After years of suffering headaches and poor digestion Sarah Smith spoke to a neurologist about regular headaches as well as a nutritionist about poor digestion. Both told her she should be drinking up to three liters of liquid a day for my body to function at its best. This is what happened after 4 weeks of drinking 3 liters of water daily.
Sarah asked herself what would happen if she drank the recommended amount of water every day for a month? The photograph above was taken the first day she started her trial and demonstrates perfectly – and rather frighteningly – what a lack of hydration does to a face. After just four weeks the results are dramatic.
On the left, Sarah’s lips appear shriveled and blotches around the eyes are all classic evidence of poor hydration. Every system and function in our body depends on water. It flushes toxins from the vital organs, carries nutrients to cells, provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues, and eliminates waste. Not drinking enough means all these functions become impaired. Failing to drink enough water can even make your grey matter shrink, making it harder to think, experts have warned.
Sarah 3 liters of water every day for 28 days. The results were astonishing…
Three liters of water is just over five pints, which sounds like an awful lot. Sarah’s doctor was very encouraging…’I suggest you have a big jug of water in the morning, then another in the afternoon and another in the evening,’ he says. ‘Your kidneys, which filter waste products from the blood before turning it to urine, will quickly feel the benefit, as they will be getting a good flush through.
A few days into the experiment she was urinating five or six times a day but it was clear, rather than dark yellow. She met friends for a drink occasionally, remembering that alcohol is a diuretic (a substance which promotes the production of urine), acting on the kidneys. For every one alcoholic drink, your body can eliminate up to four times as much liquid. Hangover headaches result from dehydration: the body’s organs try to make up for a lack of water by stealing it from the brain, as a result of which it actually shrinks.
Headaches result from the pulling on the membranes that connect your brain to your skull. Since starting the program her flexibility improved. Gemma Critchley, from the British Dietetic Association, confirms that water helps lubricate the joints.
Week Two: The blotches on my face are diminishing and the shadows around my eyes less pronounced
Week Two: The blotches on her face are diminishing and the shadows around the eyes less pronounced
Weight: 120lb (lost a pound)
The complexion is improving and skin tone is more even. She still had wrinkles under her eyes, but they look less shadowy than before. The blotches on her face are diminishing, and the shadows around her eyes are less pronounced. She noticed her breath smelled less ‘breathy’, maybe because she ditched tea and decided water was better for her. Gemma Critchley says: ‘Water is obviously the best choice since it has no calories and will hydrate you efficiently. If you drink a large glass of juice, you could be consuming more energy than you need,’ she says, which would mean weight gain.
She didn’t have a headache for over a week at this point, which was unusual for her, and her bowels were working so much better. Result! She expected her stomach to feel bloated with all the extra water but it was actually flatter than usual. Her cellulite on her bottom and thighs also decreased.
Surely this is too good to be true?
Week Three: My skin looks plumper and more nourished
Week Three: Her skin looks plumper and more nourished
Waist: 27.5in (lost half an inch)
The dark rings and wrinkles under her eyes have virtually disappeared, and her skin looked plumper and more nourished. The water helped her skin cells regenerate more efficiently. She stopped rubbing her eyes in the morning. They used to be dry and full of sleep, but not now. All this extra water must be keeping them moist.
Dr Emma Derbyshire, senior lecturer in nutritional physiology at Manchester Metropolitan University and adviser to the Natural Hydration Council, says: ‘Our brain is 73 percent water, so poor hydration can affect how it functions. Dehydration can reduce our ability to concentrate as well as our cognitive performance.
She was eating less because drinking water with meals made her feel fuller quicker. She used to snack, but she was reaching for food when she was actually thirsty. Studies show 37 percent of people mistake thirst for hunger. When she puts on eye make-up, her eyes seem less wrinkled and her skin seems to have more elasticity.
Week Four: I am going to keep on drinking three liters of water every day
Week Four: Superb complexion
Weight: 119lb (lost another 1 lb)
Waist: 27in (another half an inch)
I genuinely can’t believe the difference in my face. I look like a different woman. The dark shadows around my eyes have all but disappeared and the blotches have gone. My skin is almost as dewy as it was when I was a child. The transformation is nothing short of remarkable.
I’m feeling leaner and fitter, too, which is amazing, since the only thing I’ve changed is the amount of water I drink. My best friend says she’s worried about how much water I’m consuming – she’s heard rumors about Nigella Lawson being an ‘aquaholic’ who drinks three liters before bed.
But I am following safe guidelines under the supervision of my GP, so I am able to reassure her. I even enjoy another boozy night out but drink lots of water along the way and wake up feeling fresh as a daisy. Whatever happens, I am going to keep on drinking three liters of water a day – and would advise every woman to do the same (after checking with her doctor, of course). I feel fitter, leaner and healthier, and my husband and friends tell me I look ten years younger. Who in their right mind would not want to try something which gets such incredible results?
How do you know you are dehydrated?
People generally refer to dehydration as a reduction in body water below normal levels. The first thing you’ll probably experience is thirst. There is not a real precise relationship to how thirsty you feel and how dehydrated you are. Usually when you get the sensation of thirst, you’re already somewhat dehydrated. You may get a headache. You may feel dryness of the mouth. If you are exercising or changing posture, you could feel dizzy. If you are in hot weather or exercising in the heat, you may feel hotter. Your skin may feel warmer. You would be urinating less frequently and smaller volumes, so your urine would be dark in color because it would be more concentrated.
