Did you know that staying properly hydrated can prevent an array of health issues and promote better overall well-being? The secret to better health may be no further away than your faucet.
Water makes up about 60% of the human body and is an essential part of bodily function and maintenance. It helps your body digest food, absorb nutrients, circulate bodily fluids, create saliva, transport nutrients, flush wastes, and regulate body temperature.
When your body loses more fluid than you are drinking or getting from foods, you become dehydrated. We all lose fluids daily through the evaporation of water vapor when we breathe, as well as in urine, stools, and sweat. Illness, especially when accompanied by fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination, can cause increased risk of dehydration. Exercise and exposure to heat will also cause you to lose fluids more quickly and can cause dehydration quite quickly.
For most healthy people, thirst is a good way to tell if you need to drink more water. However, if you exercise regularly, are ill, or live in a warm climate, you should not wait until you feel thirsty to start replenishing lost fluids. Additionally, altitudes above 8,200 ft (2,500 meters) can affect how much fluid you need so those living at these elevations may to adjust their fluid intake as well.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration vary and can be moderate or quite severe. They include:
- Dry mouth or swollen tongue
- Inability to sweat
- Decrease in urine output
So, how much water (and other fluids) should we be drinking to keep from getting dehydrated? Reports now say that the well-known recommendation of 8 glasses a day is just a guideline with no scientific evidence to back it up. The Institute of Medicine has determined however, that for the average, healthy adult male living in a temperate climate 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total liquid intake a day is sufficient. And for the average, healthy adult female living in the same climate 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total liquid a day is an adequate intake. It is also recommended that pregnant women drink 2.3 liters (about 10 cups) of fluids daily and women who are nursing drink 3.1 liters (about 13 cups) of fluids daily.
These numbers are a good starting point to help you get a better idea of just how much fluid you should be drinking in a day, but you may need to increase your beverage consumption based on your health, location, or lifestyle.
Determining whether you are properly replacing the fluids you lose each day in most cases, only requires paying a little extra to your body and its functions. In addition to thirst, urine can actually be a good indication of how well hydrated you are. If your urine is colorless or light yellow and you rarely feel thirsty throughout the day, you are probably getting enough fluids.
It is important to note that you can drink too much water, though this is rare. Hyponatremia occurs when your kidneys are unable to get rid of excess water and the electrolyte levels in the blood become diluted. This condition usually only occurs in endurance athletes who drink a lot of fluids (like marathon runners) and is very uncommon for the average, healthy American adult. However, we should realize that you can have too much of a good thing.
Drinking water is certainly important for maintaining healthy bodily functions. But, did you know that water can also aid your weight loss efforts? Substituting water for high calorie beverages and eating water rich foods can help you cut calories and ultimately lose weight.
Penn State researcher Barbara Rolls, PhD, and author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan, states, “What works with weight loss is if you choose water or a non-caloric beverage over a caloric beverage and/or eat a diet higher in water-rich foods that are healthier, more filling, and help you trim calorie intake.” Water rich foods are also absorbed more slowly by the body and can take longer to chew, which can help you feel more full. Fruits and vegetable are great water rich foods because they are also high in nutrients and low in calories.
Additionally, water also can help you get more out of your workout when you exercise. If your body’s cells don’t have enough water or electrolytes, they’ll shrivel, which will cause your muscles to feel fatigued. Drinking water before, during, and after exercise will energize your muscles and help you to feel and perform better.
Drinking enough fluids regularly can help prevent headaches caused by dehydration. It can also help improve body functions, sleep and energy levels, eliminate toxins, and thus, reduce your risk of various serious or chronic health conditions.
If you have trouble drinking enough water during the day or notice that you are often dehydrated, try these tips to increase your intake of fluids:
- Drink a beverage every time you eat, whether it be a snack or a full meal
- Find a beverage you like. You’re more likely to drink something if you enjoy the taste.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. They have a high water content and will help hydrate you.
- Keep a water bottle with you during the day. Take it with you in your car, or bag, or keep in on your desk at work.
- Choose low-calorie beverages if you’re trying to lose/maintain your weight. Liquid calories don’t fill you up and can add up quickly. Water is a great zero calorie option.
Staying hydrated is an easy way to improve and sustain your body’s functions. Start drinking your way to better health today!