Drinking water and staying hydrated is vital to health. But, then, why are 75% of American’s chronically dehydrated? Less than 25% of people drink 8 glasses of water per day, as recommended by many health organizations.
So, I thought I would have a chat with you about why staying hydrated is so important for your health. I will also tell you some easy ways to get enough water into your diet.
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Head to Toe Benefits of Drinking Water
Studies show that mild dehydration (2% or less) is enough to slow down our thought processes. Researchers think that the neurotransmitter serotonin may be affected by dehydration. Serotonin is also responsible for mood and depression.
Other aspects of brain function affected by dehydration are confusion, anxiety, focus, concentration, performing tasks and memory.
“Mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1–3%) can impair energy levels, impair mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance.” – British Journal of Nutrition
Your brain simply functions better when you are hydrated.
Drinking enough water makes you smarter and more emotionally stable.
Teeth & Mouth
Every time you take a sip of water, you rinse your mouth. Drinking water throughout the day can clean your teeth and gums and help prevent tooth decay.
Dehydration can cause bad breath as well.
So, good oral hygiene starts with drinking water, and continues with brushing your teeth and visiting your dentist.
Drinking enough water can keep your smile bright.
Skin is about 70% water which is mostly stored in the under layer.
If you took a piece of dried out skin and rub it with lotions and oils, you will not restore its softness. But if you add water to that hard and brittle skin, it will plump up and become softer.
Drinking water is better than any cosmetic product on the market.
“Proper hydration is absolutely critical to obtaining healthy skin” – H&PC Journal
Drinking enough water gives you soft, glowing, younger looking and healthy skin.
One study found that drinking 500mL of water before every meal resulted in a 44% better success rate for weight loss when calories were equally restricted.
“Thus, when combined with a hypocaloric diet, consuming 500 ml water prior to each main meal leads to greater weight loss than a hypocaloric diet alone in middle-aged and older adults. “ – Obesity Research Journal
It was once thought that this was because we feel full, so eat less at mealtime. But this may not be the reason.
Interestingly, a few studies have discovered that drinking water may boost your thermogenesis causing the extra weight loss.
This means that drinking water may speed up your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories through out the day.
In fact, one study concluded that drinking 1.5 L of water during the day resulted in burning an extra 200 calories. That is the equivalent of running for 25 minutes or walking for 45 minutes. Cool, right!
Drinking water helps you maintain a healthy body weight, along with eating a healthy diet and exercise.
Heart & Blood
Blood is 90% water. As you become dehydrated your blood becomes thicker and harder to get through your blood vessels. This will raise your blood pressure and make your heart work harder. Your heart will get faster and start feeling like it is pounding in your chest, especially if you are exercising. It may even start to skip beats and beat irregularly.
Being dehydrated also concentrates the salts, especially sodium, in the blood. This has a direct effect on your heart muscle so that it can’t contract as well to circulate your blood.
So, dehydration means that you have thicker blood being pumped by weakened heart muscle. Not a good situation.
Staying hydrated allows your heart to work better.
Your lungs need to be hydrated to be able to open up and expand. If they can’t do this properly, your lung volume will be decreased and you won’t be able to get oxygen in as easily. You may even feel out of breath if you are doing something active.
Dehydration also prevents you from getting that oxygen across into your blood stream. Your capillaries ability to exchange oxygen with carbon dioxide is impaired unless it is nice and wet down deep in your lungs. While you may not feel like you are suffocating, your body may not be able to get the oxygen it needs to work at its best.
Interesting Fact: The average adult loses about 250 to 350 mL of water per day from just breathing. This water loss from the lungs can increase to 500 to 600 mL of water per day with exercise. – National Academy of Sciences.
You breathe better when hydrated.
Drinking more water is essential to muscle function. Water allows your muscle fibres to slide back and forth as the muscle belly contracts and relaxes. When you are dehydrated, the fibers become sticky and rub against each other causing friction, irritation, and inflammation.
It is very important to replace the fluids lost through sweat when exercising. I emphasized this in my article on Muscle Recovery. And I especially wanted to mention it again here in this article.
Drinking enough water prevents muscle soreness and cramping.
Feeling stiff and sore in your joints? Perhaps you need to drink more water.
Cartilage is 80% water. Dehydration reduces the shock absorbing ability of your joints because there is less fluid to cushion movements. And this can cause pain as you move about.
Drinking enough water can also help prevent gout flare-ups. Gout is when uric acid crystals form in your joints causing pain. Drinking water flushes out uric acid through urine, preventing it from crystalizing out in your joints.
“If there’s a magical elixir to drink, it’s water.” – Arthritis Foundation
Drinking enough water cushions and protects your joints.
