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hydrating for health
writer Insiya Rasiwala-Finn additional reporting Karen Fong
Woman drinking Water ©


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ater is essential to life. Known by environmentalists as the ‘lungs of the earth’, it swathes two-thirds of the world’s surface, actively purifying and cooling the planet. Similarly, 70 percent of the human body is comprised of water. From regulating our body temperature and blood pressure, providing the means for nutrients to travel to our organs; hydrating the delicate cells in our skin, transporting oxygen to our cells, ridding our bodies of waste products, and protecting our joints and organs. Your body needs water to regulate your body temperature, cushion your joints, keep your skin moist, transport oxygen and other essential nutrients to your cells, and build muscle and other tissues.


How do you know if you’re drinking enougH water? Our health is directly related to our level of hydration. In fact, even a one percent loss of hydration can result in a 10 percent loss of mental acuity, as well as physical wellbeing and strength. “A whole array of disorders and discomforts can be eliminated or reduced by drinking water,” notes wellness coach and founding director of i-Detox (, Anita Cheung. She lists headaches, heartburn, fatigue, muscle pains, anxiety attacks, stomach aches and food intolerances as some of the many ailments that water can assuage. Water is also a natural appetite suppressor, and helps the body metabolise fat. When we don’t drink enough water, our kidneys cannot function normally, calling on our liver for support. This puts the liver’s main job, which is metabolising stored fat, on hold. Over time if we drink less water than what our body optimally needs, we will store more fat, slowing down our metabolism and halting any efforts at weight loss. “We can survive without food for weeks, but we cannot survive if we don’t replenish water in the body for a few days,” explains Cheung, citing the importance of water for our overall health. “All metabolic functions including muscle building, fat burning, circulation and cellular energy release require water. It dilutes toxicity through the kidneys; without water we would poison ourselves with our own metabolic wastes.”

How mucH water sHould you drink in a day? The amount of water required by the body varies markedly, depending on dietary factors, physical activity level, environmental conditions (such as climate), diet, metabolism and quality of health. The World Health Organisation states that “the ‘absolute minimum’ quantity of water to sustain hydration remains elusive”; consequently the old standard of eight to 10 glasses a day is now widely debated by nutritionists. Despite this ambiguity, the general consensus is that the kidneys require a minimum of one litre a day to excrete waste products. On average, adult women require around 2.7 litres of fluid per-day, while men need 3.7 litres. For more active adults, particularly those living in a warm environment, daily water intake can increase to about six litres. While it is a good idea to consider food with a high liquid content (juicy fruits and vegetables) as sources of water, we must also look at the reality of the modern diet – one where many of us consume an excess of salt, processed foods as well as caffeinated beverages such as tea or coffee and sugary sodas, which act as diuretics and deplete us of water. Pollution and other environmental toxins add to the body’s filtering burden, yet water is one important means of constantly (and naturally) detoxifying our bodies.

water and exercise Both traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine are based on maintaining flow in the body, and avoiding stagnation. The benefits of exercise combined with adequate nutrition and hydration is one of the simplest, cost friendly and effective ways to enhance and maintain high levels of health. Personal Trainer, Andrew Cox of Innate Fitness ( explains, “Muscles contain a large amount of water which is required for proper functioning and the removal of waste products. Exercise greatly enhances circulation by shunting fluid around the body which can increase metabolism, improve lymphatic flow, nutrient and oxygen delivery and remove toxins and waste products. But it also means it is important to increase our intake of water and electrolytes during exercise.” While hydration is a must, more important is the need to hydrate intelligently and avoid “water intoxication”, known as hyponatremia, which can happen when endurance athletes drink too much water. As Cox explains “When there’s too much water and not enough electrolytes, water keeps coming in and causes blood sodium levels to become dangerously low, which throws off your heartbeat and other bodily response systems.” The solution is to balance water and electrolytes, and a good sports drink can

2010 AsiaSpa


optimal sources of hydration in your diet:

Even a one percent loss of hydration can result in a 10 percent loss of mental acuity, as well as physical wellbeing and strength
every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise. Drink enough to minimise the body weight you typically lose during a similar type of training session or competition, but do not drink so much that you gain weight. After your workout, check your rehydration needs by weighing yourself. For every half kilo lost, you need to drink half a litre of additional fluid. To periodically check how you’re doing, look at your urine. It should be clear or a very faint yellow.” water and anti-ageing As you age, so do your kidneys. These bean shaped organs are one of the body’s most sophisticated filters, helping remove waste products (excreted through urine), and maintain healthy body fluid levels (so that our tissues receive enough water to function properly). In other words, it pays to look after them. It’s quite simple really. Our kidneys are like a washing machine that needs water to work. If there’s no fluid coming in, they can’t do their job properly. The older we get, the less responsive our kidneys become, which in turn hampers the body’s ability to regulate its own hydration levels and increases the chance of kidney stones and high blood pressure. The best way to increase their efficiency and decrease disease? You guessed it – drink more water! “As we age, our kidney’s ability to filter waste decreases. The tissues harden making it harder for them to function,” explains Dr. Kenneth Chu, Naturopath at Redwood Natural Health Centre (www.redwoodhealth. “The best thing you can do is keep them healthy by drinking water, and avoid distilled water which has no nutrients.” He goes on to discuss natural remedies to pro-

Water: The essential elixir is ideally the optimal beverage to hydrate your body. Herbal Teas (Infusions): The leaves from plants such as mint, verbena, linden, lemon balm, etc add a pleasant aroma and flavour to the water in which they are steeped, which makes infusions a satisfying alternative to people who don’t enjoy drinking plain water. Note: Avoid adding sweetener and stay away from diuretic herbs such as fennel if you are looking for hydration. Fruit and Vegetable Juices: The water in fruits and vegetables – i.e their juice – is a natural thirst quencher. Because juice can be high in sugar, albeit natural sugar, we should consider juice a secondary resource to be used in moderation. When you do, be sure to drink fresh 100 percent juice without added sugar. In fact, try making fresh juices at home.

drinks to avoid:

Woman With glass of Water © and (opposite page) bottled Water

do the trick. “Sports drinks that contain potassium, sodium, chloride and even magnesium are recommended during vigorous activity, especially if you’re going for over an hour,” Cox explains, suggesting Nuun or Hammer as good choices. “It’s also important to watch out for commercial sports drinks with high levels of sugar, which can be counter-effective and encourage weight gain.” Cox’s advice when exercising is to have a hydration strategy. “Know that you will need approximately 750ml of a carbohydrate electrolyte beverage an hour to keep you going and maintain adequate hydration. Drink 240 to 500 millilitres (depending on the intensity of workout) of water or electrolytes about 10 to 15 minutes before exercising to stimulate fluid delivery from the stomach, and then drink small amounts

Coffee, Tea and Soda: Nutritionists today continue to debate the dehydrating effects of caffeinated beverages – caffeine does have a mild diuretic effect – but it may not be as significant as once thought. The advice: Drink coffee or tea in moderation. As for drinking caffeinated beverages before a workout: this is fine as long as you do not have a reaction to caffeine, such as stomach sensitivity. We now know that most sodas have a high sugar content. This is the problem, as our bodies have a hard time metabolising refined sugar. To correct the reaction to this, your body has to surrender water from blood and other bodily fluids. This in turn makes you thirsty, creating a vicious circle as your thirst is not only maintained, but also encouraged by the very beverage that you are drinking with the intention of quenching it. Milk: In most traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda, milk is considered to be a whole food, not a liquid and is not recommended simply to quench thirst. Alcohol: Alcohol dehydrates. It removes water from the tissues it contacts and dries them out, increasing our need for water. While everything in moderation is fine, a rule to remember when drinking alcohol is to constantly replenish your body with water at the same time and the morning after will be much more pleasant.


