Water, the elixir of life
Drinking lots of water is supposed to be good for you, but what happens to the body if it doesn’t get enough? Is it possible to drink too much water? And what role does water play in the body?
“Have you had enough to drink?” You’ve almost certainly heard this question in connection with heat, sport or headaches. However, some people find it difficult to drink the recommended daily amount, which varies between one and two litres depending on your height and weight. Since we also get some liquid from the food we eat, it’s important not to confuse the recommended daily amount of liquid that you should drink with the total fluid intake. The Swiss Nutrition Association (document in German) recommends a total fluid intake (from drinks and food) of two to two-and-a-half litres per day.
Why does the body need water?The human body is about 60% water. In fact, the figure for new-born babies is about 70%. The fluids in the body perform a number of functions, acting as an important solvent and medium for transporting nutrients, enzymes and hormones. Water ensures that we are able to excrete waste products, controls body temperature, and keeps the body's tissues and skin supplied with moisture. It is also essential for many biochemical reactions and regulates the metabolism of cells. Last but not least, water plays a key role in the intestine, facilitating digestion by making the stool softer.
Sparkling water, still water and tea are the best thirst-quenching drinks. Ellen Weber, nutritionist with santé24
What happens in the body if we don’t drink enough water?“Headaches are probably the best-known symptom of dehydration”, explains Ellen Weber, a nutritionist with santé24. Dehydration initially makes itself felt in the form of thirst, discomfort, loss of appetite, nausea, restlessness or increased heart rate. Other symptoms include reduced mental capability (i.e. a lack of concentration and slower reactions) and a fall-off in physical performance. Long-term persistent underhydration can also lead to an increased risk of constipation, while severe prolonged underhydration can have very serious consequences and will ultimately result in death.
Is it possible to drink too much water?“You can never drink too much!” Maybe you’ve also heard this at some time or other? As a matter of fact, it’s incorrect. Studies have shown that the brain will try to prevent us swallowing if we intend to have a drink when we are not thirsty. When we drink too much, salt levels in the body fall and there is a risk of kidney failure. Overhydration can lead to headaches, cramps, dizziness, vomiting or even cerebral oedema (excess water in the brain). The Swiss Nutrition Association recommends that you should only drink when you feel thirsty. The exceptions here are people who have poor awareness of their thirst or who cannot interpret it properly. These groups should plan to drink at regular intervals.
Thirst quenchers and sports drinks"Sparkling water, still water and tea are the best thirst-quenching drinks", says Ellen Weber. "Milk, juice and soft drinks are not intended to quench thirst, as they provide energy."
If you take a lot of exercise, you can of course have sports drinks from time to time because they restore salt levels. However, conventional sports drinks should be consumed with caution because they are very acidic and can damage the teeth. You can always make your own sports drink:
- Two parts water (e.g. one litre).
- One part juice (orange or apple) or tea (e.g. half a litre).
- About half a teaspoon to a whole teaspoon of salt per litre of liquid.
SWICA supports healthy nutritionA balanced diet strengthens wellbeing and health over the long term. As a holistic healthcare organisation, SWICA focuses on the health of its customers and not on their illnesses. That's why SWICA customers enjoy prevention contributions of up to CHF 600* per year plus a wide range of health offers relating to nutrition.
*Click here for details of the contribution.
In the event of further health-related questions, SWICA customers can contact the santé24 telemedicine service free of charge on +41 44 404 86 86. A telemedicine practice licence allows santé24 physicians to provide additional medical services in cases that are suited to a telemedicine approach. SWICA customers can also use the BENECURA medical app to carry out a digital SymptomCheck and receive recommendations about what to do next. During a subsequent phone call with santé24, customers can decide for themselves whether to release their information from SymptomCheck to santé24.