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Are you drinking water correctly?

Water is crucial to our health as it keeps all the systems in our body functioning properly. We need it to hydrate our body, regulate energy and brain function, carry oxygen and nutrients to our cells, help in digestion and detoxification, normalise blood pressure, and maintain our electrolyte balance, among others. We all know that we need to drink water, but are we drinking correctly?

How much water should we drink?

You will have heard of the advice to drink 8 cups of water a day but actually this should be different for each individual depending on their health and needs. A good guide based on body weight recommends that you should take at least 300ml per 10kg of body weight. That works out to 1.5L for a person at 50kg, 1.8L for 60kg etc.

You will need to adjust your water intake under these circumstances:

  • Exercise – you will lose fluids through perspiration when you are physically active, so you will need to drink extra water to cover the loss.

  • Hot and humid weather – it is easy to get dehydrated when the weather is hot and humid, and you tend to sweat more while you are outdoors, so it is essential to drink more.

  • Health – if you have a fever, diarrhoea or vomiting, your body loses fluids and you will need to replenish what you lost. However for some health conditions, it is not advisable to take too much water, for example thyroid disease, or kidney, liver, heart problems; or if you are taking medications that cause water retention. You will need to check with your doctor to ensure you take the right amount.

  • Pregnant or breast-feeding – you will need more water to keep yourself hydrated.

While it is unusual that people may drink too much water, there is such a thing as overhydration, when you consume much more water than what your body needs. If your kidneys can't get rid of the excess water, this may result in low sodium levels in the blood which is dangerous. This may happen to athletes who drink too much water in an effort to prevent dehydration.

You can monitor your water intake to ensure it is not under or over. The colour of your urine should be pale yellow. If it is darker yellow, you are not drinking enough, but if it is often clear and you are going much more frequently, you may be drinking too much than needed.

What do we drink?

Most of us will drink a variety of fluids like coffee, tea, juices etc, and not just water. They all count towards our daily fluid needs, even some of the food we eat like fruit and vegetables contain water. Do go easy and minimise on sugar-sweetened drinks, as they add a lot of calories and add load to your detoxification functions, especially the liver. You will be surprised how much sugar is contained in colas, sodas, energy drinks and fruit juices. Coffee and caffeinated soda drinkers will need to take more water as caffeine is dehydrating. The best is still to take water on its own, maybe add some lemon or mint to give it a little flavour.

Tap water in Singapore is rigorously treated and regulated to high safety standards, undergoing numerous tests, sampling and monitoring throughout the year to ensure it is always safe for drinking. However tap water does contain chemicals for treatment and disinfecting, and the water passes through pipes and tanks which may also contain heavy metals and particles. It is highly recommended to drink filtered water that is free from viruses, bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals.

Drinking cold or iced water is something we enjoy especially in our hot and humid climate. However, drinking cold water shrinks our blood vessels, preventing blood getting to the digestive system so food will not be digested properly. Cold water also solidifies the fat in the food, causing indigestion. Cold water may also cause joint pain, even heart disease. It is best to drink warm water to room temperature water.

How should we drink?

Sit, don't stand while drinking. We may be causing problems because we are drinking while in the wrong position. We may not think much of this, but many times we drink while we are standing, or worse still while running, resulting in our kidneys not functioning properly, and our fluid balance is disturbed. Drink water while sitting down, so that your kidneys are balanced and relaxed, supported well by your bottom and your legs.

Sip, don't gulp. Sometimes we get very thirsty, or we just want to get our quota of water in fast, and we gulp down large amounts of water at once. This is a bad practice as our saliva is an important part of the water we drink. When we drink too much too fast, the saliva is not mixed properly with the water and as the water enters the stomach, it creates acid and causes gas and bloating. Drink water sip by sip to resolve this.

When should we drink?

Here's a rough guide to when we should drink water, which is also a good detox regime. Adjust the amount to customise to your own body weight:

  1. Wake up: Drink 500ml warm or room temperature water, before brushing your teeth. Add some lemon if you can. This helps to wake the detox system and flush out toxins.

  2. Drink water at least 30 – 40min before food and 45min after food. This helps your food get digested properly without disturbing the process.

  3. 9 – 11am: 500ml water

  4. 3 – 5pm: 500ml water

  5. 8pm: 500ml

  6. Before sleep: 200ml

When you spread out your water intake throughout the day, your body benefits from constantly having small amounts of moisture to absorb and rehydrate every part and organ, rather than having a sudden huge influx that just dilutes the minerals in your system which gets flushed out fast. Use a large bottle that is equal or close to the amount of water that is right for you, that way, you are easily able to ensure that you get the right amount of water you need through the day, every day.

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