Many years of my practice have been spent talking about the importance of drinking enough water. Coaxing children to replace the sweetened beverages with water is another aspect of the problem that I deal with regularly. Adults commonly ask me if tea and coffee can be counted as one’s daily fluid intake. The answer to that is yes, as long as you aren’t drinking more than 2-3 cups of these beverages per day. But if your tea/coffee consumption is more than that, it is wise to compensate such excesses with an additional glass of water. Tea and coffee exert a diuretic effect (increase in urinary excretion) on the body, but this effect is rather mild when consumed in moderation.
Speaking of recommended daily water intake, the eight-glasses-a-day dictum is somewhat outdated. Water requirements vary from person to person and depend on other factors that include the kind of food one eats, physical activity levels, and weather conditions such as heat or humidity.
A good way to check if you’re drinking enough water is to make sure the colour of your urine is no darker than the pale straw colour. A dark yellow indicates you need to increase your fluid intake. When venturing out in the sun for long periods, which could lead to profuse sweating, it is important to increase one’s water intake.
I commonly come across health-conscious folks who drink up several litres of water in a short span of time. The notorious Whatsapp messages doing the rounds further convince people that drinking a lot of water boosts digestive health and lends a glow to the skin. I’d like to put in a word of caution here. Such a practice is not healthy, particularly for those on medications for the heart and blood pressure.
Drinking more water than you need could even be harmful. Although rare, excessive water consumption could lead to a condition called water intoxication – consumption of large amounts of water in a very short period of time, which dilutes the blood. Those on blood pressure medication should be especially cautious. Several BP medications contain diuretics, which flush out the sodium along with the water from the body to bring down the blood pressure.
Excessive water intake in BP patients can lead to a serious condition called hyponatremia, where the sodium levels of the body fall below the normal range. The best way, sip water through the day and do not gulp down large volumes at a time. The colour of your urine will tell you if you are hydrated enough. Adequate water, undoubtedly, is crucial for our wellbeing, but drinking too much water is not better!