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Dehydration: Why do we need to drink water

Health Dialogue
HEALTH experts tell us that we need to drink at least 1.5 litres of water every day. Why do we need to drink so much of the tasteless colourless stuff which just makes us visit the bathroom more?
The basic needs of a human being are food, water and shelter. Water plays a very important role in human life as it maintains cell integrity, takes part in chemical and metabolic reactions, transports nutrients (food and minerals) within the body, regulates the temperature of the body and plays a great role in the elimination of waste products from the body.
Water actually makes up just about 70 percent of our body weight, all body functions rely on the presence of water.
According to N. Pace and E. Rathbun in the Journal of biological chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73 percent water, lungs 83 percent, muscles and kidney 79 percent and bone has a 31 percent water content.
The needs for water in human beings tend to change with age, weight, health status and environmental factors. For example, the average male adult needs to consume three litres of water a day, this intake would need to be adjusted during times of illness as moisture is lost from the body due to increased body temperature, sweating and loss of water through increased respiration.
Newborn babies do not need extra moisture as breast milk is over 80 percent water.
The human body loses water in several ways, the most basic water loss occurs during breathing, urination and defecation, during exercise (walking, jogging, running, dancing etc.) perspiration happens, increasing water loss, during illness, vomiting depletes water from within the gut (intestinal tract).
Feeling thirsty is an indication that your body is in need of more water, this is usually the first noticeable sign of dehydration. In some cases a need for water is manifested as hunger.
Moderate dehydration symptoms include headache, dry mouth, thirst, constipation, dry skin, dizziness. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and should be treated at a health facility.
Symptoms of severe dehydration include little urination, confusion, sunken eyes, extreme thirst, low blood pressure, rapid breathing and heartbeat, in some extreme cases fever and/or hallucination and unconsciousness.
Dehydration is usually brought on by diarrhoea and vomiting, children younger than five years are more prone to dehydration and should be attended to if they appear to be moderately dehydrated.
How will you manage to drink all that water? Fruits, vegetables and cooked food contain some water and during the day several people usually consume ether fruit juice, tea, coffee and or carbonated drinks that contain quite a bit of water. The best way to ensure you are getting enough water is to keep a half litre water bottle near you during the day.
A simple way to determine if you are well hydrated is by the colour of your urine; if your urine is clear and light coloured, you are adequately hydrated. If your urine is dark yellow to amber, you are more than likely dehydrated and need to take in more fluids.
For more information on keeping well hydrated email 990health@champ. org.zm

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