We may forget water's importance in maintaining optimal hydration. Dehydration is serious.
One of the most important nutrients in our diet is water. Good hydration includes drinking an adequate amount of water to supply our body’s needs. Water performs myriad bodily functions including: removes waste, carries oxygen to cells, regulates temperature and cushions joints.
Water is vital for good dental hygiene, as it thins mucous and various oral secretions to keep them from sticking to teeth, tongue and gums.
Did you know that water heightens alertness and ability to learn? It increases blood volume, which simultaneously increases availability of oxygen in blood.
Dry skin tears easily. Water improves texture of skin, which lowers potential of dry skin.
A little known benefit is that lack of fluids may cause difficulty sleeping. Also, adequate hydration is critical when taking medication in order to decrease the number of side effects.
It is difficult to pinpoint how much water an adult’s body contains. Best estimate is approximately 10-12 gallons.
When to Increase Fluid Intake
Most of us need 8-12 cups of water daily to maintain proper hydration levels. According to recommended guidelines, here are times to increase fluid intake:
• Extreme hot or cold weather. Our body works harder to regulate temperature during extreme weather exposure.
• Strenuous work or exercise. The body loses water through evaporation.
• Fever, diarrhea or vomiting causes body to lose water.
Water requirements increase with extra body weight and/or energy expended. Drink an additional 1-3 cups of water daily during extreme temperature, illness or intense activities.
When to Drink Water
The rule of thumb is: If you wait until you feel thirsty, you have already lost fluid and it may be too late to replace it.
Instead of waiting for the thirst signal, make a preemptive effort to drink fluids throughout the day. Milk and juice have high water content and “count” as part of your fluid intake. Caffeinated and/or alcoholic beverages act as diuretics, causing water loss through increased urination. Dark colored urine is an indicator that fluid intake should be increased.
How to Increase Hydration
• Drink water before meals. This also serves to decrease appetite.
• Drink water before, during and after strenuous activity.
• The American Dietetic Association advocates taking a supply of bottled water when traveling.
Symptoms of Dehydration
• Dark yellow or light brown and/or decreased amounts of urine.
• Sunken eyeballs.
• Chapped lips and/or dry, cracked skin.
• Lower than usual blood pressure.
• Dry, swollen tongue.
• If left untreated, could cause coma.
Water is such an ordinary beverage that we may forget its importance in maintaining optimal hydration. Be mindful that the consequences of dehydration are serious. Drink water!