Different experts and medical professionals all seem to have different perspectives on how much water we should drink, and even on what constitutes water! Some suggest we get enough of it in our sodas, coffee and tea to live a healthy life. But Dr Fereydoon Batmanghelidj’s book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, which has sold more than 1 million copies, suggests something very different: “Caffeine is a natural diuretic, forcing more water out of the body than is contained in the caffeinated beverage”.

As someone who historically has been rubbish at drinking plain water, I have read many books and white papers on the subject and have come to the conclusion that we need between 1.5 to 2.5 litres of water a day. If you are petite and don’t exercise much then 1.5 litres might be fine, but if you are well-built or exercise a lot you might need closer to 2.5 litres. Bear in mind that we shouldn’t count water in coffee or alcohol towards our daily intake, as both actually dehydrate rather than hydrate. If you find water ‘boring’ try adding a slice of lemon, lime or ginger to improve the taste. Also, if you regularly have more than half a dozen cups of coffee or tea each day, you might find that it is the warm water that you are drawn to, rather than the coffee or tea itself. Try a glass of warm water with nothing added, then try it with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, or lime to see if you prefer it.

drinking water

I remember a good friend of mine called Edward, who was previously in the Royal
Air Force, but whose career after leaving the military was that of a wine expert. He is someone whom you wouldn’t naturally expect to believe in the virtues of water, but he always preached the following message to his colleagues. If your urine is clear then it is a healthy sign that you are well hydrated. If it is a pale yellow then you are reasonably hydrated, but if the colour is dark yellow to orange then you are seriously dehydrated. I remember him telling me that the brain is made up of 85% water and that it was important to keep it topped up, and to flush it regularly. Since then, I have read many books that say good hydration can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly even reduce its symptoms post-diagnosis.

There is growing evidence that water might cure far more conditions than many doctors and medical advisors currently realise. One problem is that our bodies are not very good at notifying us when we are dehydrated, and therefore we must not wait until we are thirsty before sipping water. I bet you’re similar to me in that there are days when you get into the late afternoon and realise you haven’t had a glass of water all day. Try to do everything you can to make consuming sufficient water part of your routine.

On the cover of Dr Batmanghelidj’s book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, there is the subtitle: ‘You’re not sick; you’re thirsty, don’t treat thirst with medication’. He goes on to say, “The simple truth is that dehydration can cause disease”. In this brilliant book, full of insightful information about how the human body uses water, he explains how dehydration can be a cause of rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, neck pain, migraines, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and much more, all backed by lots of scientific research. In fact, talking of Alzheimer’s, Dr Batmanghelidj goes on to state: “The primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease is chronic dehydration of the body”. Later in the book he says, “People with Alzheimer’s disease and children with learning disabilities should not drink anything but water”. He delivers the message with great clarity and some great analogies: “In prolonged dehydration, brain cells begin to shrink. Imagine a plum gradually turning into a prune. Unfortunately, in a dehydrated state, many functions of the brain cells begin to get lost”.

When it comes to exercise, keeping hydrated is really important as dehydrated muscles are weak muscles. During a one-hour workout we can easily lose a litre of water by sweating, and when it’s hot it’s possible to lose as much as three litres in just a single hour. Ever wondered why, if you jump on a pair of scales after a workout or a game of tennis, you are lighter than you expected to be? There is an old saying that goes, ‘A pint’s a pound the whole world round’. In a litre there is close to two pints, therefore in a normal one-hour workout we are going to temporarily lose around 0.9kg (2lbs) in weight - and if it’s midsummer we could drop close to 2.7kg (6lbs) in water. By the way, if we lose around 2 to 3kg of water after an exercise session and don’t promptly replace the fluids, then it can be extremely dangerous!

Exercising isn’t the only time we will need to increase our intake of water. By the time you finish reading this book I am sure you will be consuming a lot more fibre with your meals. While fibre is hugely beneficial to our health, it acts like a sponge and absorbs lots of water. Therefore, as we increase our fibre intake, we must ensure to take on board more water.

exercising and sweating

Finally, I didn’t know where to mention cellulite. I don’t want to put it under diseases as it is not really a disease, so I thought I would put it under water, as keeping our skin hydrated helps to repair cellulite. There are two other major factors in having healthy skin and keeping the body’s inbuilt ‘cellulite criminal’ at bay – they are getting our weight under control and exercising. When we are overweight, we have to distort our skin to cover the enlarged surface area. Sadly, yo-yo diets can leave us with excess amounts of skin. Interval training, both sprinting and weightlifting, produces hormones that enhance the levels of both collagen and elastin within the skin.

Is All Water Equal?

Sadly not. The best water is natural mineral water supplied in glass bottles, or filtered tap water. What is least healthy is bottled plastic water and unfiltered tap water. Let me explain why.

