Your mom says it; you hear it from your dad; your doctor tells you to do it; your friends have probably even encouraged you at some point… “Drink more water!” Sometimes I feel like if I drink any more water I’m going to literally turn into a fish. Alas, it’s the truth. Water is a necessary essential for the human body to survive; but do you know just how many parts of our body depend on water?
According to H.H. Mitchell, Journal of Biological Chemistry 158, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are roughly 83% water, skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones can be a watery 31%. Overall, the average adult body is between 55 and 60% water, and newborn babies – up to 78% of the liquid (similar to most species of fish).
So why do we need that much water in our bodies? Well, it does more than just keep our organs alive. Water helps form saliva, regulates body temperature, converts food to essential nutrients, aids in digestion, allows body cells to grow and reproduce, helps the brain produce hormones and neurotransmitters, acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord, lubricates joints, and the list goes on. What this translates into, is that a) you must drink at least some water on a regular basis to survive, and b) you must drink even more water to really thrive. The effects of not drinking enough water can range from an overall feeling of sluggishness, to headaches, to – In the most serious cases – delirium or unconsciousness, and even death. Yes, death.
With all the different sources available, it can be confusing to tell if you’re getting enough water for your body type; especially since not all bodies are created equal. A 15 year old male athlete needs a different amount of water than a 45 year old salesman and an elderly woman needs a different amount than a nursing mother. “Athletes who are dehydrated not only lose the ability to perform optimally, but lose their mental edge as well,” says physical therapist, Kerri Sue Stange, of the Orthopedic Institute at Southwest Health.
“Water is important to the body at all time, but even more with warm weather. As the temperature outside heats up, the risk of heat-related illness, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, increases” adds Dr. Anna Svircev of the Platteville Clinic. “Athletes, children, and the elderly are most vulnerable to these conditions.”
Early onset symptoms of dehydration can include:
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
- Decreased urine output
- No wet diapers for three hours for infants
- Few or no tears when crying
- Dry skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
“Every day you lose water through your breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. For your body to function properly, you must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water” says advanced practice nurse practitioner, Kori Barry, of the Platteville Clinic.
So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly about 12-13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day and for women that number is about 9 cups (2.2 liters). This chart does a good job of estimating how much water you should consume daily depending on your classification:
Dr. Anna’s tips for preventing heat-related illnesses include:
- Maintaining proper hydration – Active people should stay hydrated with 6 to 20 ounces of water one to two hours prior to being outdoors. While outside, you should consume 6 to 12 ounces every 10 to 15 minutes. Once inside, you should drink more water to replace what you lost. Drink enough so that your urine is pale yellow or clear.
- Avoid heat exposure
- Wear loose fitting and light colored clothing
As the temperature continues to climb this summer, be sure that you are drinking enough water, and know the signs of dehydration. To help myself remember to stay water-logged, I recently downloaded a pretty cool app that tracks my hydration levels (based on my body type) and reminds me when to drink up. It’s called iDrated (clever, right?) and you can download it from the app store. You might even find that adding a little extra hydration could also improve your skin tone, help you maintain a healthy weight, and even improve your mental function. So raise your glass [of water] – Cheers!
If drinking water is too bland for you, try infusing it with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Here are some recipes from InfusedWaters.com.