal 'shower'.

*Use organic lemons, limes and oranges where possible as a lot of the commercially grown ones have waxes applied to them to look all shiny and 'preserve' their freshness longer, but I don't think we need to be exposed to these!

2. You may also like to add a small pinch a natural salt to the above process to add an electrolyte hit to your water. The citric acid from lemons or limes also help to absorb the minerals (electrolytes).

3. Try adding fresh fruit and vegetables to your water jug or bottle (BPA free, people!). These add great flavour and also add extra vitamins and minerals - you can have a snack when you've drunk all the water too!

Some of my favourite additions are cucumber, apple, berries, watermelon, pineapple, and orange but you are only limited by your imagination.

4. Add fresh herbs to give great flavour and also to provide therapeutic benefit. Some of my favourites are peppermint (pictured) to calm digestion and uplift mood; lemon balm to calm the nervous system and balance mood; basil to promote digestion and mental clarity; and slices of fresh ginger to soothe digestion and warm the circulatory system.

5. Brew up bags or loose herbal teas and allow to cool (I do this in the warmer months but prefer hot teas in Winter). You can then dilute these with more water or add the above mentioned additions for a lovely flavourful brew.

5. You can add a sprinkling of chia seeds to a glass of water to assist gut health and waste removal. Due to their hydrophilic (water loving) nature you will notice they go a bit gel-like. They absorb the water around them and hold this right the way throughout our digestive tract. This can be really beneficial for anyone who is prone to constipation.

To the very last drop

I hope that this article has helped to answer the "Why?" of water intake and provided some inspiration for ways to get your intake up or keep it at where you need to be.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments if you have different ways you like to pimp your water, or if you have any questions that weren't answered here.

This information is for the general public and is no way intended to replace individualised healthcare.

If you are seeking an individualised approach to your health email to arrange a FREE 15 minute care call to discuss any questions about how an holistic approach to your health may benefit you.

Amy x

Amy Donovan is a qualified and registered Naturopath, Medical Herbalist and Massage Therapist working from her private clinic in Te Awamutu, New Zealand.

References used:

Bone, K. (2003). A Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs: Herbal Formulations for the Individual Patient. London, United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone.

Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2015). Herbs & Natural Supplements, Volume 1: An Evidence-based Guide. Marrickville, Australia: Elsevier Australia.

Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2014). Herbs & Natural Supplements, Volume 2: An Evidence-based Guide. Marrickville, Australia: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Craft, J., Gordon, C., Tiziani, A. P., Huether, S. E., McCance, K. L., Brashers, V. L., & Rote, N. S. (2014). Understanding Pathophysiology - ANZ adaptation. Chatswood, Australia: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Hechtman, L. (2018). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Chatswood, Australia: Elsevier Health Sciences.

Marieb, E. N., & Hoehn, K. (2014). Human Anatomy & Physiology (9th ed.). Essex, England: Pearson.

Masento, N. A., Golightly, M., Field, D. T., Butler, L. T., & Van Reekum, C. M. (2014). Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. British Journal of Nutrition, 111(10), 1841–1852.

Merriam-Webster. (2019). Hydration. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from

Riebl, S. K. (2013). Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood. American College of Sports Medicine, 17(6), 21–28.

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