Drinking water is vital to our health— and to stay alive! The human body requires a lot of water to function properly, including keeping cells alive and maintaining a suitable internal temperature. Water makes up 60% of our bodies’ weight, and a person may only survive for a few days without water. That being said, dehydration levels vary from person to person, as each person has a different tolerance level for dehydration.
We all know that water is important for survival. So why is it so hard to drink enough water? Nearly everyone can be guilty of not drinking enough water in a day. Let’s dive into how water is essential for optimal health and how you can determine how much your body needs, as we are all different.
What is Water?
First things first— let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Water, as defined by Britannica, is “a substance composed of the chemical elements hydrogen and oxygen and existing in gaseous, liquid, and solid states. It is one of the most plentiful and essential compounds. A tasteless and odorless liquid at room temperature, it has the important ability to dissolve many other substances.”
A total of 21 minerals can be found in water, including calcium, zinc, sodium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and other trace elements known to be essential for humans. As our body can’t produce these minerals on our own, we must get them from outside sources like water and food. Drinking water that has minerals in it increases the bioavailability of the minerals we take in daily.
What is the Function of Water in the Body?
Water is by far the most important nutrient for the body. You can go eight weeks without food but a few days without water! It makes up approximately 60% of our total body mass, and it’s found in all tissues of our body. Almost all of the human body’s major systems depend on water to function and survive. In fact, our hearts and brains are both nearly 75% water, our muscles, kidneys, and lugs are nearly 80% water, and curiously water makes up over 60% of our skin and 30% of our bones. We are made of water.
The functions of water in your body:
- Transports nutrients
- Flushes toxins
- Lubricates joints
- Maintains normal electrical properties of the cells
- Enables cellular hydration
- Regulates body temperature
- Absorbs shocks to joints
- Improves oxygen delivery to cells
- Empowers the body’s natural healing process (this is my favorite)
How Much Water Should I Drink a Day?
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is “about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men. About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.” However, the amount of water a person should drink does vary from person to person. This depends on the number of your health conditions, height and weight, environment, and also your activity level. According to the Institute of Medicine, “pregnant women should drink 10 cups of water daily, and breastfeeding women should drink 12 cups… and kids and teens should drink 6 to 8 cups of water a day.”
If you read these numbers and think it’s impossible to drink 3.7 liters a day—that’s drinking a whole gallon of water each and every day! There is a silver lining here. You don’t have to consume all the water in liquid form! Eating fresh fruits and vegetables helps with daily water intake. Cucumbers are 95% water! The are some of the fruits and vegetables that have the highest concentration of water are cucumbers, tomatoes, watercress, apples, celery, lettuce, melons, peaches, and oranges.
You can also drink homemade fruit smoothies, coconut water, or broth to ramp up your hydration levels.
What Are the Symptoms of Dehydration?
If you lose more water than you take in, then dehydration is right around the corner. While diarrhea, infections, vomiting, and fevers can cause dehydration— so can not drinking enough water, especially when exercising or when in hot climates.
Are Sodas and Soft Drinks Hydrating?
For those of you who are drinking soft drinks, we would love for you to try to STOP!
These “drinks” are made with nothing but chemicals that interfere with the production of HCL (stomach acid), and it may prevent the body’s ability to use calcium. Aspartame is horrible! Studies have shown that it has at least 92 different side effects. Aspartame eventually changes to methanol, which converts to formaldehyde and formic acid. As crazy as it sounds—diet soft drinks also dehydrate you. These chemicals truly cause an addiction.
What Should I Drink if I Don’t Like Drinking Plain Water?
Try switching to sparkling water and adding fresh lime or lemon juice to it. Another thing you can do to water is to infuse it with cucumber and mint for a refreshing taste, or try strawberries and mint. If you’re looking for something sweet and bubbly, try adding a few drops of your favorite flavored Stevia to sparkling water.
Is There a Right Way or Wrong Way to Drink Water?
Is it better to drink water quickly or slowly? There actually is a right and wrong way to drink water! It’s important to drink water slowly, sipping it throughout the day. In fact, sipping water and allowing it to stay in the mouth for a moment and then swallowing it helps the alkaline saliva to travel to the stomach, which neutralizes the acid levels in our stomachs. If you drink water too quickly, the water runs straight down the throat, which means that it doesn’t carry saliva to the stomach.
Moreover, you shouldn’t drink more than approximately one liter an hour. This gives our kidneys time to excrete all the excess water promptly. If water is drunk too quickly, it could lead to overhydration.
Moral of the story? Don’t chug your water. Sip it throughout the day, so your body has time to absorb and digest it.
Can I Drink Too Much Water?
Yes! You can drink too much water. As we just touched on, our kidneys can only process about 1 liter of water an hour. If too much water is consumed too quickly, it also dilutes the sodium content in the blood. This is called hyponatremia, and it can be deadly! A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight by two, that’s the number of ounces of water that your body needs per day.
What Are the Benefits of Drinking Water?
There are so many benefits of drinking water that go well past merely avoiding the consequences of dehydration. Water helps us maximize our physical performance and positively affects our energy levels and brain function. The status of our hydration strongly impacts our body and brain. Take, for example, this scientific study that found that young women found that fluid loss of just 1.4% after exercise altered their mood and concentration and increased the number of headaches they suffered. There are other studies that have shown that mild dehydration can affect brain performance, mood, and memory. There is also evidence that proves that drinking the proper amount of water helps to treat kidney stones, relieves constipation, and helps to prevent and treat headaches.
The True Power of Hydration
Water is the key to our survival. We can survive much longer without food than we can without water. Staying hydrated has incredible benefits, from flushing out toxins to nourishing our cells to helping our brain and body to be well. The true power of hydration is in your hands— or in your glass of water.