The kidney uses water to make urine and flush out all the toxins and waste from your body.
If you don’t have enough water, then your kidney has to work harder to do its job with less water. You really don’t want all these toxins building up causing all sorts of problems in the body. Thus, drinking water is a great detoxifier. In fact, it is the only true detox elixir available.
Interesting Fact: Some claims about Detox Waters may be true. But it is not what is added to the water that detoxifies your body. It is the water itself.
Without adequate water to flush out your kidneys, over time you can build up kidney and bladder stones. Of course, some people are more prone to this than others. And there are some diseases and medications that can make you more prone to developing stones. But, it is important to ensure you stay hydrated to help prevent those stone-forming minerals from concentrating.
Drinking enough water detoxifies your body.
Without water, you can’t digest food properly.
Water makes up a good percentage of saliva and stomach juices that mix and break down the food you eat. Then water helps the nutritious molecules cross over into your blood stream to nourish your body.
Without enough water your bowels don’t function well and your stools become hard and dry. This leads to constipation, which can be very uncomfortable and even dangerous.
Interesting Fact: Sparkling waters have been reported to decrease constipation rates by as much as 58%.
Drinking enough water improves digestion and prevents constipation.
Water is essential to cooling our bodies down when they get hot. We do this through sweat, which is about 99% water.
Interesting Fact: If you didn’t sweat your body would heat up 1 oC for every 6 – 8 minutes of exercise in summer. It takes 72 to 96 mL of sweat to prevent this from happening and keep you cool.
Drinking enough water keeps you cool.
Have I convinced you that you need to drink water to stay healthy?
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Most health organizations recommend that the average adult drink eight 8-ounce (237 mL) glasses of water per day. This 8 x 8 rule is easy to remember and understand.
But this recommendation is not based on sound scientific evidence. And the majority of the water balance research has been done on men, not women. So, it is also not accurate for 1/2 the population.
Other studies show that only about 22 % of adults drink this much, anyway. Most people drink somewhere in the range of 1 – 6 cups per day. And 7% of adults drink no water at all throughout the day.
These studies also don’t tell us if this is pure water, or if substituting other beverages and foods are okay.
So, then, How Much Water SHOULD You Drink?
Daily water requirements vary with many different factors. Making a blanket statement about how much water you should drink will not be accurate for every person. And it will not likely be accurate for every day of the week either.
Let’s explore some of the factors that affect how much water you need in a given day.
5 Influences on How Much Water You Need to Drink Daily
The more you exercise, the more water you lose through sweat and breathing heavily. And this water should be replaced to prevent dehydration.
2. Temperature and Wind
Water evaporates from our skin faster in hot temperatures and on windy days. So, enjoying a hot sunny day on the beach with that light breeze blowing your hair will require that you drink more water that day.
3. Health Status or illness
Most water recommendations are based on healthy adults. But illness and injury, especially burns, can increase the need for you to drink more water. Always check with your doctor or pharmacists about drinking water with any medications you are on too.
You will need to drink more water as you get older. As you age, your body is less efficient at retaining fluids. Those many trips to the bathroom mean that you need to drink more water to replace the water lost through urine.
Interesting Fact: Babies are 75% water, while women over 50 are only 47% water. The percentage of total body water decreases as we age and gain more fat. – National Academy of Sciences.
The foods you eat will influence how much you need to drink. Higher protein diets will need more water to ensure that ketones and other metabolites are eliminated from the body. If you eat a lot of salt or drier foods, you will need to drink more water too. If you eat wetter foods, you won’t need to drink as much water.
So, as you can see, the simple question of “how much water should you drink?” doesn’t have an easy answer.
Guideline for How Much Water to Drink
If you have no idea how much water you need to drink, then start with eight glasses a day. Adjust as you need to.
If it is hot out and you feel thirsty, drink more.
Are you exercising? Then, drink more water based on how much you sweat.
If you just ate a bunch of salty foods, then follow that with an extra glass of water.
And if your doctor told you to take your medicine with plenty of water, then do that too.
If you want to calculate out your own personalized daily water requirements, then you can use this fun calculator as a guide. But know that it too is still only a guide and you will still need to adjust as you go about day-to-day living.
Or you can simply just drink when you are thirsty, or as the mood strikes you.
Your body is built to maintain homeostasis. It wants to stay in balance and healthy. Your body has a mechanism to trigger your brain into feeling thirsty when it needs more water. So, if you can tune into what your body is saying, you can stay hydrated by just listening to it.
The problem is that many of us have lost this ability or we simply ignore our body signals.
Can You Drink Too Much Water?
Yes, it is possible to drink too much water. So, you shouldn’t go overboard. Too much of a good thing isn’t good.
