OUR bodies need water to work.
It lubricates the joints and eyes, aids digestion, flushes out waste and toxins and keeps the skin healthy and the mind active.
And scientists recently found that drinking eight glasses a day could prolong your life by up to 15 years.
They believe this is down to the fact that drinking more fluid lowers sodium levels in the body, making you healthier.
But what happens when you don’t drink enough and how can we stay hydrated?
To mark Nutrition and Hydration Week, which launched on Monday, Sun on Sunday Health talks to some top UK experts who answer all your questions about water.
What is dehydration?
THIS happens when we don’t have enough fluid in the body.
Natalie Louise Burrows, a registered nutritionist and health coach (integralwellness.co.uk) says: “If you are thirsty, then you are likely to be already mildly dehydrated.
“However, the sensation of thirst can reduce as you get older.
“This means you lose the feeling that you need to drink something and may not realise soon enough that you are becoming dehydrated.
“This is a big concern because the body’s ability to circulate nutrients around itself, regulate body temperature and dilute urine is compromised when dehydrated.
“The latter can lead to issues such as kidney stones.”
Why is water so important to the body?
OUR bodies are made up of around 60 per cent water and our brains 70 to 75 per cent.
Natalie says: “We lose water all day, every day. Even when we breathe, we expel water, as well as when we sweat, urinate, excrete and cry.
“We need it for all sorts of things in the body — from mental clarity and energy to blood pressure and kidney health.
“Because of this, we need to top up our water levels every day.”
How much water should I drink?
THE average person needs 1.8 to 2 litres of water a day.
Natalie says: “You might need to increase the amount if you are very active, as you perspire more if you do lots of exercise.
“You may also need to increase it if you regularly use saunas or spas — and on hotter days, I’d recommend going up to around three litres a day.
“Children should have between 1.2 and 1.5 litres a day — and once they are 12 to 14 years old, it becomes equal to an adult’s daily intake.”
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
YOU will feel more tired than usual, have a dry mouth and lips and maybe experience dizziness.
Natalie says: “In a baby, the signs of dehydration include a sunken soft spot on top of their head — called the fontanelle — as well as sunken eyes, few or no tears when they cry, few wet nappies and being drowsy and irritable.”
What should I drink?
WATER and herbal teas are the ideal.
But Natalie says. “If you are somebody who needs a bit of flavour, I recommend adding some berries, mint leaves or citrus fruit to your water.
“Keeping hydrated is more important than worrying about adding a drop of squash or cordial.
“I wouldn’t recommend including caffeine because this can increase urination frequency and potentially contribute to dehydration.
“Soups, vegetables and fruits contain water so they will all support your daily intake.”
When should I drink?
DRINKING water gradually throughout the day is the best way to go, and avoid doing so an hour or two before bed if you don’t want to be up all night going to the toilet.
Natalie says: “Downing two litres in one moment and then nothing more the rest of the day won’t work, as your body is not losing water at that rate.”
AROUND 89 per cent of the population don’t drink enough water, with 20 per cent of men and 13 per cent of women drinking none at all during the day.
The Natural Source Waters Association says poor hydration is more common in those aged over 55 – with 25 per cent admitting to not drinking water during the day, compared to seven per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds.
Jen landed in hospital
JENNIFER CAIRNS got so dehydrated it affected her kidney and turned her blood septic, causing infections around her body, so she had to be rushed to hospital.
Mum-of-two Jennifer, who runs Rebel World – a business supporting female entrepreneurs – says: “Because of underlying conditions that make me feel very nauseated a lot of the time, I’ve always found it quite hard to drink enough water.
“These illnesses also mean I get sick easier, and whenever I’m unwell it takes me a little longer to recover.”
In 2018, all her family caught the flu.
Her husband Sean, 45, and their sons, aged 17 and 13, were feeling better by day five but Jennifer felt worse and was hardly able to drink anything.
On day eight, she collapsed and was admitted to hospital.
Jennifer, from Belfast, says: “I was severely dehydrated and my kidney function was being affected. My blood had turned septic and was causing infections in my body.
“If I hadn’t been taken to hospital when I was, I might not have made it.
“I remained in hospital for a few days, while they brought my fluid levels back up.
“I now drink lots of herbal tea, as I find it easier to drink than water.”