There is also some evidence that both your physical and mental performance capabilities decrease as a result of dehydration. You may not be as sharp in terms of some of the types of complex cognitive functions that you have to do. So there are a variety of symptoms.
How can dehydration affect one’s health?
Acute dehydration will increase your risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. [Heat exhaustion causes heavy sweating, fainting and vomiting, and heat stroke occurs when the body temperature rises to 106F or above.] Although it is not as well studied, there is evidence that shows that chronic dehydration can have a variety of different affects on chronic diseases, including urinary tract infections, and kidney stones and gallstones. Some evidence indicates that dehydration may be related to susceptibility to bladder and colon cancer. But that evidence is not real strong.
What are common causes of dehydration?
Many types of stress will cause under-drinking and lead to dehydration. Heat exposure and exercise are common causes. When you exercise, a normal response is to sweat to regulate your body temperature. You lose body water because you sweat more. And if you’re exercising in hot weather, you have a greater requirement for sweating because you depend more on evaporation of sweat for body cooling. As a result, people can become dehydrated from physical exercise, particularly physical exercise in the heat.
People can become dehydrated in other ways as well. One other way is through medications. For example, blood pressure drugs such as diuretics are dehydrating because they work by decreasing your total body water. It’s also common to see dehydration as a result of diarrhea and vomiting.
How much water does one need in a day?
How much water you need in a day varies. It depends on a lot of factors: age, activity level, the environment you’re exposed to. For a normal healthy person, generally within reason, short-term under-consumption is not too much of a problem, unless you’re physically active, because your kidneys will act to reduce your urine output to conserve water. Likewise, you don’t have to worry about taking in too much fluid because your kidneys will remove what you don’t need. Over-consumption can become a problem, however, during prolonged exercise (several hours) because urine output is reduced.
For healthy adults, if you’re expending about 3,000 calories a day, the minimal amount you should take in would be about three quarts of water a day, roughly three liters. It doesn’t matter if the water is contained in food or beverages. For a very active person in very hot weather, such as an agricultural worker or maybe a soldier out in the field in hot weather, the requirements could be substantially higher. The government is going to be putting out some guidelines about this later in the year.
Who is particularly at risk for dehydration?
There is some evidence that children may be more susceptible to dehydration and that the adverse consequences may be more marked. The elderly and people who are sick are at risk because of their health. The elderly tend to under-drink anyway. The physically active populations are also at risk. When you dehydrate, the thermal and cardiovascular benefits you get from adjusting to a high temperature, and high physical fitness, are greatly compromised. So these very fit people who go out and run hard, but decide they’re not going to drink for whatever reason, lose these advantages during exercise.
At what point do electrolytes need to be replaced?
It depends. If you have diarrhea or vomiting, you can lose an awful lot of mineral electrolytes, so you should replace them right away. If you’re performing exercise in temperate conditions for less than two hours, it may not matter. But if you’re exercising in the heat, you probably want to start replacing electrolytes relatively soon.
The general rule of thumb is if you’re exercising and having high sweat rates for any prolonged period — let’s say over an hour — you probably then want to replace the electrolytes at a rate proportionate to what you’re losing. Sports drinks contain electrolytes in concentrations proportionate to what is lost in sweat by a moderately trained athlete.
Should people replace electrolytes with a sports drink?
The National Academy of Sciences has looked at sports drinks, and they have their place. I think that it’s fair to say that sometimes they’re better than water and sometimes they’re not. When you are doing high intensity exercise of a prolonged nature, the carbohydrates and the electrolytes sports drinks have can provide advantages. Because they contain sodium, they stimulate thirst and make it easier to hold the water that you ingest, and they provide the energy that’s needed to sustain physical exercise. Athletes participating in hot weather training should consider their use. But for the average person maybe just going out and playing a game of tennis or something like that, replacing carbohydrates and electrolytes is probably not a concern.
How can you monitor your hydration status?
One ways to check hydration is by monitoring your body weight. Generally, if you take your body weight every morning, it is relatively constant. If you take your body weight and it’s down all of a sudden a lot one morning, you’re probably dehydrated.
Another thing that you can do is monitor your urinary habits. If you’re urinating more frequently than usual, and if it’s relatively clear, you’re probably very well hydrated. If you’re urinating infrequently and it’s dark, you’re probably dehydrated. But there is no precise relationship between urine color and dehydration.
How can people who exercise avoid dehydration?
First of all, you should drink a nice tall glass of fluid maybe an hour before you exercise. If you’re still thirsty have another one so that you have some idea that you’re starting out hydrated. You want to stay away from carbonated beverages and those with high fructose because they can give people GI problems.
But overall, once you’re post-exercise, drink whatever you want. If it’s liquid, it’s probably pretty good. An important point is that most people fully rehydrate their bodies at mealtime. So if you’re concerned about hydration, one of the worst things you can do is skip meals. It’s important that you have standardized meals in a comfortable environment with plenty of fluids available.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.
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