Water: Are you getting enough?
The body can cope without food for many days. But after just two or three days without water, serious – and, in extreme circumstances, fatal – health problems can develop due to dehydration.
The human body is about two-thirds water. Water lubricates the joints and eyes, aids digestion, flushes out waste and toxins and keeps skin healthy.
Dehydration occurs when the normal water content of your body is reduced. This changes the essential balance of chemical substances in your body, especially sodium (salt) and potassium. In order to function properly, many of the body's cells depend on these substances being maintained at the correct levels.
The amount of water in the body only has to decrease by a few per cent for dehydration to occur. Babies, infants and older people are at particular risk from dehydration. If they have the symptoms of dehydration, it is vital that they are treated immediately.
If you consistently drink too little water, you can develop chronical dehydration, which is especially dangerous for your joints, making them more prone to arthritis later in life.
A good indicator of dehydration is how often you pass urine. If you urinate less than three or four times a day, and the quantity of urine is small, it may indicate that you are dehydrated. Also, if your urine is unusually dark in colour (see urine colour chart below), you are probably dehydrated.
If you experience ongoing dehydration, you should see your GP as soon as possible.
How Do We Lose Water? Water loss Water input
Urine 50% Drinks 47%
Skin (sweating) 34% Food 39%
Breathing 14% Metabolism 14%
Adapted from BUPA
Urine Colour Analysis How to check your urine for signs of dehydration
The urine colour chart is a simple way to check whether or
not you’re drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated. The test
is usually carried out first thing in the morning.
Discarding the first part of your urine stream, collect a
small sample of urine in a clear container. Hold the sample
in front of a white background, in good light, and compare
the colour to the chart (adjacent). The lower the number,
the better the result.
If your urine matches the colours 1, 2 or 3 you are
considered well-hydrated (Armstrong, 2000).
If your urine matches any of the colours 4 to 8 you are
dehydrated and need to drink more fluid.
Note: Certain medicines and vitamins can affect the colour
of urine, making it bright or discoloured. If any of these have
been taken, this test is unreliable. The colours in this chart
should only be used as a rough guide. If more accurate
comparison is required, please go to an original source.
Reference: Armstrong, L.E. (2000). Performing in Extreme
Environments, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.
You can avoid becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of
water – around eight glasses every day. Increase your fluid
intake if you are active, if the weather is particularly hot, or
if you are ill with sickness and/or diarrhoea.