The Most Fundamental Nutrient


Ever notice how lifeless a plant looks when you forget to water it? Add just a little water and it perks back up. Water is just as essential for our bodies because it is in every cell, tissue and organ.

Water is the essential nutrient as life cannot exist without this substance – human beings can survive only a few days without water, whilst they can survive much longer without food. We need water to maintain body temperature and blood pressure, to lubricate and cushion our joints, protect our organs, excrete waste and transport nutrients around the body.

Dehydration can occur due to inadequate water intake or from excessive water loss. Symptoms may include weakness, fatigue, dry mouth, reduced urine production, dark, concentrated urine, constipation, exhaustion, headaches, poor concentration, joint problems and muscle cramps.

Dehydration can also have a dramatic impact on our mental health – it has been shown to contribute to anxiety, depression and irritability and, if not corrected, delirium. Dehydration of as little as 2% can result in poor physical and mental performance. Tea and coffee are diuretics, which means they increase urine secretion, therefore contributing to dehydration – for every cup of tea or coffee drunk, drink an extra glass of water to compensate.

Hydration is also linked with weight loss. Interestingly, what you may consider to be a sense of hunger may actually be thirst. Our brains tend to confuse the signals quite easily, so before you grab a snack, have a glass or two of clean, pure water and then reassess your sense of hunger.

The average person will lose between two and three litres of water a day through breathing, perspiration and urine and if you are very physically active or in a hot climate, this amount increases. Generally, we need to drink around two to three litres of water to stay hydrated. It is important to drink before you even feel thirsty – thirst is too late, it is a signal your body is already on its way to dehydration.

Find a way to get your water intake to where it should be. Leave a large bottle of water on your desk, beside your bed, in your car, refrigerate it, add some fresh lemon, mint or cucumber – whatever you need to do. We are lucky to live in a country where clean, fresh water is easily accessible – let’s take advantage of it!

Nicky is a Naturopathic Nutritionist practising in Dublin. She writes, speaks and advises nationwide on all aspects of health, nutrition and wellbeing. Check for further info, upcoming courses and workshops.

By Nicky Flood