How and why quenching your thirst is vital for healthy ageing.
When it comes to health and wellbeing, it can be easy to overlook the vital importance of water and hydration in maintaining a healthy mind, body and skin - especially as we age. Water makes up between 50% and 70% of our bodyweight. Quite simply, we need it for survival, and the body tightly regulates water balance to ensure that there is enough available in the body to perform numerous central functions. Every cell in the body needs water, and it is essential for good health. It is involved in a diverse array of processes. Water provides lubrication and cushioning for joints and is crucial to healthy brain function and good digestion. It helps to regulate body temperature (especially when it's hot) and helps to balance the pH throughout our body. Water provides the transport system needed to carry molecules like oxygen and nutrients to all of our tissues and cells and remove waste products for elimination. When we don't get enough water, we become dehydrated and our body doesn't function as well. This can occur for several reasons: eithe
r we don't take in enough water, or we lose too much, too quickly. When we are dehydrated, we may experience physical symptoms such as dry mouth, headaches, tiredness, constipation, dark-coloured urine, poor concentration and anxiety. We also see and feel dehydration very clearly in our skin. Water maintains the structure of the cells in our skin and the tissue around them, which is essential for optimal function. The dermis is made up of about 90% water, largely held in place by hyaluronic acid (each HLA molecule binds 1000 times its weight in water). Sufficient water helps to maintain plump, smooth, resilient and healthy skin.
When our skin becomes dehydrated, the cells and the tissue around them shrink. The delivery of nutrients and oxygen decreases, and the capacity to eliminate toxins is impaired. Elasticity decreases, causing wrinkles and sagging, skin looks dull and uneven, and we may see deeper, darker circles under our eyes. Dehydration in the skin can be exacerbated by exposure to UV, hard water and hot water (especially for prolonged periods), air conditioning and heating, and is more likely to happen as we age. It is important to note that dehydrated skin is different to dry skin. Dehydrated skin lacks water and can impact all skin types, whereas dry skin lacks oils or fats. Having dry skin can lead to dehydrated skin, as fats make up a large part of the stratum corneum, the skin barrier, which prevents water loss. Fats also form the membranes around all cells, which ensure that cells retain water. When these are lacking, as occurs in dry skin, water escapes from the skin more easily, leading to dehydration.
Beyond safeguarding skin health, to ensure that mind and body age as healthily as possible, maintaining hydration is extremely important. Unsurprisingly, the best way to keep yourself hydrated is to ensure that you are drinking enough water and fluids through the day. Recommendations on daily fluid intake vary but typically range from 1.6-2.6 litres for women and 2-3 litres for men, spread throughout the day. However, the amount you need is highly individual, altered by factors including weight, activity levels, where you live (temperature and humidity) and general he
alth or medical conditions. While most fluids drunk should be from water or herbal tea (without sugar!) not all of them need to be. About 20% of our daily intake comes from food, especially fruits and vegetables. Adding foods with a high water content into the diet, such as tomatoes, mushrooms and cucumbers (which are 96% water), can be a simple way to increase your water intake. In addition to keeping well hydrated and avoiding excess exposure to the things that dehydrate skin, we can provide additional support by supplying the nutrients skin needs to stay healthy and hydrated. Hyaluronic acid, ceremides, omega fatty acids are all nutrients which specifically support hydration. As with so many things when it comes to health, wellbeing and supporting healthy ageing, the key is to listen to your body.