It is summer in the northern hemisphere. The temperatures are hotter than usual, especially with climate change. So now, more than ever, we need to focus on drinking enough water.
Water, H2O, is an essential nutrient. That means we cannot produce enough from our body processes to sustain ourselves. Furthermore, we can’t get enough just from eating solid food. We must drink enough water to meet our body’s needs.
An easy way to know how much water you need daily is to take half your weight in pounds. That is the number of ounces you should drink every day. For example, a person weighing 200lbs should drink 100 ounces of water per day.
While a person can drink too much water, it is pretty rare. When it does occur, it is often in athletes who over-hydrate or as a result of certain forms of mental illness. It usually comes from drinking more than 1 liter of water per hour, over several hours. However, most healthy people will not drink too much water under normal circumstances.
On the other hand, dehydration is relatively common. It occurs when we take in less water than we use in metabolism and lose through breath, urine, sweat, and feces. Even though we can survive for days drinking less than the recommended amount, long term dehydration can lead to big problems like:
- Heat injury. Heat injury occurs when we don’t drink enough and sweat heavily. Heat injury can range between mild heat cramps to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
- Urinary and kidney problems. Chronic or recurring dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure.
- Seizures. Dehydration can throw our electrolytes, like potassium and sodium, out of balance. These imbalances can cause changes in the way our nervous system signals our brains and muscles. The changes can lead to seizures with possible loss of consciousness or death.
- Hypovolemic shock or low blood volume shock. One of the most dangerous consequences of dehydration—decreased volume of blood—causes our blood pressure to drop too low. This can be life-threatening.
There are also more subtle effects of long-term dehydration. These are things you might not associate with low water intake: dry eyes, cysts in the oil glands of the eyelids, dry skin, acne, and skin eruptions, wrinkles and fine lines in the skin, fatigue, headaches, constipation, persistent bad breath, mental fog, moodiness and depression, thickening of the blood, and faster than usual heart rate.
Of course, drinking water does not guarantee we won’t experience all these ailments but, we can stack the deck in our favor.
Water has absolutely magical effects on the human body! When we drink adequate amounts of water, it can help us:
- Lose weight by helping us feel full with no added calories.
- Burn more calories by supporting our ability to convert food into useable energy. Research shows that by drinking water, we can increase our metabolism by up to 30 percent.
- Make exercise more effective. We must replace the water lost during training. Sweetened and artificially colored energy drinks and sports drinks can require the body to use more water to break them down before the water can be extracted from them. We can avoid all that by drinking water, plain and simple.
- Increase mental alertness. When we drink water, it also hydrates our brain cells. When the brain is fully hydrated, we can move nutrients into the brain. We can also flush out toxins most efficiently. Higher levels of nutrients and lower levels of toxins lead to better concentration and mental clarity.
- Decrease body pain by lubricating joints and helping decrease inflammation. It also helps remove toxins from the body through the lymphatic system.
The above is only a partial list of the effects of adequate and inadequate water intake. There is so much more to learn. I recommend you sneak over to Netflix and watch Down to Earth, episode 2. It presents a fantastic story about water from a perspective that most US residents don’t consider.