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Drink Some More And Stay Hydrated

Monday, April 20th, 2009 Drink Some More And Stay Hydrated

Cassandra Jardine of the Telegraph declares that up to 90% of the population are indeed dehydrated (17 04 09); this essentially leads to mood swings and both poor mental and physical performance.

Her report focuses on her family to prove to Olympic gold medallist Steve Redgrave. The family have been urinating into small bottles to prove a point. Jardine argues that she already knew what the conclusions would be and that they were all, as a family dehydrated. This could be argued in terms of the grumpiness, and other symptoms such as headaches and the everyday glass of wine.

A Sussex GP, Dr Paul Stillman found after completing his analysis the family as a whole were parched.

For Jardine and by her own admission, her problem was her coffee drinking and not enough of a water intake during the course of the day, whch ultimately led to a rampant thirst at night.

Furthermore, her 10-year-old son was fine as he went off to school but scarcely drank after that. (A brief experiment with allowing water bottles on school desks was scrapped for causing distraction.) She declares that her husband cycles into work each day, but gets worried about having to get up to use the toilet at night had the worst case of dehydration within the family unit.

This was also quite typical of any given family with reference to Dr Stillman who cites various case studies which indicate that at least 75 per cent, and possibly as much as 90 per cent, of the population is dehydrated.

What is frustrating from Jardines perspective is the fact that our bodies allow us to become so. “We don’t feel thirsty until we are already dehydrated,” says Stillman. “But we are 70 per cent water, every tissue needs water and, when we conserve it, waste products are concentrated and the body doesn’t work so well.”

This is where Redgrave comes in. The notoriously grumpy five times Olympic rowing gold medallist used to take a macho line on hydration. His nickname within the British Rowing team used to be “the camel” because he would not take water in the boat although he was sweating off 3-4 litres each training session. “Until the mid-80s,” he says, “I was considered talented but I lost more races than I won.” Bossy trainers then insisted on water during training sessions and, coincidence or not, he won his first World Championships in 1986, aged 24.

It is not only the sports elite who would benefit from better hydration, Stillman believes. “Many of my patients don’t feel as well as they might. Dehydration may not be the cause but it can, at least, be easily checked out.’

More particularly it is understood that better hydration could make us sunnier and more alert. It can also make us thinner. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger; you are less prone to heart disease and also improve skin texture. Two litres a day is considered the golden rule, but even that may not be enough for many people, according to Dr Stillman’s chart of water-loss during routine activities. An hour’s workout means a litre of water loss – no surprise there – but 500-750ml an hour of water is lost just sitting in an air-conditioned office; 300-400ml in a heated classroom.

There is an obvious solution to this predicament and that is to drink ample quantities of water, but as Dr Stillman concedes, is “boring” to drink. Sir Steve is more of a squash man, specifically a form of superior squash known as an isotonic drink. The point about isotonic drinks is that they contain both sugars and salts – and they have the same electrolyte (mineral) balance as body tissues which make them easier for the body to absorb. They rehydrate the body faster than water.

But water will do. So will well-diluted tea and coffee, as the body adjusts. At home, we tried upping our liquid intake, and I did notice less moodiness, but that could have been due to the Easter holidays. The key, says Stillman, is to observe the colour of your pee. Pale is good, but I’m glad to have stopped collecting the stuff three times a day.

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