LET’S TALK with Dr Faraaz

Water – how important is it that we drink the right amount?

I am fairly excited to be presenting my second article in a health series for the Asian Sunday. The idea is to explore topics, start a conversation and touch on real life issues that affect us all. This article is not designed to take the place of medical advice and if you do have any medical concerns then you should, as always, seek advice from your doctor.

Let’s talk about water. It covers a sizeable proportion of the Earth’s surface, comes down in the form of rain and snow, and makes up a large part of our cells – but do we drink it properly? A fascinating 70 per cent plus of our body is made up of water. Good hydration allows us at a cellular level to function maximally. Without getting bogged down in specifics, simple things like nutrient absorption are increased with better hydration.

Whether this applies to yourself, your family or your kids – what are you drinking at meal times and in between? A key part of a balanced diet includes healthy drinking. This means that soft drinks, full of sugar and high in calories may not be the best thing for your health, right? We are fortunate that we have access to water – which is cheap, freely available to everybody and has no calories or sugar. It’s healthy! I am not going to prescribe you a water-drinking regime, but what I will say is that the amount you do drink may vary and it depends on your own individual health and lifestyle.

So we may be drinking too little, too much or just incorrectly. A family member and fitness professional, Sahir Hussain, was recently talking to me on the importance of drinking water. We explored drinking habits, and how sometimes just to say we have drunk enough we may cram all of our water intake into one time of the day. Is this the right thing to do? And have you ever found yourself doing this? I will be the first to put my hand up and say that I need to do a lot more to ensure I myself drink plenty of water throughout the day.

It is easy to become busy with work and reduce fluid intake to only when you have your lunch. Not good!

Whatever literature you read, and whatever the “recommendation” may be – it is a guideline for you to live healthier and happier. Whether you read that you should consume 8 glasses of water a day, or 2.5 litres a day – the exact amount isn’t set in stone and either way this should be used in conjunction with your lifestyle. What I mean is that if you are running cross country, playing a football match or exerting your energy in any other way, does this same recommendation apply? Clearly not.

Breakfast – breaking your fast: so when you wake up in the morning how much water do you drink, if any? Sahir, pointed out something that made me think. A healthy sleep may be eight hours long, so that is eight hours of no hydration, where we fast and deprive ourselves of any nutrients or water. We may then wake up and dig into our fridge looking for something healthy to eat – and take for granted the importance that water will have as part of our healthy and balanced diet. Perhaps we should reach for that glass of water first thing, along with whatever else we are going to consume.

I touched on soft drinks earlier, and I think that it’s important to re-emphasise this message. Soft drinks are not an appropriate alternative to water. They may be fizzy, sugary and have a high number of calories – all of which are not good for your teeth, or your internal health. This is not to say that soft drinks should be banned altogether, but they should be drunk with caution and not as a replacement for the clear correct option, water.

So I’ve spoken about the importance of water and generated some talking points. I hope that I have given you some questions to ask yourselves – and explore the issue of water-drinking as part of your daily routine. I must add that too much water is also bad for you, so don’t go away and drink 10 litres of water with the thinking that it will be good for your health.

As I mentioned in my first article in this series, one person’s medicine may be another’s poison – the same holds true for water. Drinking too little, or too much is person-specific and should be tailored to your needs, medical history and lifestyle.

So, any thoughts on how we can improve our habits? Our future generations depend on what we do and what we teach today – so how can we change thinking on this topic? We have so much water available, perhaps we should start by introducing it more readily to where we spend the most time. For example, which room do you spend most of your day in? Perhaps have a jug of water available in your living room if you need a drink is the way to go. You will be amazed that if it is there, you will probably drink more than you would have if you had to walk down two flights of stairs to get it!

If you have any health concerns or queries, then you should discuss these with your doctor. Remember, the above is not a prescription, but food (or water) for thought! There are some health conditions where water intake has to be restricted and this should be discussed with your GP.

You can follow my Twitter feed on @Faraaz_Bhatti and let’s talk about important health issues. If you would like me to discuss any specific issue or get a conversation going, then feel free to let me know. However, for any medical queries or concerns, please see your doctor.

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