by Kimberly Allen, RN
One of the first things many of us remember learning in science class is that our bodies are approximately 70% water. However, many of us were never sure why that is so important. Well, for one thing there is only one thing we need more than water to survive and that is oxygen.
Water is the main component in our cells that allows them to communicate with each other. Water is required for nearly all of our body’s functions. Any alteration in the level of water has varying degrees of detrimental effects on health. Dehydration, lack of water in the body, is the most common water related health risk. However, there are cases of people dying from drinking too much water, often as part of a fraternity pledge hazing ritual.
Still, people ask do I really need 8 glasses of water a day? There’s no one answer to that question, you may need less or you may need more. There are numerous factors to consider, in addition to your overall health and any medications you may be taking there is the environment, is it a hot day? Are you exercising increasing perspiration? For example, athletes, especially when training, should consume as much as 90 ounces or more of water depending on how much they perspire.
Another thing many people don’t think about is coffee and soda. How much coffee do you drink a day? If you drink 3 or more cups of coffee a day that is considered a lot. How many can’s of soda are you drinking a day? Sodas, whether regular or diet, are related to numerous health problems including dehydration. The main reason people that drink lots of coffee and or soda is that they are using these beverages to replace water intake to maintain hydration. Remember, caffeine is a diuretic so drinking large amounts of coffee and soda can significantly upset the water balance in your body. It’s important for everyone to understand that you can only rehydrate with water, other liquids are not effective and may actually worsen dehydration.
So how important is water? Water is felt to be such a significant factor in the everyday functions of our body’s that one doctor wrote an entire book on how it affects us. Dr. Batmanghelidj has expensively studied the effects of water on the human body and made numerous discoveries. One of the main focuses of his book is that water is one of nature’s best pain relievers. And believe me, as a person with rhumatoid arthritis, I suffer with chronic joint pain and I can always tell when I need to drink more water. Also, when I start getting a headache I’ll drink down a glass of water instead of taking acetaminophen and 99% of the time the headache goes away before it really gets going.
In his book, Dr. Batmanghelidj tells how many people suffering from chronic aches and pains would improve their pain if they drank more water. In fact, people are sometimes misdiagnosed with a serious disease when in fact what they are suffering from is chronic dehydration. Dr. Batmanghelidj says that cholesterol is a crucial necessity that our body produces to repair and heal capillaries that get torn. Capillaries get torn because the blood has become more acidic and concentrated pushing through constricted blood vessels all of which occurs because of dehydration. If you maintain your hydration with water the balance in your bloodstream would be with in normal limits so there wouldn’t be the damage to the capillaries, therefore your body would not need to produce cholesterol to repair the damage.
Another benefit of water that many don’t think of is weight loss. Water is probably the most significant catalyst when it comes to not only losing weight but keeping it off as well. Water is a natural appetite suppressant and it also helps to metabolize stored fat. Studies have actually shown that when a person decreases their water intake fat deposits increase, while on the other side increasing water consumption reduces fat deposits. People that are over weight require more water as they have larger metabolic loads.
Don’t wait until you feel thirsty or your mouth is dry before you get a drink. By that time you are already dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water can increase your alertness better than a cup of coffee. There is no replacement for water when it comes to our body’s.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.