One essential aspect of purposeful living is balance. Fluid balance has a major effect on how our bodies function. Because we are designed for purpose and not just poise, it’s crucial that our bodies are in optimal health. Optimal fluid balance is essential for us to function as God’s vessels.
What is fluid balance?
In basic terms, fluid balance refers to the balance between the fluid which we take in to our bodies and the fluids we pass out. Adequate fluid balance ensures that the body stays hydrated; this is important for normal functioning of the body and optimal health.
Water – essential for life
When referring to fluid intake in this context, we generally refer to water. Water is fundamental for life. Although humans can survive for a number of weeks without food, they cannot normally go without fluids (water) for more than a few days (British Nutrition Foundation, 2014).
The average human adult body is comprised of about 65 percent water. Adult women on average have a lower percentage of body water than adult males; this is because women have less muscle mass and more fat mass than men. Babies’ bodies are about 75% water (National Hydration Council, 2016).
Water – daily requirements
There is a wealth of information in the public domain with various recommendations, which can be a little confusing. Generally, it’s good practice to aim for no less than 8 x 200ml glasses/cups of water daily. If you don’t like the taste of water alone, you can try adding a slice of lemon or lime, or a few fresh mint leaves.
Choosing food and drinks
Tea and coffee are not out of bounds as part of your daily fluid quota. Excess caffeine can be avoided by trying ‘caffeine-free’ beverages, such as herbal teas. Caffeine can be a bladder irritant, causing frequency of urination in many cases.
It is best to avoid very sugary drinks, as these can provide excess calories and often do not quench thirst. Alcohol is known to have a dehydrating effect, and also doesn’t count as part of your fluid quota. Most fruits contain a high percentage of water. Melons, oranges and grapefruit are about 80-90% water, and vegetables such as celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and lettuce also provide a nutrient-rich water source (NHS choices, 2015).
Thirst and dehydration
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in. This is a state of imbalance. Dehydration can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much of your body weight is lost through fluids.
Two early signs of dehydration are thirst and dark-coloured urine. This is the body’s way of trying to get us to increase water intake and decrease water loss.
Other symptoms may include:
- dizziness or light-headedness
- confusion or irritability
- dry mouth, lips and eyes
- passing small amounts of urine infrequently (less than three or four times a day)
Dehydration can also lead to a loss of strength and stamina. Long-term dehydration can affect kidney function, and cause muscle damage and constipation (NHS choices, 2015).
We may often misinterpret thirst for hunger, and this can be avoided by drinking water consistently throughout the day – basically not waiting to be thirsty. It’s important to note that the sensation of thirst is not always as sensitive in the elderly, therefore they should be closely monitored.
Checking your urine
A quick and easy guide to gauging how hydrated you are is to check your wee! If your urine is dark-coloured, it is likely you are not drinking enough. A yellowy, straw-coloured urine is often a good sign that you are drinking good amounts.
Paying attention to fluid balance can help us to live healthier, more fulfilled lives. Remember, your body is a gift, so keep it well hydrated – particularly during the hot weather. Don’t forget to seek advice from your healthcare professional if you are concerned about any aspect of your health.
British Nutrition Foundation (2014) https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/hydration/healthy-hydration-guide.html
NHS Choices website (2015) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Dehydration/Pages/Introduction.aspx
National Hydration Council (2016) http://www.naturalhydrationcouncil.org.uk/
Shola Oladipo loves living a full-time life. She is a registered Dietitian with 20 years of experience in several clinical areas working in the NHS and in the food industry. Shola runs ‘Food for Purpose’ – an exciting initiative aimed at empowering people to eat, live and serve purposefully.
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