Water, health and hydration

 

 

Why should I drink water, how often and how much?

Water, the most common substance on Earth, is also the nutrient that your body needs the most. Between 55 and 75 percent of adult body weight is water (about 10 to 12 gallons). Water is critical in regulating all body organs and temperature as well as dissolving solids and moving nutrients throughout the body. Research has shown that proper hydration may minimize chronic pains such as rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, migraines, and colitis as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Because water is naturally low in sodium, has no fat, cholesterol or caffeine and isn’t flushed straight through the body like many other beverages, it’s the natural solution that your body chooses to help reach its daily fluid quota.

Believe it or not, humans lose a pint or more of water every day simply by breathing! Humans normally lose about 10 cups of fluid a day in exhaled air, perspiration, and other bodily secretions. What is lost must be replaced to maintain a fluid balance. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to pour a glass of water. By the time you feel thirsty, you’ve probably already lost 2 or more cups of your total body water.

The right amount of water is essential for keeping your body functioning. The average person only consumes six 8-ounce servings of water a day. This is well below the recommended eight servings. How much you really need to drink depends on your body size, activity level and the air temperature. To determine your ideal daily water intake, experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest dividing your weight in half and using this number as the ounces of water you should consume. Going off of this formula, a 125-pound person should indeed consume the recommended eight servings of water each day; however, someone who weighs 175 pounds should aim for eleven servings. If you are physically active, the American Dietetic Association recommends adding one to three cups of water to your daily diet for each hour of physical activity.

Once you start exercising, don’t stop drinking water. Thirst is not always an adequate indicator of the body’s need for fluid replenishment during exercise. Studies show that during vigorous exercise, an important amount of fluid reserves may be lost before you are aware of thirst. During exercise, it’s recommended to replenish fluids at least every 20 minutes. You should also drink plenty of water before and after you exercise, regardless of thirst.

That headachy feeling you may be experiencing at the end of the day may very well be a sign of dehydration. Because the brain is made up of 75% water, moderate dehydration can often cause lightheadedness, dizziness, headaches and nausea. More severe dehydration may also raise the body’s core temperature, effect muscle strength, endurance and coordination as well as increase the risk of cramps, heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke. One of the best ways to recognize dehydration is to pay close attention to the color of your urine—ideally, light to clear urine indicates proper water intake.

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Do mothers, children, babies and seniors have special water needs?

Because what they drink is distributed throughout not only their body but also their child’s, expectant mothers should drink six to eight 8-ounce servings of water a day. This recommended water intake may actually be conservative, based on other factors such as weight, age, activity level, weather conditions, etc. Once the baby is born, breast-feeding mothers should be sure to continue replenishing water lost through nursing.

It varies according to the child’s body weight and activity level. Since infants can’t always express thirst, the best way to monitor their hydration level is by checking their diaper which should require frequent changes throughout the day. Active, school-age children tend to dehydrate even more quickly and should be encouraged to drink an 8-ounce serving of water before heading out to play as well as once every 20-30 minutes during play (especially if it’s hot outside).

The older you are, the more vulnerable you become to the effects of dehydration. As people age, their kidney functions may decrease, their thirst signals may become dulled, their body retains less water, and their overall activity level declines. Older people also tend to take more prescription drugs that can dehydrate their bodies. For these reasons, people over 70 should drink at least the recommended number of water servings per day.

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How can I integrate more water into my lifestyle?

  • A typical system consists of:
  • Pour the water into an attractive glass or easy-to-use water bottle.
  • Add ice, and a slice of lemon or lime.
  • Chill the water.
  • Drink moderate-size portions spread over the course of a day, rather than drinking it all at one time.
  • Keep a bottle of water on your kitchen counter.
  • Visit the office water cooler, and take a water break instead of a coffee break.
  • Make drinking water a habit—drinking water at the same times each day will make it much easier.
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