Step one on my journey to health and recovery after my prolonged illness has been increasing my water consumption. I live at 10,000 feet up in the mountains and struggle to stay hydrated. Pair that with my hypothyroidism and it only serves to exacerbate my brittle hair and nails, dry skin and other issues.
The importance of drinking water is without a doubt. Our bodies are comprised of between 60-78% water depending on age. Water helps our bodies regulate our temperatures, lubricates and cushions joints, protects our spinal cords and sensitive tissues, and helps our bodies purge toxins and wastes (through urination, perspiration, spit and bowel movements). Not to mention it helps minimize wrinkles, replenishes skin and gives a person that healthy glow. But keeping hydrated can be difficult in our frenzied lives.
We are losing fluids continuously, from sweat evaporation, breathing, urine, and bowel movements. These losses must be replaced daily for good health.
Recently I asked my friends on Facebook how much water I should be drinking and how much was too much. If ten people answered, there were ten different answers. But all agreed that drinking more was best. I decided to Google-Fu the most accurate information.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake for the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need is:
- About 15.5 cups (124 oz.) of fluids for men.
- About 11.5 cups (92 oz.) of fluids a day for women.
These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food. About 20 percent of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.
So how do we know if we’re drinking enough? By the time we feel thirsty, we’re already becoming dehydrated. And unless you are taking medications that make you thirsty, you should listen to those cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk, coffee — anything but alcohol.
Unfortunately alcohol interferes with the brain and kidney communication and causes excess excretion of fluids which can then lead to dehydration. The more you know!
The Mayo Clinic says anyone can become dehydrated, but certain people are at greater risk:
- Infants and children.The most likely group to experience severe diarrhea and vomiting, infants and children are especially vulnerable to dehydration. Having a higher surface area to volume area, they also lose a higher proportion of their fluids from a high fever or burns. Young children often can’t tell you that they’re thirsty, nor can they get a drink for themselves.
- Older adults.As you age, your body’s fluid reserve becomes smaller, your ability to conserve water is reduced and your thirst sense becomes less acute. These problems are compounded by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia, and by the use of certain medications. Older adults also may have mobility problems that limit their ability to obtain water for themselves.
- People with chronic illnesses.Having uncontrolled or untreated diabetes puts you at high risk of dehydration. Kidney disease also increases your risk, as do medications that increase urination. Even having a cold or sore throat makes you more susceptible to dehydration because you’re less likely to feel like eating or drinking when you’re sick.
- People who work or exercise outside.When it’s hot and humid, your risk of dehydration and heat illness increases. That’s because when the air is humid, sweat can’t evaporate and cool you as quickly as it normally does, and this can lead to an increased body temperature and the need for more fluids.
You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment.
Here’s Some Tips to Help You Drink More
If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
- Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
- Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
- Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.
- Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, go for non-caloric beverages or water.
- Invest in a juicer and drink your vegetables. This is especially useful for folks who just don’t like to eat them.
- Freeze some freezer safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
- Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. This can also help with weight management. Substituting water for one 20-ounce sugar sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories. For example, during the school day students should have access to drinking water, giving them a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Choose water when eating out. Generally, you will save money and reduce calories.
- Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do. Other alternatives you can add to your water to improve or change the flavor include cucumbers, celery and strawberries (I’ve been told they taste good, but that the strawberries tend to get mushy quickly).
Sources: The Mayo Clinic, the CDC, WebMD