If your kidneys can’t handle the amount of water you are drinking, they become overwhelmed and open up completely. When this happens, you start to lose electrolytes, especially sodium. It is called hyponatremia when your blood becomes low in this essential mineral.
Hyponatremia can wreck havoc with your body and is a very dangerous and life threatening condition. Signs include headache, irritability, nausea, confusion, tiredness and muscle weakness. It can lead to seizures and coma if not treated by a doctor.
Luckily, in a healthy person, becoming over-hydrated is not common and difficult to do. Athletes who workout for long periods, such as marathon runners, are more at risk of over hydrating.
Monitor Urine Color to Determine Your Hydration Level
You can judge how much water to drink by the color of your urine.
The chart below shows some of the different colors of a healthy person’s urine at different levels of hydration. But, it doesn’t include health factors, such as blood, pigments or medications that can alter the color of your urine.
The best approach is to learn what is normal for you. And if your urine appears abnormal, ask your doctor.
Pick Your Favorite Water Source
There are many ways to drink more water. The ultimate way is to explore different drinking water sources and pick your favorite.
The easiest place to get water is from the tap in your home. However, the quality of this water depends on where you live. Tap water usually contains other compounds, depending on its source and what your municipality adds or subtracts from it.
If you have any concerns about your tap water, check with your local water department. By law, they need to run and report water quality tests. Some municipalities have lovely tap water. Some do not.
Bottled water is another source available for most people. However, individual plastic bottles are not environmentally friendly. Purchasing larger quantities and filling reusable water bottles may be an option if your tap water is not very drinkable.
But be aware, many companies that bottle water simply fill the bottles from their own, industrial-sized taps. It may be no better than your very own tap at home.
Unfiltered Natural Water
Raw water from lakes, rivers and streams can contain all sorts of parasites and biological contaminations that can make you sick. It isn’t advisable to drink unfiltered water directly from lakes, rivers and streams. However, this can be a source of water if you invest in a water filtration system.
This neat little personalized water filter is great to take on hikes.
for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness
Well water on rural properties should be tested periodically to ensure the water is safe to drink.
I wrote an entire article on Sparkling Water. The multi-billion dollar sparkling water industry is a very interesting subject. And it is booming right now as the world searches for healthier alternatives to soda pop. Carbonated water is a good solution if you don’t like the taste of plain water. But it is not without it’s own set of issues.
Water in Food
Approximately 20% of the water we need comes from food we eat. The other 80% comes from water or other beverages we drink. You can increase this percentage by eating foods that are high in water content.
Water Rich foods include:
- watermelon (92%)
- strawberries (91%)
- cantaloupe (90%)
- honeydew (90%)
- peaches (89%)
- oranges (87%)
- skim milk (91%)
- cucumber (96%)
- pineapple (86%)
- lettuce (96%)
- broths (92%)
- zucchini (93%)
- celery (95%)
- yogurt (88%)
- tomatoes (94%)
- bell peppers (92%)
- cauliflower (92%)
- apples (85%)
- cabbage (92%)
- grapefruit (88%)
- coconut water (95%)
- cottage Cheese (80%)
- spinach (92%)
- soy milk (90%)
- kale (90%)
- broccoli (89%)
- carrots (88%)
Did you notice how wholesome and healthy that list of foods is?
Foods with least amount of water include:
- Fats (butter, margarine)
- Cereals & grains
- Dried fruit
- Grilled meats
- Hard cheese, especially parmesan
- Powdered foods
Although water is best, you don’t need to only drink water. There are plenty of ways to enjoy water without it being plain old water. Check out these ideas.
Just be aware that some of these may contain sugars and calories that you don’t necessarily need in your diet.
A Note About Caffeinated Coffee and Teas
If you are worried about the rumours that coffee and tea can dehydrate you even more, I would like to put those fears to rest. Recent science has found that it is a myth. You can use caffeinated coffee and teas in your daily water counts.
“Therefore, there would appear to be no clear basis for refraining from caffeine containing drinks in situations where fluid balance might be compromised.” – Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics
Infused and Spa Waters
And of course, you can add your favorite foods to water to add a subtle hint of flavor. Try adding some of these to your next glass.
- Berries: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries
- Citrus Fruits: lemon, lime, oranges, grapefruit
- Other Fruits: pineapple, kiwi, cherry, pomegranate, peaches
- Melon: watermelon, honeydew
- Veggies: cucumbers, ginger root, mint leaves, parsley, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, lavender, clove, rosemary
- Iced or Hot Tea: herbal tea, green tea, sun tea
- Iced or Hot Coffee
- Water Enhancers
- Diluted Juice
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Mineral Salt
- Diluted Broths
- Angostura Bitters
Not sure what combinations are best for infusing water?
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