By Dr. Nina Radcliff
You may know that water makes up about two-thirds of who we are – but did you know it influences 100 percent of the processes in our body? Yes, we are made of about 70% water! But did you know that our muscles and kidneys are about 75% water? Lungs about 83%? Brain cells about 85%? And even our bones are approximately 30%. That probably explains why we just feel better when we are drinking enough of it, every day.
Because of water’s abundant and varied functions in our body, it is a vital nutrient. Our body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. It is also used to lubricate the joints, protect the spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and assist the passage of food through the intestines. The excellent ability of water to dissolve so many substances allows our cells to use valuable nutrients, minerals, and chemicals in biological processes. In fact, to function properly, all the cells and organs of our body need water.
Every day, on an average, our body loses about 2 quarts of water through breathing, sweating, digestion – and it’s E-S-S-E-N-T-I-A-L that we rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain high water content (soups, tomatoes, oranges). Keeping hydrated has a huge impact on our overall health. However, despite how crucial water is, a significant number of people fail to consume recommended levels of fluids each day. To understand how water is helping us – here are some great reasons why we should be hydrating with clean, natural water right now:
Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know: About the Benefits of Drinking “Plenty” of Water
- Your Kidneys. Water is essential for the kidneys to function. Every day, the kidneys filter around 120-150 quarts of fluid. Of these, approximately 1-2 quarts are excreted in the form of urine, and 198 are recovered by the bloodstream. When dehydrated, our kidneys resort to desperate measures in order to conserve water—meaning, decreasing urine output. However, this can also result in the buildup of waste products, electrolyte imbalances, and, if severe, acute kidney failure. And, as we start seeing temperatures rise, so too the incidence of miserable kidney stones. When properly hydrated, we maintain good urine flow and this prevents the build-up of minerals within our kidneys that can form stones.
- Calories. Water is void of calories, the original and healthiest zero-calorie drink. As we know, our weight is dependent on the balance of calories consumed versus burned. And, when we take in more than we use as fuel, we gain weight. Too many drinks that we commonly reach for are laden with calories (and added sugar). The average can of soda contains approximately 140 calories; a glass of wine 140 calories; and 12-ounces of unsweetened apple juice 170 calories. And, if you think you are safe with a “diet” drink that gets its sweetness from artificial sweeteners and lacks calories, think again. Research shows that they are linked to weight gain. So, the next time we want to quench our thirst, consider reaching for a glass of no-calorie water.
- Combats Dehydration-Driven Sugar Cravings. H2O is essential to a number of our body’s chemical processes, including the ability to release and tap into energy stores. Glycogen is primarily found in the liver and is our main storage form of glucose. However, when we are dehydrated, our liver cannot release glycogen into the blood stream where it can be utilized as fuel. Consequently, our body sends signals to our brain that it needs to consume something sweet—STAT! So the next time you are craving for a cookie, pastry, or something with sugar, it may not be your sweet tooth you are trying to satisfy, but, instead, your thirst.
- Combat Headaches. Headaches are one of the first signs of dehydration and there are two possible theories for this. First, is that when we do not have enough water, our blood volume decreases, and in order to prevent inadequate blood and oxygen flow to our brain, the brain’s blood vessels compensate by dilating. This causes “crowding” and pain. The other theory is that dehydration results in electrolyte imbalance and stimulates the nerves in our brain to send pain signals.
- Keeps us looking young. Our skin cells can either maintain the form of a grape or a raisin, depending on our hydration. When we are properly hydrated, they are like a grape. And, when dehydrated, our cells are shriveled up and can make wrinkles we have appear more prominent. Drinking water can keep our fountain of youth from drying up.
- Healthy Digestion. When dehydrated, our body resorts to extreme measures to conserve water. This includes “pulling” or “absorbing” water from stool before it exits our digestive tract. The result is hardening and decreased transit time of “poop”—also known as constipation.
- Stroke and Survival After Stroke. In studies by leading centers including one out of Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that nearly half of patients who presented with a stroke due to a clot were dehydrated. And, too, they did worse in the long run.
- Concentration and Energy. Approximately 80 to 85 percent of our brain’s weight comes from water. So it is no surprise that when our water levels are low, our brain function is affected–chemical production that signals between brain cells and nerve transmission that is responsible for thinking, movement, and memory. And when you are feeling sluggish, like your energy has been zapped or tired – this, too, is a sign of dehydration and time to reach for some clean, natural water.
Too many are living in a mildly dehydrated state–impacting their health with various irritations like headaches, joint pain, low energy, digestive issues…the list goes on. I consider H20 one of the essential building blocks of good health. Clean, natural water is important for all of us, every day! And do check the source of your water. One of the best waters you can drink is filtered water. And don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water as that generally means you have waited too long and are probably already dehydrated.
An age-old question is how much water is enough? The answer is not as simple as we often hear. The recommended amount of water that should be drunk everyday varies from person to person depending on factors such as level of activity, weight, diet and surrounding temperature. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), an estimated adequate intake for men is approximately 13 cups a day. For women, an adequate intake is around 9 cups. And while we have often heard the directive: “Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day” (and it is close to the IOM’s recommendation for women), drinking “8 by 8” is an easy-to-remember amount that can help people on the right track in terms of water consumption.
Take time – and take note – to ensure you are getting enough. One guideline is to drink water in the morning, when you wake and too, 30 minutes before meals and about an hour or two after meals (aim not to drink excessive amounts after 7 p.m. as it may interfere with your sleep). If you find in your day, you have had very little water, I encourage you to set a timer or a smartphone reminder. The goal is to be properly hydrated, everyday – it can make a world of difference in your overall health. Make a commitment today!!
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.