About 6 weeks ago I was listening to the radio when I heard a news story that mentioned a study into the amount of water we should drink every day. The conclusion in the report was that we don’t need to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day, that it could in fact be dangerous, and that this was just a marketing ploy by one of the mineral water companies that had become part of our accepted beliefs.
While I was prepared to believe that the exact amount – 6 to 8 glasses – was indeed part of some marketing campaign once upon a time (just as having 5-a-day for veges and fruits was never based on scientific fact), it has its benefits and so I went in search of the original study to see whether the media had simply twisted the results to make better and more controversial news stories.
What I discovered was that the “study” was in fact an opinion piece written by a doctor for the British Medical Journal. What it actually stated was that a new initiative called “Hydration for Health” to promote drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks is sponsored by Danone, a company with a huge vested interest (they produce Volvic, Evian and Badoit mineral water).
The doctor also questioned the NHS guidelines for drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water to avoid dehydration and states that drinking too much water can be bad for you as it causes your kidneys to work harder. She uses a 2002 study by Heinz Valtin that questioned the US health advice for citizens to drink “at least eight 8-oz glasses of water a day” (this amounts to around 1.9 liters whereas in the UK the recommended amount is around 1.2 liters) to back up her piece.
Why Am I Annoyed By This?
I’m not a medical expert and I’m not going to get into a discussion about exact amounts of water consumption or whether this is all a ploy by the mineral water companies to sell more bottled water. I simply felt that it was an irresponsible thing to write, as the media did exactly as could be expected and suggested that you don’t need to drink water regularly every day!
I know too many people who will jump on a story like this and use it to justify why they don’t drink much liquid during the day, or why they choose to drink sugary soft drinks, juices and caffeine drinks instead of water.
The truth is that, whether you have PCOS or not, keeping your body properly hydrated is important, and plain water should be the preferred method for doing this. It’s also very hard to over hydrate your body unless you choose to drink liters of water all in the space of a couple of minutes.
Reasons Why Drinking Water is Good for You
It helps promote a healthy heart
Drinking plenty of water decreases viscosity of your blood and so improves its flow around your body. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (this time a real study carried out over 6 years) found that those who drink more than 5 glasses of water a day were 41% less likely to die from a heart attack than those who drank less than two glasses. If you have PCOS you have a greater risk of heart problems, so it’s important to do simple things like drink more water in order to help your heart stay healthy.
It flushes out the toxins
Our cells retain toxins. Some come from the environment and others you produce yourself. Either way, they’re in your body and you need to get rid of them. Just like you use water to flush your toilet; your body uses water to get rid of toxins. Eliminating this waste helps you function more effectively and feel better.
It improves nutrient delivery
Your body uses water to transport nutrients around your body. There’s no point eating healthy food if you’re not giving your body the proper means to deliver those nutrients to where they’re needed.
It gives you an energy boost
Think you can’t get through the day without your morning caffeine boost? Well, water can give you energy as well, and not the short-lived energy boost of a cup of coffee or sugary drinks. Your body is made up mostly of water. It loses it throughout the day through perspiration, breathing and urination, so you have to replace it for your body to work efficiently, particularly the heart and digestive tract. The more efficiently your whole body works, the better you’ll feel and the more energy you’ll have – and as a woman with PCOS, you can appreciate how important some extra energy can be.
It’s good for the skin
Many people question whether this is scientifically true, so I’m prepared to be questioned on this one, but from my own experience, when I’m dehydrated my skin looks tired and unhealthy too. As mentioned above, staying properly hydrated flushes out the toxins in your body, and that includes the skin.
I had to see a speech therapist for a while a few years ago and she told me that the vocal cords are one of the last parts of the body to benefit from hydration. The body basically makes the decision on which parts need water the most and so it’s natural to assume that the body will provide hydration to your vital organs before anything else. Drinking plenty of water ensures your body doesn’t have to ration it and neglect the less important organs. If you have dry skin problems, try drinking more water and see if it improves (it won’t be instant and will take at least a few weeks).
Good for weightloss
Water helps to suppress the appetite and it doesn’t have any calories. A win win! The body’s process of burning calories requires plenty of water to be efficient, and then more water to help flush the resulting toxins from your body.
Why Water and Not Other Liquids?
Many people find it hard to drink water. It’s not really something I understand as it has very little taste and has always been my drink of choice, even as a child, but I can accept that some of you would prefer to drink squashes, juices and soft drinks instead.
While not all soft drinks are bad for you, and some will provide the water you need during the day, there are a number of reasons to opt for water over anything else (and I don’t have a vested interest in a mineral water company):
No sugar added
While fruit juices may contain many nutrients, they also contain a whole lot of sugar. This is especially true for juices you buy from the store, as many of them add sugar for taste, but even freshly squeezed fruit juice has a lot of natural fruit sugar. This sudden burst of sugar triggers your insulin response and can make you tired and sluggish. If you’re dealing with Insulin Resistance than sugary drinks are the last thing you need.
Sugary sodas will produce the same reaction and they usually contain no nutrients at all. You can’t get round it by drinking the “diet” kind either, as these use sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners that can cause other health issues.
Caffeine is a diuretic
Drinks that contain caffeine actually cause you to lose water throughout the day. You retain some of the water content of the beverages, but not as much as when you drink pure water. You can try decaffeinated beverages, but these often have added chemicals to strip out the caffeine. Look for a decaf version that uses a pure water process to remove the caffeine, and if you like to drink tea then herbal teas (without added sugar) are best.
How Much Water Should You Drink a Day?
As a voiceover, I drink water regularly throughout my working day in order to improve and maintain my voice, but I also like drinking water. I find I dehydrate very quickly and first thing in the morning have to drink a couple of glasses of water before I lose that thirsty feeling. I’m also a coffee addict and know that if I’m going to have a few cups of coffee each day I have to balance it out with more water.
Don’t rely on thirst to tell you if you need more water. If you are thirsty then you are already dehydrated. The color of your urine can be a good indication – if it’s very dark then you need to rehydrate (first thing in the morning you will notice that it is particularly dark as you’ve had 6-8 hours of no fluids).
You may not need to drink 8 glasses of water every day but try always to have water on hand and, if you’re not a big fan of water either consume it in small sips regularly or treat it like medicine and pick certain times of the day to drink a glass down quickly (don’t drink liters all in one go – that’s dangerous and your kidneys will have trouble coping).
The US and UK guidelines may not be scientifically accurate but they are there for a reason – your body needs water to be healthy!