How Does The Body Manage Fluids?

Date: 15/11/21

If you suffer with incontinence, you may think that fluids are nothing more than an inconvenience that you could live without; but in fact, the opposite is true. Water is essential for life, and without fluid input, we would only last for around three days. Compare this to food, which the human body can survive without for an extended period, and it’s easy to see just how important water is for your health and wellbeing.

Why do we need water?

The adult body is around 60% water, though this varies throughout our lives. New born babies are as much as 80% water and toddlers are 70%, while older people may be as low as 50%. More importantly, our blood is over 80% water and our brains are almost 75%, so it is crucial that we maintain a fluid balance to keep our mind and body working properly.

What does water do?

Water plays a number of important roles in our body functions. These include:

  • Temperature regulation – cooling the skin through sweating stops the body overheating during activity and in hot climates.
  • Waste management – water is the solvent that helps the body eliminate metabolic waste via the kidneys and the urine.
  • Supporting cells – the blood (which is mostly water) carries nutrients to the cells and removes waste products. It is also used to carry messages in the form of hormones.
  • Metabolic processes – water is essential for a wide variety of metabolic processes in the body

How much water do we need?

The human body uses around 2½ litres of water every day. Most of this is passed through urination, with around half a litre lost through breathing and the same lost through sweating. A small amount, around 200ml, is lost via the intestines. This does not mean that we need to drink 2½ litres of water every day, as we get around a litre of water from our food and from the way our food is processed by the body, called catabolism.

What is fluid balance?

The body needs to regulate the intake and excretion of water in order to replace what is lost each day. This is known as fluid balance and is part of the self-regulatory processes called homeostasis that keep the body in a constant, optimal state.

If your water levels go down, your blood will become thicker and less efficient. Low water levels will also affect the concentrations of minerals known as electrolytes, which can have serious consequences. For example, changes in potassium and sodium can cause heart arrhythmia.

If your water levels go too high, then your cells can swell causing issues, especially in the brain where there is no room for expansion. Overhydration can also lead to dangerously low electrolyte levels.

If you suffer from urinary incontinence, then chances are you are very careful about how much you drink. However, this is not strictly true. It’s not just about how much you are drinking, but what you drink that makes the difference to how many Tena incontinence products you need each day.

How does the body maintain fluid balance?

Fluid balance is monitored by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This monitors the thickness of the blood using osmoreceptors. If fluid levels drop, the hypothalamus will create a sensation of thirst to prompt you to drink more. It will also stimulate the pituitary gland to release anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) which alters the permeability of the blood vessels in the kidneys, increasing their ability to reabsorb water.

Don’t stop drinking

If you are having problems with incontinence, then it can be very tempting to reduce your fluid intake. It seems only logical that the less that goes in, the less will want to come out. However, this is not a healthy approach, and as described above, can lead to serious problems with your fluid balance and electrolyte levels.

You should maintain a normal fluid intake of at least 1½ litres per day, even if you cannot control how this is ultimately eliminated from your body. With discreet, door to door delivery of high-quality incontinence products, such as Tena incontinence products and child incontinence pants, you can manage your condition effectively without putting your health at risk. To find out more about Tena incontinence products visit our shop:

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