How important is hydration?
Hydration is critical for many essential bodily processes including the circulation of blood around the body as well as brain function and kidney function. Long term dehydration can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections, chronic renal disease and kidney stones.
Symptoms of mild dehydration have likely affected us all at some time. They include headaches, lack of concentration, dizziness and tiredness.
It’s important we stay on top of our hydration and listen to our bodies. Once we become thirsty we are already dehydrated. We should ideally be drinking steadily throughout the day to prevent feelings of thirst. Guidance suggests that we should aim for 1.5-2 litres per day and all fluids (except alcohol) can be included such as water, tea, coffee and flavoured drinks. Drinks without added sugar are preferable for health.
Hydration is particularly important for both the young and the elderly.
School-aged children can tend to lose more fluid through high activity levels. Their schoolwork will be affected if they become dehydrated. It is important that free water is available to all children and that it is accessible throughout the day. This should be included as a requirement in the School Food Plan, which sets out standards for healthy menu planning for schools.
Later in life, hydration can be a particular issue, especially those in care homes. Older adults often experience a reduced appetite and associated desire for fluids. Additionally, those with mental and physical health conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease will be reliant on care home staff to recognise and respond to their hydration needs. It is important that fluids are encouraged in the older population as dehydration can more readily lead to a decline in kidney function or exacerbate confusion in those with dementia.
We can live for up to 2 months without food but only 3 days without water; this shows just how important staying hydrated is for our health. And, as we’ve covered, the young and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to poor hydration.
If you would like support for the nutrition and hydration needs of your pupils, diners or residents, why not take a look at our dietetics and foodservice consultancy support services?