What do nutrition and hydration really mean?
Nutrition focuses on how diseases, conditions and problems can be caused by dietary factors, such as food intolerances or allergies and poor diet. There is also an analysis around how these factors can be prevented or reduced with a healthy diet.
A nutrient is a component of food, such as protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin and water. Macronutrients are nutrients required in large quantities (like protein), whereas micronutrients are only needed in small quantities (examples would be iron or vitamin C).
The life-giving force of hydration
Life cannot exist without water; it can be a cure for many ailments such as headaches, fatigue, and joint pain, to name some key conditions. Water plays a vital role in almost every bodily function, from flushing out waste, to regulating body temperature and helping brain function.
Water makes up nearly 85% of your brain, about 80% of your blood and about 70% of your lean muscle. We can go for weeks without food, but only 3 days without water!
- Men have higher body content than women.
- Body water content declines with age to roughly 5% in the elderly.
- During a 3-hour flight, you can lose up to 1.5 litres of body water.
What are the signs of poor nutrition and hydration?
An unbalanced diet with poor nutrition can lead to an individual becoming malnourished. Some signs of malnutrition include a weakened immune system, unexplained fatigue, changes to skin,hair, nails and irritable bowels (bloating, persistent gas and constipation or diarrhoea).
We are constantly losing water throughout the day through urine, sweat and in our breath. To ensure the body is fully hydrated, we should drink plenty of water. Even an inadequate drop (as little as 2% in body water) can have major effects on not only our health, but also emotional and physical resilience.
Symptoms of dehydration are:
- Short-term memory
- Changes in mood
- Muscle cramping
- Dry skin
- Brittle hair
- Impaired immunity
- Poor oral health
Studies have found dehydrated participants struggled to do basic maths problems, suggesting it alters focus and impacts how people feel in daily situations and how they react in stressful environments.
Connections between gut health, nutrition and hydration
It is very easy to forget about our gut microbiome with everything going on. Eating healthily for your individual circumstances can positively impact your essential and friendly bacteria.
A diet high in sugar, processed foods and a lack of vegetables can limit the amount of healthy bacteria we need and can begin to support the prominence of unfriendly bacteria. An overgrowth in unwanted bacteria, other negative pathogens and yeast can result in symptoms such as bloating, nausea, extreme fatigue, brain fog, constipation and acid reflux.
Water is essential for digestion, nutrient absorption and chemical reactions. It is also one of the main components of saliva, required for breaking down solid food and keeping your mouth healthy. The carbohydrates and proteins that our bodies use as food are metabolised and transported by water in the bloodstream.
Detoxification is vital for removing unwanted substances from the body via sweat, urine and bowel movements; water helps remove toxins from the body. Your body needs to have enough water in your system to have healthy stools and avoid constipation. Kidneys are important for filtering out waste through urination. As a result, adequate water intake helps your kidneys work efficiently.
How to maintain good nutrition and hydration
Processed foods (sugar, refined carbs, industrial vegetable oils, packaged goods) do not provide evidential benefits for your body and mind. Put simply, processed foods do not have the nutrient density of real foods. These are designed to create a propensity to overeat by causing leptin resistance disrupting your brain’s ability to maintain appetite and weight control.
These foods are known to spike insulin levels resulting in insulin resistance and alter the gut microbiome while promoting whole body inflammation.
Expert advice is relatively clear and generally makes sense. Eat more greens; whether it’s spinach, kale, swiss chard, arugula, broccoli or bok choy. These vitamin and antioxidant dense foods will provide your body with the essential nutrients.
Consuming ‘good’ fats can help fight depression, improve your cognitive function, strengthen your bones and decrease your risk of disease. Good healthy fat sources include avocado, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, fish and nut butters.
It’s also a good idea to increase your fibre intake. Fibre is a macronutrient that does not provide energy, but is still important to have in your diet. Fibre is a crucial fuel for friendly gut bacteria as it feeds the maintenance and propensity of this bacteria.
Additionally, it helps to keep things moving along the digestive tract, ready to be eliminated as waste. Good sources of effective fibre include flax seed, beans, raspberries, almonds and kale.
Help with hydration
The general advice on hydration is to drink between 6-8 glasses of water a day. Caffeinated beverages may be a concern because caffeine acts as a diuretic and can cause increased urination.
Caffeine is found in coffee, teas, and many soft drinks. Try to drink caffeinated beverages in moderation and focus on consuming more water.
To ensure you get the right amount of water, check out these tips:
- Keep a bottle of water on your desk at work or at home.
- Eat foods that have higher water content like cucumber, watermelon, lettuce, celery, grapes, oranges, tomatoes.
- If drinking water becomes boring, try spa water, herbal and fruit teas.
- Either add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water or add slices of fruits or fronds of herbs to water. Leave in a jug or bottle overnight to allow the flavours to infuse into the water.
- Oranges, lemon slices, strawberry and basil or mint and cucumber make great, refreshing drinks.
- If cold drinks are not your thing, then add apple slices and a cinnamon stick in hot water, or even ginger and lemon!
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The Taymount Team
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