Every health expert knows the vital importance of proper hydration to health. This simply boils down to drinking enough water during the day. However, how much water a person drinks depends on a variety of factors.
As far as anyone knows, no living thing can exist without water. Creatures such as tardigrades can live as long as 30 years without water, but even they will die if they do not have water eventually. But animals such as humans can’t live more than a few days without hydration. Some of the reasons why are:
- Water, made of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom, is a fairly brutal solvent as far as chemicals go. This helps it break down food into proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients and get them it to the blood stream, which then carries the nutrients into the cells of the body. At the same time, water helps to carry away toxins and waste products from the cells to the lungs, skin and kidneys to be excreted. Water helps to push solid waste through the small and large intestines. Without water, living things would have a difficult time receiving nutrients and would be poisoned by their own waste.
- Another job of water is to lubricate the bodily systems. Without water, the lungs could not expand and contract, the joints couldn’t move, and the spinal cord and other organs and tissues would be far more vulnerable to injury than they are.
- Water helps organisms regulate their internal temperature. A human’s body temperature stays at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit whether the air temperature is hot or cold because of water’s effects on bodily temperature regulators and the ability to lose excess heat through perspiration.
How Much to Drink?
Most people do not drink the amount of water needed by their bodies, as the water that the body excretes can add up to one or two quarts a day. Some experts believe that a healthy adult should drink half an ounce of water a day per pound of body weight. So a 150 pound person should drink a little over 2 quarts of water every day. Athletes should drink about 2/3 ounce of water for every pound. So an athlete who weighs 150 pounds should drink a little over 3 quarts of water a day. A person’s need for water may increase if they’re ill, if they’re dieting, under stress or living in a hot and dry climate. Pregnant, nursing and menstruating women also need more water.
People who are overweight sometimes believe that not drinking lots of water will help them lose weight. Instead, it makes them look even heavier because the body is retaining the water that it has. Indeed, drinking an extra glass of water a day or eating foods with lots of water, such as lettuce, can help a person lose weight.
Elderly people are especially at risk for not getting enough water. Sometimes this is because they simply don’t realize that they’re thirsty. The signs and symptoms of dehydration can mimic those of dementia. The person may be confused and fatigued. Other signs to look for are dry mouth, dark urine, sunken eyes, wrinkled skin and fast heart rate and breathing.
Foods provide water, and some foods have a surprising amount of water in them. A potato, for example, is 75 percent water. Water is also a by-product of the body burning fuel.
Experts claim that nothing beats plain water when it comes to hydration. Fruit juices and soft drinks are full of sugar. Coffee and tea have caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, which increases the body’s need for water. Sports drinks are good for people who are depleted of electrolytes, which are ions that help send the necessary electrical signals throughout the body. These might be athletes, people who work out or people who are recovering from an illness or condition that has depleted them such as diarrhea.
However, doctors say that if a person is really thirsty it’s acceptable to reach for just about any beverage save alcohol. Alcohol is also a diuretic and consuming it simply causes the body to excrete too much water and puts a person at risk for dehydration.
How to Get Enough Water
One way for a person to get enough water is to carry a bottle of water whenever they leave the house. A good idea is to freeze the bottle and grab it just before leaving the house. The water should be put in a bottle that can withstand freezing. A glass bottle full of water is likely to crack when it’s frozen.
Opt for water over other beverages, whether at work, school or dining out. Some people find the taste of water too bland for them. A slice of lemon or a sprig of lemon verbena placed in the water will liven it up.