We all know that we need water to stay alive. Even my kids know this, they obsess about Bear Grylls their ultimate action hero and he is always on about different ways to get enough water in a survival situation. Top tips from my son (apparently via Bear) include squeezing water out of plant roots, cutting down trees so that water rises into the stump from the roots and even drinking your own wee!! Thanks Bear, my garden looks like a tip and I have to keep a close eye in case either of my two decide to give the wee drinking a try; although it is good to know that they have picked up some survival skills for emergencies. What we need to do to survive in the jungle is way different to what’s needed in the average UK town, city or village but Bear is right that the number one thing that we need for survival is water. So let’s take a look at the power of water at work.
Water is essential for all sorts of things that go on in our bodies including digesting food, removing waste products, building new tissue, avoiding overheating and sending electrical messages between cells that drive all our body functions like moving, seeing and thinking.
So water or fluids are really important in the workplace and yet in a recent survey the professional association for Dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the British Dietetic Association) found that 35% of people do not have access to water in an office working environment. Public Health England recommend that we drink 6-8 cups i.e. about 900-1600ml per day depending on our size, muscle mass and activity level. Given that many of us spend half our waking day or more at work it’s concerning that so many people don’t have access to water in the office. People also tell me that they have got used to consciously over-riding their thirst and over time this can lower the sensation of thirst. This can happen because people choose not to drink because they know they will be travelling or in meetings without easy access to toilets.
When we don’t drink enough and/or we lose water through sweat our bodies move water from inside the cells to correct the concentration outside the cells. Receptors in our brains detect this and tell us to seek out water, a hormone is also produced which makes the kidneys reduce the amount of water that we pass out with our urine. If we obey our thirst and drink water all of this gets reversed and things go back to normal but if we don’t we will start to notice that we are producing less urine and that it is dark in colour.
Studies have reported that people who do not drink enough suffer symptoms such as headaches, constipation and tiredness. Equally important is that research tells us that people often mistake thirst for hunger and reach for fatty/sugary snacks rather than a glass of water. If you feel hungry try drinking a glass of water and waiting about 20 minutes or so to see if you still feel hungry.
So when people tell me that they regularly experience any of the following; headaches, constipation, feeling tired all the time, difficulty concentrating or if they can’t stop snacking I always ask about their fluid intake and urine output. It’s often the simplest things that make a difference.
If you don’t have easy access to water at work then talk about this article with your line manager. You might find it useful to check out my article about how to generate fresh ideas for healthy eating at work to give you an approach to finding solutions.
Solutions don’t need to be expensive – someone could go and collect a jug of water from the nearest drinking water tap every hour or so and people could top up a glass or cup from there. Tea, coffee and diet drinks will also help keep you hydrated if you really do not like the taste of water. Take care with the Lattes and Cappuccinos though as these can be packed with calories. Beware too some flavoured waters as these can be very high in sugar, even those that are marketed as being healthy. You should keep your sugar intake below 6tsp/day and lots of foods and drinks have sugar hidden away inside so always check your labels.
If you think your team or organisation would benefit from some facilitated workplace wellness seminars and workshops then do take a look at the services page of the website here and send an enquiry.