The Importance of Water for Your Health
As spring and summer approach here in Tallahassee, we often spend more time under the sun and engaged in physical activities. It’s vital that you keep your body well hydrated.
Why is water so important for our health? Just look at how many body systems are structured with water as a key component…
Brain: 85% water
Blood: 83% water
Muscles: 75% water
Bones: 35% water
So you can see the health of your body would be dramatically affected without proper hydration. For example, even mild dehydration slows your metabolism by 3%. It’s also the biggest trigger of daytime fatigue.
Although you might assume you only need water when you’re thirsty, you would be making a dangerous assumption. By the time you feel thirst, your body is already in the process of dehydration. The shocking truth is 75% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated.
All of the following bodily functions depend on hydration:
Digestion. This process begins with saliva production in the mouth. Made up of almost 100% water, saliva makes food easier to swallow. Water also allows for vitamins to be absorbed by the body, especially water-soluble vitamin C and the B vitamins. Without water, digestion of these vitamins would be like trying to digest rock.
Circulation. Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to every tissue of the body. Without blood, tissues would starve. Blood also carries hormones and other important cellular messengers. The flowing nature of water allows these messengers to circulate through the bloodstream.
Nervous system function. The brain is the master regulator of bodily functions, and communicates with the rest of the body via the nervous system. Nerves, and the transmission of nerve impulses, depend largely on the electrostatic properties of water. And because water is a good conductor, a more hydrated tissue allows for easier transmission of these nerve impulses.
Metabolic waste. The lymphatic system, the kidneys and the large intestine all work together to rid the body of metabolic waste. The lymphatic system reabsorbs extracellular fluid back into the circulatory system, ensuring that an adequate amount of fluid remains in the blood. The kidneys filter blood, eliminating unwanted materials and maintaining an appropriate electrolyte balance.
The large intestines rid the body of any digested material that is not absorbed by the small intestine. And it also serves to reabsorb sufficient quantities of water when necessary. Without water, waste material would build up to toxic levels.
Body movement and joint function.
Almost every movable joint in the body is soaking with a substance called synovial fluid. It’s comprised almost entirely of water and resembles a balloon squished between two surfaces. The synovium provides cushioning and absorbs the compressive load that the two joint surfaces experience. In addition, synovial fluid helps deliver nutrients to the bones and cartilage of the joint.
Without proper hydration, the spinal joints can become very stiff and lead to injury or early degeneration. In fact, preliminary research indicates that eight to ten glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
What Is a Healthy Amount of Water to Drink?
Some health experts recommend a person drink at least 8 to 12 cups (2 to 3 liters) of water per day, depending upon activity levels and environmental temperatures. To allow for differences in body sizes, the experts suggest that a person’s minimum water requirements (in ounces) every 24-hour cycle should equal one-half of that person’s body weight (in pounds). For example, a 200-pound man should drink at least 100 ounces of water per day (2.9 liters).
Dr. Lowery recommends the following tips to keep you optimally hydrated:
- Start your day with one to two glasses of water every morning.
- Carry a bottle of water with you (a stainless steel container is best).
- Drink extra water before exercising or if the temperature is hot. Avoid drinks with a high sugar content.
- Minimize the consumption of tea, coffee, and alcohol. Although they are primarily water, these drinks also contain diuretics, which cause the body to lose more water than it absorbs from these fluids.