Nothing is more basic to your good health than water. Your body is about 60% water. And water makes every process in your body possible… from carrying nutrients to your cells to flushing toxins out of your body.
Water helps cushion your joints… helps keep your skin soft and supple… and aids in immune function and sex. Without water, our bodies begin to shut down in just days.
Today, let’s take a look at the most overlooked nutrient: water.
Almost anywhere you find fluid in your body, you’ll find water. Of course, the first fluid that comes to mind is probably blood. Without water, your blood couldn’t carry nutrients and oxygen to your cells. You’d literally starve.
But circulation is just one function water makes possible. Water supports every system in your body. So getting enough is critical to good health.
When you don’t get enough water, the result is dehydration. And dehydration is more serious than just feeling thirsty. Mild dehydration can cause many problems, including headaches, tiredness, dizziness, dry skin and constipation.
If it progresses, you may experience low blood pressure, delirium, rapid heartbeat or even unconsciousness. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency.
And dehydration is more common than you might think. In fact, as you get older, your chances of dehydration grow. You see, your body’s ability to hold on to water decreases with age. And your sense of thirst typically fades.
If you suffer with blood sugar trouble or other health problems, you may also be more prone to dehydration. And if you live in a hot climate or at altitude, your risk of dehydration is even greater. Hot weather, working outside or endurance exercise add more to your risk.
So how much water do you need? And does it have to be water – or can you get your water from other sources?
In general, men should get about 100 ounces of water a day. Women typically need less – about 68 ounces. Of course, it varies with size, activity level and environment. But these numbers are a
good starting point.
The good news is that most people get about one-fifth of their water needs from food. And drinking most other beverages counts towards your daily water total. So that glass of orange juice you had this morning helps offset your need for water.
Even tea and coffee count.
You may have heard that caffeine increases urine output. But the evidence doesn’t back it up. Researchers at the University of Connecticut found that people retain almost identical amounts of water – whether they drink it as plain water or as coffee.(1)
One liquid that does dehydrate is alcohol. In fact, dehydration is why you may get a headache with a hangover. So I wouldn’t count anything alcoholic as contributing to your daily water needs.
Staying hydrated can help you stay sharp and alert. It helps you avoid constipation and regulate your body temperature. Water contributes to joint health, helps the kidneys and liver get rid of toxins, and promotes heart health.
And here’s another benefit of getting enough water: It may also help you manage your weight. That’s what recent research from Virginia Tech(2) and the University of North Carolina(3) says.
Simply replacing calorie-laden beverages with water at mealtime could cut from about 8% – 15% of your calorie intake on average.
Finally, what about drinking “extra” water? Many websites make big health claims for drinking even more water than you need. But the evidence for these claims is weak at best.
Your body naturally eliminates excess water. So drinking more than you need simply results in more frequent trips to the restroom. As long as you’re getting enough water, you’re doing the best for your health you can.
1. Armstrong LE. Caffeine, Body Fluid-Electrolyte Balance, and Exercise Performance. IJSNEM Volume 12, Issue 2, June.
2. Dennis EA, et al. Beverage consumption and adult weight management: A review. Eat Behav. 2009 Dec;10(4):237-46. Epub 2009 Jul 16.
3. Daniels MC and Popkin BM. Impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2010 Sep;68(9):505-21.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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