Tap Water

Don’t get me wrong, in the UK tap water is extremely good for us, but it should
be filtered to reduce the level of chlorine. While chlorine acts as a highly efficient disinfectant - killing off harmful bacteria that grows throughout the entire water supply system, from the reservoirs to the pipe network - it can also kill off healthy bacteria in our guts. Chlorine is a necessary evil in the supply of water to our homes, as without it water could carry deadly diseases and harmful bacteria. Of course, all governments will tell us that chlorine in water is so low in concentration that it is totally harmless. However, as you will read throughout this book, it’s critical that we look after the healthy gut bacteria in our microbiome and it’s therefore just common sense that, no matter how low the concentration, we should do everything possible to filter out harmful chemicals.

If you want to know how harmful chlorine is, spill some bleach on your jeans (most household bleach is normally made of chlorine) and watch the colour disappear, quickly turning white and eventually burning holes in the material. Our delicate gut lining is only one cell thick, and therefore you can easily imagine what damage chlorine could potentially do to it. Don’t fall for the ‘concentration smokescreen’ – poison is poison, regardless of its concentration.

Here is my tap water tip. Be sure to fit a water filter at home, or alternatively purchase a water filter jug. If you find yourself in a hotel room, and aren’t sure if the water is filtered, be sure to boil it before you drink it.

Glass Bottled Water

There is so much plastic floating around, that if you gathered it all together, turned it into dust and covered the entire land mass of our planet – including the two currently frozen Poles – the dust would almost be up to our knees! Across all of the oceans there is an average of 46,000 pieces of man-made plastics per square mile, and it will take between 500 to 1,000 years for each piece to degrade. The effect of all of this is that we are unnecessarily killing millions and millions of fish and birds each month!

In the UK, it is estimated that every day we use more than 35 million plastic bottles, and more than half don’t get recycled. That’s right, what we drink in minutes, only use once and then throw away, takes the planet a millennium to get rid of!

Plastic bottles are not just harmful as waste, as the cost to the environment of their creation and transportation is equally as damaging. All in all, water in one-time use plastic bottles is just damn stupid. But this book is not primarily about saving the environment it’s about saving you! So, let me stop my rant about plastic and its effect on our planet, and tell you why drinking water out of plastic bottles is bad for our health too.

Some of the toxins from the plastic can leech into the water and potentially harm our body. The main culprit is a compound called BPA (bisphenol A), which the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) have already banned from being used in polycarbonate infant feeding bottles, but as yet neither the UK’s Food Standards Agency nor the EFSA have banned it from being used in other products. Why not? I am sure you can guess by now. Could it be that preventing the death of babies before they can become taxpayers is bad news, but slowly and silently poisoning the rest of us, so that the effect is not felt until after we retire, is commercially and financially very efficient? If I am going a bit far with this let me apologise, but could BPA really be the industry’s secret acronym for ‘Bottles to Poison Adults’?!

I am sure in the coming years the government will have no choice but to ban the use of BPAs, which I am convinced leech poison into the water and cause damage to our gut’s friendly bacteria. Studies have also shown that BPAs can mimic the hormone oestrogen, which is used in the female body to develop breasts, regulate periods and maintain pregnancies. Researcher Dr Jianying Hu of Peking University in Beijing says, “In recent years, BPA was shown to have [oestrogenic] activity, linking BPA to endocrine diseases and to an increased incidence of endocrine-related cancers”.

glass bottled water

Stop for a moment and think about how much of a nonsense this is! Something that is dressed up as a health product, often costing more than petrol, is anything but healthy due to it leeching BPA. Costing up to 10,000 times more than tap water, some of the biggest brands actually contain very much just that – glorified tap water! To me, branded bottled water is one of the cleverest marketing campaigns known to man and one of the most successful bluffs ever!

One last thought. To prove that British tap water tastes as good as branded water, we conducted a blind water taste experiment. The first time we took five leading branded bottled waters and chilled them to the same temperature as the filtered tap water. We served them in the same glasses as the tap water, and simply asked participants to say which one they preferred. We compiled the results and were completely blown away by the findings. The tap water came out joint first, scoring 11 times more preference as one of the leading supermarket brands. We then repeated the experiment, but without telling the participants we served the tap water at a slightly lower temperature than the bottled water. This time the tap water triumphed massively – 77% of all participants preferred the filtered tap water over five of the top water brands on sale in the UK.

The conclusion? Filtered tap water is not only 10,000 times cheaper than leading brands of bottled water, and it not only helps protect the environment for our children, but it tastes better too! Don’t fall victim to bottled water advertising, further lining the pockets of corporations whose motives are driven by shareholder value and not our health.