Why’s Nutrition and Hydration Important?
Good nutrition is vital for the health and wellbeing of everyone. It’s particularly important for someone who is recovering from an illness. Eating only a limited diet or not getting enough food can lead to malnutrition.
It’s recommended that adults drink the equivalent of six to eight glasses of fluid every day.
It’s important to have access to water and other drinks throughout the day. But if your appetite is poor, avoid too many drinks just before meals.
You should aim to drink at least 1.6 – 2 litres (2.8 – 3.5 pints), around 8 glasses, of fluid per day to stay hydrated. Drinking sufficient amounts can contribute towards staying fit and healthy. Signs of dehydration can include: a dry mouth or lips, thirst, tiredness, headache, dry and loose skin, and dark coloured or strong smelling urine.
Good levels of hydration in older people can help prevent or aid the treatment of:
Low blood pressure
Do you feel thirsty? You may be already suffering from mild-moderate dehydration; thirst is often a late response to dehydration
Checking the colour of your urine is an easy way to assess your own hydration status: use the pee chart to score your urine 1-8 to see if you need to drink more.
Aging and illness can alter thirst response: as you get older, you may not feel thirsty when you become dehydrated. This is also common in people who have had a stroke or suffer from dementia.
Keep a close eye on your hydration status, especially in warmer conditions: during summer months when the weather is hot, or inside the home when central heating is on, the fluid you lose through sweating will be much higher.
You will sweat more if you are active: try drinking at 10-15 minute intervals during exercise to prevent dehydration.
If suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea, you need to replace the fluid lost to prevent dehydration. Oral re-hydration salts are available at your chemist.
If suffering from constipation, drinking more fluid will help soften stools and make them easier to pass. Don’t worry about urinating during the night: try increasing your fluid intake earlier in the day. Aim to have a minimum of 600ml (1.1 pints) of fluid before lunchtime.
Top tips for Healthy Hydration
Try drinking fresh cool water: fruit juice, milk, tea and coffee can also be taken. Opt for water, drinks that are sugar-free orskimmed milk if you have diabetes or you are trying to lose weight.
Around 20% of our daily intake of fluid is contained within our food: if you find it difficult to increase the amount you drink,try opting for foods high in moisture such as fruits and vegetables as these are up to 90% water.
Semi-liquid foods count towards total fluid intake: try soups, sauces, jellies, ice lollies and ice cream to increase fluid intake further. Chose sugar-free alternatives if you are diabetic or trying to lose weight.
Nourishing drinks can also help increase calorie intake: try making milkshakes, smoothies or hot chocolate made with full cream or fortified milk, especially if you are not eating well and need to maintain your weight.
Avoid large amounts of caffeine and alcohol: these can make you pass more urine and increase your risk of dehydration. Consume no more than 4 caffeine containing drinks per day. If you chose to drink alcohol, do so within line of current government guidance.
Try drinking in between meals or after eating: avoid filling up on fluids before eating. Try to fit your fluid intake around your daily routine: for example try having a full glass of water with medication(s), a glass of fruit juice after breakfast, a cup of tea mid-morning, squash after lunch, a smoothie or milkshake mid-afternoon, a cup of coffee after your evening meal, a glass of milk after supper, and a hot chocolate drink before bedtime.
Tap water is safe to drink: filtering water will freshen the taste slightly however leaving water to stand can have the same affect. Adding some ice or chilling water will help to remove any chlorine taste.
Information taken from:
What is dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in.When the normal water content of your body is reduced, it upsets the balance of minerals (salts and sugar) in your body, which affects the way it functions.
Water makes up over two-thirds of the healthy human body. It lubricates the joints and eyes, aids digestion, flushes out waste and toxins, and keeps the skin healthy.
Some of the early warning signs of dehydration include:
feeling thirsty and lightheaded
a dry mouth
having dark coloured, strong-smelling urine
passing urine less often than usual
A baby may be dehydrated if they:
have a sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on their head
have few or no tears when they cry
have fewer wet nappies
The body is affected even when you lose a small amount of fluid.
What causes dehydration?
Dehydration is usually caused by not drinking enough fluid to replace what we lose. The climate, the amount of physical exercise you are doing (particularly in hot weather) and your diet can contribute to dehydration. You can also become dehydrated as a result of an illness, such as persistent vomiting and diarrhoea, or sweating from a fever. .
Who is at risk from dehydration?
Anyone can become dehydrated, but certain groups are particularly at risk. These include:
babies and infants – they have a low body weight and are sensitive to even small amounts of fluid loss
older people – they may be less aware that they are becoming dehydrated and need to keep drinking fluids
athletes – they can lose a large amount of body fluid through sweat when exercising for long periods
What to do
If you’re dehydrated, drink plenty of fluids such as water, diluted squash or fruit juice. These are much more effective than large amounts of tea or coffee. Fizzy drinks may contain more sugar than you need and may be harder to take in large amounts.
Infants and small children who are dehydrated shouldn’t be given large amounts of water alone as the main replacement fluid. This is because it can dilute the already low level of minerals in their body too much and lead to other problems. Instead, they should be given diluted squash or a rehydration solution (available from pharmacies). You might find a teaspoon or syringe can be helpful for getting fluid into a young child.
When to see your GP
See your GP if your symptoms continue, despite drinking plenty of fluids, or if you think your baby or toddler is dehydrated. If your GP suspects dehydration, you may have a blood test or a urine test to check the balance of salts (sodium and potassium) in your body.
feeling unusually tired (lethargic) or confused
not passing urine for eight hours
dizziness when you stand up that doesn’t go away after a few seconds
You should also contact your GP if your baby has had six or more episodes of diarrhoea in the past 24 hours, or if they have vomited three times or more in the past 24 hours.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common. They can be painful and uncomfortable, but they usually pass within a few days or can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics.
UTIs are more common in women than in men. It’s estimated half of all women in the UK will have a UTI at least once in their life, and 1 in 2,000 healthy men will develop one each year.
Children can also get UTIs, although this is less common. Read more about UTIs in children.
If you develop a UTI, you’re likely to feel:
pain or a burning sensation when urinating (doctors refer to this as dysuria)
a need to urinate often
pain in the lower abdomen (tummy)
A UTI develops when part of the urinary tract becomes infected, usually by bacteria. Bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the urethra or, more rarely, through the bloodstream.
Emptying your bladder after sex, wiping from front to back after going to the toilet, avoiding constipation and drinking cranberry juice are all thought to reduce your risk of developing a urinary tract infection.