We're all aware of the importance of adequate hydration for our mental and physical wellbeing. That's beyond all doubt.

But does an optimal intake of water have extra significance for those who have diabetes? How might drinking water affect diabetics, and what provisions can diabetic people take to ensure a perfect level of fluid intake for their health?

Let's explore some of the key questions diabetes sufferers might have on the topic of water and hydration.

Why is hydration important for diabetes?

Due to the nature of their condition, those with diabetes are more susceptible to suffering from dehydration and its debilitating effects.

Glucose levels in the body are moderated with a hormone called insulin. In people with diabetes, there is a lack of this hormone, or an inability to respond to the hormone.

  • In people with Type 1 diabetes, there is no insulin production.
  • In Type 2 diabetes, the body still makes insulin, but is unable to properly utilise or respond to the insulin.

Without the ability to make use of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, diabetics are prone to seeing excessive levels of glucose in the body.

When there is too much glucose in the body, water is drawn out. Your kidneys begin to work hard trying to get rid of this glucose by producing more urine, causing you to need to pee more. As you're losing lots of fluid, this causes excessive thirst.

Becoming thirsty more often than usual is called polydipsia and is a hallmark of uncontrolled diabetes; urinating more frequently than normal is called polyuria.

The dehydration that comes about because of excessive urination can further elevate blood sugar levels, producing a vicious cycle, placing those with diabetes at risk of further dehydration.

This can cause all the typical symptoms, including a headache, dizziness, tiredness, low blood pressure and confusion. Left unmanaged, this dehydration can lead to serious health problems including retinopathy, kidney failure, an increased risk of heart disease and even nerve damage.

This makes it all the more important that those managing diabetes regulate their condition by taking on enough of the right kind of fluids, as well as taking steps to control blood sugar levels. Drinking water helps to rehydrate the blood when the body is shedding glucose through urine.

Drinking water and diabetes

Let's explore more about water and its importance for those who are diabetic.

What can diabetics drink?

There's no getting away from it, the best drink for diabetics is water.

Drinking water regularly helps to maintain hydration, as well as being good for general wellbeing and health. With no sugar, calories or carbohydrates, water is the ideal choice of drink for diabetics.

Most fizzy drinks and energy drinks are packed with sugar, bringing no nutritional value to the body. Beware, too, of sugar-filled fruit juices.

Indeed, Diabetes UK says that such drinks should only be used to treat "hypos" - hypoglycaemia: when the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood drops too low.

There's nothing wrong with coffees and teas, but beware of adding sugar. Whilst water should be the bedrock of your hydration routine, a glass of milk after sport is also a sound choice.

In the case of people who have been warned they are pre-diabetic, taking swift action to swap drinks laden with sugar and sweeteners for filtered water is an easy but important step to take control of their lifestyle and future health.

For those diabetics who struggle to keep their fluid intake up, it might be useful to invest in a portable water filter bottle. Having fresh filtered drinking water on tap can also help you keep your fluids topped up, preventing you from reaching for a less-than-healthy alternative.

What about diet sodas and artificially sweetened drinks?

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed over 66,000 women for 14 years, tracking their consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks (regular fizzy drinks), as well as artificially-sweetened (diet) drinks.

Although the authors noted the limitations of their study, they found that both sugary and diet drinks were associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

As far as research tells us, water is the best choice for those managing diabetes, by far.

How much water should a diabetic drink?

In order to guard against symptoms of high blood sugar, adequate intake of water by diabetics is essential.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, water should be consumed continuously throughout the day, with the aim of taking on board:

  • Men - 2 litres per day
  • Women - 1.6 litres per day

Does drinking water flush out sugar?

As we discussed, for diabetic people, hydration takes on extra significance. When a problem with blood sugar has been flagged up, drinking water will help the kidneys to flush out excess glucose as part of a lifestyle management program.

Will drinking water lower my blood sugar levels?

For diabetics, drinking water can help to reduce your blood sugar (glucose) levels by diluting the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.

Adequate intake of water also helps to alleviate the dehydration that comes with excess urination caused by high glucose levels, a mechanism we explain earlier.

Interestingly, a few years ago, leading research found that those with low water intake had a higher risk of developing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and subsequent diabetes - so there's even evidence to suggest that good water intake can prevent diabetes.

The study found that the hormone vasopressin, which rises when diabetes-related dehydration is experienced, can be reduced by taking on water.

Water temperature and blood sugar

Can cold water lower blood sugar?

The temperature of your drinking water has little-to-no bearing on the lowering of blood sugar, apart from the fact it might be more tasty to drink cooler water - therefore making it easier to meet your hydration requirements!

Does drinking water spike insulin?

Insulin spikes are typically caused by the consumption of refined, high-carb, added-sugar foods and drinks - not drinking water.

The culprits are most often white rice, bread, pasta and high-sugar cereals, yoghurts and processed baked goods. Drinking water does not lead to a spike in insulin.

Take your family's water to the next level

If you're diabetic, optimal hydration is essential. As you may be aware, ordinary tap water can contain a range of contaminants that can affect its taste, scent and appearance.

At Doulton®, we've got nearly 200 years of history and experience when it comes to water. All of our water filtration products incorporate cutting-edge ceramic technology, ensuring you have on-tap access to the cleanest, best-tasting water possible.

So, why not commit to excellence as part of your diabetic lifestyle? Improve the look, odour and taste of your tap water by exploring the Doulton® product range.

Daniel Berko