Are You Drinking Enough Water? Simple Tips to Get Your Health on Track

Offered By Fit Habit GP | Dr Serena Rakha

Every building block that makes up our body relies on water (and the elements contained in water like sodium, chloride and magnesium) so we owe it to our body to replenish it with water.

So, I guess your first question may be why am I writing a whole article on water?

There are a variety of conditions I see as a GP which, though not solely related to a lack of water, can improve many symptoms and conditions.  I do ask my patients how much water they are drinking if I think it is relevant to their symptoms.

Close up shot of a woman drinking a glass of water

If you are experiencing fatigue, muscle aches, migraines, constipation or irritable bowel symptoms, a simple step is to look at your water intake. Water has many other functions: It maintains the “plumpness “of your skin from other dehydrating activities such as long sun exposure, caffeine intake, smoking and processed foods. It maintains the function of your kidneys (which filter toxins out of your blood stream) and is important in the digestion of food. Another neglected benefit of drinking water is for healthy teeth and gums.

Why is a GP Talking About Water? Is it Really Important?

If we think back to 30-40 years ago, we didn’t have as much variety in food and drink back then and our diet was much simpler and straight forward. I can imagine practicing as a GP was very different back then. Over my last 10 years as a GP, there has been an explosion of different diseases and this has correlated with much more variety in what we eat and drink and quite naturally, water becomes the boring option.

Whilst it is important to have variety in our diet, we need to add dashes of water throughout the day. What’s even better, is that our body doesn’t strictly need all of it to be plain water, you could mix it up with slices of fruit or sugar free squashes or cordials.

Three glasses of water with mixed raw fruit

How Much Water do I Need?

On average we need about 2L (or 8 glasses) of water each day unless you have a medical condition such as heart failure which sometimes needs fluid restriction. You may be drinking more or less depending on your activity levels.

I have done my own personal experiment (without realising it) recently.  I am great at drinking water in the week, I have a 1L flask which I take to work and will fill this up a couple of times.  I feel great, productive and much calmer (I reach for coffee less now because I drink more water).  However, on the weekends, I am terrible and certainly don’t consume as much water as I do in the week!  As a result, I’ve felt sluggish and fatigued, making me less productive when I make big promises to get those adulting jobs ticked off!

Start Small and Build Up When You are Ready

  1. Don’t be disappointed in yourself if you don’t meet your target of 8 glasses each day. We have to start small and repeatedly do the small steps.  So if you don’t drink any water, start with 1-2 glasses and build up.
  1. Notice how you start to feel after a few weeks, do you feel bit better and in what way? what happens to your body when you miss your water?
  1. Make water more interesting, add lemon or lime slices or sugar free squash. A flask in the freezer is perfect for those heat waves.
  1. Space your water through the day, alongside your other drinks

Group of friends clinking glasses of water together

Top Three Water Myths

It gives you clear skin – The skin is the largest organ of the body.  There are many skin layers of different thickness and it is a complex organ full of blood vessels, oil glands, hair follicles, immune cells and though water alone does not clear your skin, water is part of a healthy diet and to keep the skin healthy, just as it does other organs.  Dehydration is not the cause of most common skin conditions but water helps the appearance of skin and should be part of all round healthy lifestyle.

It causes you to lose weight – Water alone does not solely cause you to lose weight but we can mistake thirst for hunger – which can lead to over eating when we should be reaching for fluids instead.  Water helps digestion of foods and keeps us hydrated when we exercise, so water intake is an important step in weight loss; but does not cause it.  The added benefit of water is that it contains no calories so it can help with weight loss if this is your goal.  When losing weight, we are putting our bodies through testing times so we need to replenish with water and whole foods.

It’s good for detox – Our kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins; water ensures these organs are doing the best job they can.

Close up shot of iced water in a glass with a slice of lemon

Top Six Drinks to be Mindful of in Your Diet

  1. Caffeine – whilst it can be beneficial for some to have a small amount of caffeine in the diet, reaching for that 3rd cup of coffee dehydrates us. Like most drinks, alcohol and energy drinks included, it can give you that little ‘pick me up’; but then your energy levels dip and you are reaching for more coffee or snacks


  1. Alcohol – Alcohol dehydrates you. Whether you are the ‘special occasion’ drinker or a regular drinker; alcohol dehydrates the body which is why we often reach for the water (perhaps the only time we reach for water!) after a night out.  Drinking alcohol is the perfect example of what we feel like when we are dehydrated; we feel tired, we have a headache, everything is an effort, and in some cases we feel sick.  The UK recommendation for alcohol is 14 units for men and women. Check out how to keep on top of your units by clicking here.


  1. ‘Detox’ Teas or ‘Hormone Balancing’ Teas – This is my bug bear as a GP!  Your kidneys detox your body and your hormones are balanced naturally or by medication from your doctor (for example if you have an underactive thyroid). These branded teas just give you diarrhoea in exchange for your money!


  1. Energy Drinks – These contains lots of sugar and are not great for our teeth or our body. You can often feel quite jittery and on edge with these. Energy drinks can increase appetite, so we search for more foods with high sugar, salt, fat foods to get the same ‘sugar hit’. This can lead to weight gain.


  1. Protein Shakes – These are not necessarily a bad thing for most healthy people with no medical conditions as we can under consume protein in our diets. Proteins are large molecules which do not get filtered by our kidneys (our kidneys have these little ‘tea strainer’ type structures which only let a few things enter the urine). An over consumption of protein over time can damage these tea strainer structures so you start weeing out proteins which can lead to kidney diseases.


  1. Fruit Smoothies – These can be yummy but they should not to be over consumed. Popping your fruit in a food processor or blender breaks the fruit up, releasing lots of sugar. This is not great for weight loss (again, this seems to be trend on social media in the context of weight loss). What is great for weight loss is the same fruit eaten whole. Whilst smoothies are NOT recommended for those who are diabetic, high quantities of sugar are not great in non-diabetics either in the long run.

Want to keep learning? Find more articles from Dr Serena Rakha:

Gut Health & Nutrition

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