“DRINK­ING THREE LITRES OF WA­TER A DAY TOOK 10 YEARS OFF MY FACE”

Bri­tish jour­nal­ist Sarah Smith, 42, wanted to solve her headaches and poor di­ges­tion – and ended up look­ing a decade younger, too

Sunday Territorian - - SUNDAY -

You might think I’d have lit­tle in com­mon with a camel, but we do share one use­ful skill: both of us can go for a very long time without wa­ter.

Usu­ally I start my day with a cup of tea, then I might have a glass of wa­ter with lunch and one with din­ner – that’s al­most a litre in 24 hours. It feels like plenty, but ap­par­ently it’s not nearly enough.

Af­ter years of suf­fer­ing headaches and poor di­ges­tion, I spoke to a neu­rol­o­gist and a nutri­tion­ist and both told me I should be drink­ing up to three litres of liq­uid a day for my body to func­tion at its best. I de­cided to con­duct an ex­per­i­ment – what would hap­pen if I drank that amount ev­ery day for a month?

The photo of me taken the day I started this trial (pic­tured, right) demon­strates per­fectly – and rather fright­en­ingly – what a lack of hy­dra­tion does to a face. I’m 42, but I have to ad­mit I look more like 52. There are dark shad­ows un­der and around my eyes, which make me look ex­hausted, a pro­fu­sion of wrin­kles and strange red­dish blotches, and my skin lacks lus­tre – it looks dead. Even my lips look shriv­elled. My daugh­ters tell me I look “about 100 years old”.

This is all clas­sic ev­i­dence of poor hy­dra­tion, ap­par­ently. Nearly ev­ery sys­tem and func­tion in our body de­pends on wa­ter. It flushes tox­ins from the vi­tal or­gans, car­ries nu­tri­ents to cells, pro­vides a moist en­vi­ron­ment for ear, nose and throat tis­sues, and elim­i­nates waste. Not drink­ing enough means all these func­tions are im­paired, so I de­cided to drink three litres for 28 days. The re­sults were as­ton­ish­ing...

WEEK ONE WEIGHT: 54KG WAIST: 71CM

Three litres is roughly 12 cups, which sounds like an aw­ful lot. I visit my GP to be sure there are no ad­verse health im­pli­ca­tions to up­ping my in­take so dra­mat­i­cally and he’s en­cour­ag­ing. “I sug­gest you have a big jug of wa­ter in the morn­ing, an­other in the af­ter­noon and an­other in the evening,” he says. “Your kid­neys, which fil­ter waste prod­ucts from the blood be­fore turn­ing it into urine, will quickly feel the ben­e­fit, as they will be get­ting a good flush through.”

I usu­ally have a wee three times a day: when I get up, be­fore I go to bed and at some point in the af­ter­noon. By the end of my first day of drink­ing more wa­ter, I’ve had six and my usu­ally slug­gish bow­els are much more lively.

I ex­fo­li­ate my face ev­ery day to try to get rid of dry patches be­fore I ap­ply mois­turiser, but sud­denly I seem to be break­ing out in spots. Maybe it’s all the tox­ins com­ing out of my skin. A few days in, I’m still uri­nat­ing five or six times a day but it’s clear now, rather than dark yel­low.

I’m en­joy­ing lots of cups of tea. My hus­band says that’s cheat­ing, but the Bri­tish Nu­tri­tional Foun­da­tion says “mod­er­ate amounts of caf­feine do not cause de­hy­dra­tion, so they do count to­wards your fluid in­take”.

I meet friends for a drink one night, re­mem­ber­ing that al­co­hol is a di­uretic (which pro­motes the pro­duc­tion of urine) that acts on the kid­neys. For ev­ery one al­co­holic drink, your body can elim­i­nate up to four times as much liq­uid. I as­sume a white wine spritzer is a good op­tion as the al­co­hol is di­luted with soda wa­ter, and I sip wa­ter be­tween al­co­holic drinks through­out the evening.

Han­gover headaches re­sult from de­hy­dra­tion as the body’s or­gans try to make up for a lack of wa­ter by steal­ing it from the brain – as a re­sult, the brain shrinks. Headaches re­sult from the pulling on the mem­branes that con­nect your brain to your skull. Ouch. Luck­ily, I wake up han­gover-free.

For years I’ve been do­ing 10 min­utes of yoga af­ter I get up, but I’ve felt stiffer over the past six months. Since I started drink­ing more, my flex­i­bil­ity has im­proved.

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