Water: Meeting Your Daily Fluid Needs

As part of our focus on Nutrition Week, today, we touch upon the importance of drinking water.  Have you noticed how lifeless a plant looks when you forget to water it? This should remind you that water is just as essential for your body. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body is made up of water. Which is why getting enough water every day is important for your health.

The essential nutrient

How many glasses of water should I drink per day is a frequently asked question to me by my clients. Water is very vital for life. We cannot live with out water for many days.

How many glasses of water should I drink per day is a frequently asked question to me by my clients. Water is very vital for life. We cannot live with out water for many days. Human being can survive for weeks with out food but with out water it is difficult. It does not contain large amount of any specific nutrients but water is very essential for the functioning of the body next to oxygen.

Also read: Importance of drinking water

Water is the major constituent of the body. An adult body weight has about 60 – 70 percent of water. We need water for digestion, absorption, and metabolism. Water is also required for elimination of the waste products. It is essential for the regulation of body temperature. Water is lost from the body through urine, sweat, breathing, in small amounts in faeces, during metabolism and also in lactating women in the milk. So it must be continuously replaced. Water is taken in as drinking water and also in food. Very small amount of water is formed in the tissues by the oxidation of hydrogen present in fats, carbohydrates and protein (metabolic water).

Good drinking water has no odour and is pleasant to taste. It should be filtered and preserved in a closed container to prevent occurrence of water born diseases. Boiling of water is the easiest and cheapest way to sterilise water. Content of potable water varies depends up on the soil from which it is obtained. Natural water contains traces of sodium, calcium, magnesium and iron. There are two types of water – soft and hard. Small amount of minerals containing soft water lathers easily. Where as in hard water calcium salts content is high and does not lather easily.

Sources of water

1.         All liquids taken such as plain water, tea, coffee, milk and juices.

2.         Solid foods also contain good amount of water particularly among the fruits and vegetables.

3.         Water resulting from the oxidation of foodstuffs (small quantity).

From the small intestine water is absorbed rapidly and then through the vein of intestine to the general circulation. Through the general circulation it reaches all parts of the body. Water is the medium of all body fluids including digestive juices, lymph, blood, urine and perspiration. Water as a solvent for the products of digestion, help them to pass through the absorbing walls of the intestinal tract into the blood stream and ultimately to the tissues. Like wise metabolic waste products are diluted and carried to the site of detoxification and elimination.

Water is essential as a body lubricant for various organs. Mucus that lubricates the digestive tract and the respiratory tract saliva, which makes it possible for us to, swallow the food, all contain water as an important component.

When taking rigorous exercise and the weather is very hot one must drink more water than normal so as to compensate for the water lost through breathing and sweating. By drinking adequate water the toxins or the body waste products are flushed out. Water flushes out bladder and kidney infection and other urinary tract infection and improves the complexion. People who drink very little water suffer headaches, poor concentration and constipation. In pathological conditions like fever, diarrhoea and urinary tract infection increase consumption of water is required. Where as condition like nephritis and SIADH reduced water consumption is required.

Requirements of water

The requirement is based on the dietetic habits, climate, and physical activities. As an average healthy individual should consume 1500 – 2500 ml of water per day for proper functioning of the body and to prevent dehydration, constipation, urinary infection etc. The body requires more water during hot and humid weather. If little excess water is taken there is no harm but there is increased formation of urine. But very large quantity of water is taken it can cause water intoxication. If less water is taken then the general body function get impaired and secretion of urine is diminished. As working rule, a person should take enough fluids to excrete 1200 – 1500 ml of urine per day. The colour of the urine is a practical guide to the adequacy of fluid intake. A pale yellow urine in a healthy person indicates and adequate intake. While a high coloured urine indicates an insufficient fluid intake.

Normal Requirement: 1500 – 2500 ml of water per day

Increased requirement: Hot weather, exercise, lactation, fever, dehydration of any cause, UTI , burn, constipation etc

Reduced Requirement: conditions like nephritis and SIADH etc

Water with meals

I often get questions asking if water is taken with meals it tends to dilute the digestive juices and impairs digestion. Moderate amounts of water about one glass taken with meals have no harm full effects. Soups, milk, beverages like tea and coffee and most of our so-called solid foods like cucumber, tomatoes and fruits like melons contain large amounts of water. No one has ever claimed that these should not be taken with meals. But yes, if more liquids are taken with meals your appetite will decrease.

Water content in commonly used food stuff

Name of the food stuff % of water content Name of the food stuff % of water content
Cucumber 96.3 Fowl 72.2
Water melon 95.8 Beans 58.3
Cabbage 91.9 Bread 39
Cow’s milk 87.5 Jam 30
Onion 86.6 Butter 19
Apple 84.6 Rice 13.3
Fish 75 Wheat flour 13.3
Egg 73 Bengal gram dhal 9.9
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