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Confused about the different kinds of water – their properties and benefits? Here’s a handy primer on water in its many avatars.
mote kidney health. “Foods like parsley and celery are great for the kidneys, as are herbs such as dandelion root, buchu and maize. Drinking cranberry juice is also very good for the system.” He also suggests avoiding anti-inflammatory drugs and salt. The ancient Indian science of Ayurveda says that the older we get, the more we ‘dry out’. Nowhere is the effect of water loss as noticeable, as our skin. Rather like a grape that shrivels into a sultana, skin wrinkles when dehydrated due to a build up of toxins. Managing Director of Hong Kong spa group Sense of Touch ( hk), Anna Trier notes, “A lack of moisture is always evident in fine lines. If you are not a big water drinker, you need to hydrate through the skin. Moisturisers, serums and oils play a big part in this.” Trier cites products featuring hyaluronic acid as the best hydrators. This powerful antioxidant holds 1,000 times its weight in water, which in turn increases skin volume and density, helping it keep its shape. “Hyaluronic acid is a lubricant for collagen and aids cell turnover,” she says. “Regular hydrating facials rich in hyaluronic acid help maintain skin elasticity which prolongs a youthful appearance.” Using a hydrating mist, especially one with botanical extracts is another good way to mitigate the effects of dehydration in ageing skin. water: tHe elixir of life The health food industry constantly promises us “miracle alternatives” to cure all our ills. Ironically, we often overlook one of nature’s most powerful secrets to healthy living – the humble glass of zero calorie water. So get back to the basics and remember, if there is one thing you can do for your health and wellbeing today, toast to it, with a glass of pure water. Your body and mind will thank you.

Artesian: Artesian water emerges from a well that taps a confined aquifer; a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand, in which the water level is above the top of the aquifer. Artesian water contains a percentage of minerals and has a unique, natural taste. De-ionised: Also known as de-mineralised water, De-ionised water is purified by having its mineral ions removed via special ion exchange resins that bind to and filter out the mineral salts from water. Since most water impurities are dissolved salts, deionisation produces high-purity water that is generally similar to distilled water. However, be aware that deionisation does not significantly remove uncharged organic molecules, viruses or bacteria, except by incidental trapping in the resin. Distilled: This is water that has first been turned into steam so that all of its impurities are left behind. Then through condensation, it liquefies back into pure water. Distilled water is considered to be the only water free from all contamination and may well be the only pure water on earth. Mineral: Considered by many to be very health-giving, mineral water is basically water that contains not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids. The minerals should also be present at the water’s source, no minerals can be added to it after. Purified: This is any drinking water that has been treated with purification processes such as distillation, deionisation or reverse osmosis, to remove bacteria and other contaminants from the water. On bottled water, look for the label “purified drinking water.” Many bottled water brands are actually purified drinking water. Filtered: Where tap water is clean and drinkable, using a filter such as Brita is a great option as it will remove excess metal extracts from tap water as well as chlorine. Using a filter is also both a more environmentally friendly as well as cost effective alternative to bottled mineral or spring waters. Reverse osmosis: Also considered to be purified water, in the reverse osmosis process, water is forced through a semi-permeable membrane to separate impurities from the resulting pure water. Best known for its use in desalination, i.e. removing the salt from seawater to get fresh water; since the early 1970s reverse osmosis has also been used to purify fresh water for medical, industrial, and domestic applications. Sparkling: Often called sparkling, bubbly or fizzy water, this type of water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at its source. Sparkling waters may be labeled as sparkling drinking water, sparkling mineral water, sparkling spring water, etc. Spring Water: Spring water is always harvested from a natural spring, emerging from an underground source. Unlike many forms of bottled water that are filtered and treated to remove impurities, natural spring water contains a beneficial level of minerals and is normally bottled directly at the source. Advocates of spring water consider it to be free of contaminants as well as unspoiled by the use of modern filtration techniques. Most also like its refreshing taste. Mineral water has a higher concentration of minerals and salts than spring water does.

2010 AsiaSpa