Most people are aware that they need eight to ten glasses of water a day in order to keep their body well hydrated. However, many are negligent with this and often deprive the body of the water it needs. People give many reasons why they don’t like to drink water, not realizing they are depriving their body of something that is vital to their health and even their life. You can live for several weeks without food if you continue to drink water and are in reasonably good heath. However, you can live only a few days without water. The need for water to sustain life is secondary only to the need for air.
If you are an average-size adult, about 60 to 70 percent of your body is made of water. This equates to approximately two thirds of your body weight. Your brain actually is composed of about 85% water, and your muscles contain around 70% water.
Why don’t we drink more water?
Many people have an aversion to drinking water, or rather they do not like the fact that it really does not have a taste, odor or “kick” to it. Because of this, when they are thirsty they substitute and drink other liquids such as sodas, tea or coffee. The problem with this habit is that these beverages contain caffeine. Caffeine can actually cause you to lose more water because of its diuretic properties.
According to the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension, although it is said that the body needs approximately 8 to 10 glasses of water daily, this will vary based on many factors, including the person’s age, health, weight, and even the climate they live in. Regardless of these differences, however, the body still has a certain amount of water that it needs daily. Pure water is the best to drink. However, liquids and other foods such as milk, juice, fruit, bread, soups and other beverages do contain water.
How our body uses water
Since the body requires about two and a half quarts of water each day, it is apparent that water commands many uses within the body. Some of these uses are as follows:
– It acts as a lubricant for the joints of the body
– It transports nutrients through the body
– It regulates body temperature
– It keeps the mucous membranes of the body moist
– It helps with elimination of waste materials from the body
– It is essential for cellular metabolism and chemical reactions in the body
– It assists with digestion
How the body loses water
There are several ways the body loses water. It can lose water through perspiration, through breathing, and through urination and defecation. The amount of water we lose daily may vary based on many factors. More importantly, however, is that this water has to be replaced each day. It does not take a day to cause dehydration. For example, if a person is out running on a very hot day, he may become dangerously dehydrated and actually collapse from heat stroke or heat exhaustion because of excessive water loss.
Symptoms of dehydration
According to Medicine Net, signs of dehydration are very specific and are the body’s way of signaling you that you need to drink more water. The body will initially try to compensate for the lack of fluid by initiating measures to retain water within the system. It does this first by letting you know you’re thirsty. This will be your first signal that you need to go get a glass of water. At the point you first become thirsty you are already mildly dehydrated. According to All About Water, over one percent of the body’s water has been lost when you initially feel thirsty.
As the dehydration progresses, you may develop a headache and dry mouth. Other symptoms can include a decrease in your urine output. You will urinate less frequently because the body is trying to retain as much water as it can. Your urine will be more concentrated and the color of your urine will become darker. You might also begin to experience some lightheadedness and rapid heart rate. Also common is a decrease in tears, or dry eyes. Your skin will become dry also and lose its elasticity. Muscle cramping in your arms, back or legs might also be a sign of moderate dehydration, especially when you consider that your muscles contain about 70% water. You may also be restless or irritable, not understanding that it is related to a decrease of water in your system.
Certain acute medical conditions or emergencies can cause you to become dangerously dehydrated. Excessive vomiting or diarrhea from illness or hemorrhaging from acute injuries or accidents can lead to a condition known as hypovolemic shock. Symptoms can include fainting, unconsciousness, rapid, shallow breathing, low blood pressure and no urine output. These cases are true emergencies and if the symptoms are not corrected immediately, it can lead to death.
In closing, most people do not realize that over a long period of time they can do serious compromise to their body by not keeping their body well-hydrated. If you have been negligent in this area, make it a point to optimize your health by drinking more water. Here are some tips to help to reach that goal:
Tips for maintaining good water balance
Be determined to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day.
Drink extra water when you exercise.
Drink extra water on hot days to replenish what your body loses when you perspire.
Start the day with 2 glasses of water. Spread out the remaining glasses of water throughout the day, drinking 2 glasses of water with each meal.
Keep a water bottle with you. That way you will always have water handy and can drink it any time you need to.
Use a water bottle that has measurement lines. If you have a large one-quart bottle, you know you will need to drink at least two to 2-1/2 of those by the end of the day.
Teach your children the importance of drinking water and help them to develop this habit early in life.
All About Water: “20 interesting facts about water”
Medicine Net: “Dehydration”
University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension: “Water, the nutrient”