Positive Effects of Proper Hydration
There is a common piece of advice that you should drink 8 glasses of water every day. That can seem like a lot, but much of that water can come from the food that you consume, especially fruits and vegetables. The rest should come from fluids, but some may be taken as coffee or tea.
The point is that maintaining proper hydration should be a priority because it will help your body perform better. Water plays an essential role in maintaining body temperature, joint lubrication, immune function and digestion. Loss of even a minor amount of water can greatly diminish these critical functions, making you more tired and unhealthy.
How Water Keeps You Healthy
Eight glasses of water every day sounds like a lot (there is some debate about the exact number), but it is important to remember that you are constantly losing water through respiration, skin evaporation, urine and stool. You need to be replenishing this lost water so that your body can continue performing optimally.
This fluid loss is accelerated if you live in a hotter climate, you are exercising strenuously, or live at higher altitude. If you are an older adult, you are especially at risk of dehydration because you may not be as sensitive to thirst.
In addition to system function, water plays a key role in weight loss. It is a well established fact that drinking plenty of water and eating water-rich foods can help suppress hunger. Fruits and vegetables that are high in water take up more volume, require more energy to chew, and are digested more slowly.
If you are an athlete, you should pay special attention to your fluid levels. Muscle performance drops significantly when they lack water. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you drink 17 ounces of water two hours prior to exercise; you should also be constantly hydrating throughout the exercise period to replenish lost fluids.
Water plays an important role in your appearance as well. Your skin normally retains a lot of water, but if you become dehydrated, then your skin may appear dry and wrinkled.
You probably already know this, but your kidneys remove excess nitrogen and other toxins from your body. It then expels these poisons from your body in the form of urine, but this function is only maintained if there is enough water.
Finally, water sustains healthy bowel function. Without sufficient water, your gastrointestinal tract doesn’t function properly. If you are dehydrated then your body will pull water from your stool which can lead to constipation.
Key Benefits of Staying Hydrated
There are many benefits to keeping your fluid levels topped off, including
- Better joint function—the cartilage that lines most of your joints is about 80 percent water. The more hydrated you are, the better your knees and shoulders will feel.
- Healthier teeth—the more water you drink, the more saliva you will produce which keeps your mouth lubricated. This saliva and the water itself will help clean your mouth and reduce friction on dental surfaces.
- Promotes oxygenation—because the primary oxygen transport mechanism is your blood which is 90 percent water, the more hydrated you are, oxygen is transported more efficiently.
- Better cognition—water is essential for hormone and neurotransmitter production, both of which are key to thinking and reasoning.
- Heat regulation—water is necessary for heat regulation, so if dehydration occurs, then you could overheat and suffer serious injury.
- Promotes respiratory function—your lungs and airways are lined with fluid which are necessary for gas exchange and immune response. That is why dehydration can make asthma and allergies worse.
- Prevents kidney stones—you need proper water levels to maintain kidney function. Otherwise, you could leave mineral deposits in your kidneys which can lead to kidney stones.
- Limits hangovers—if you have consumed alcohol you can reduce the chances of getting a hangover if you also drink enough water.
How to Stay Hydrated
At this point, you hopefully agree that optimal hydration is good for your health, but what is “optimal?” Everyone is different, so it is important to find out what is a good amount of water for you daily. You can begin by asking your doctor what is appropriate for you.
Also keep in mind that this amount can vary depending on the weather and how strenuous your activities are. You should also consider if any medications you are taking may be affecting your hydration levels.
Initially, you may want to include drinks that you like. This may include sodas and fruit juices, but keep in mind that these sugary drinks can lead to diabetes, so it is better to taper them off if you can. You may enjoy coffee or tea, but caffeinated drinks can make you jittery, raise your blood pressure and cause insomnia, so use them in moderation.
You may even include alcohol in your water schedule, but only modest amounts. Although it is a myth that alcohol and caffeine dehydrates you—there is considerably more water content than you expel—but these kinds of drinks carry health risks that are probably not worth it merely for hydration.
Don’t forget to include foods like fruits and vegetables that are high in water. Much of the water you need comes from meals. You should limit your salt intake with foods as too much sodium can dehydrate you.
One of the best ways to ward off dehydration is to keep a water bottle with you throughout the day and make a habit of taking a few sips every few minutes. If you are engaging in strenuous activities, then you may want to switch to a sports drink that is rich in electrolytes and increase your intake.
You should also pay special attention to your hydration levels when you wake up. It is recommended that you drink a glass of water to replenish the water you lost to sweat, urination and defecation. This is even more important if you work out in the morning.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees. The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship. Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA, and you should not post any of your private health information.