Water is one of the vital elements of life on earth. It’s also one of the most important nutrient for your body and does so much more than quench your thirst. It’s critical to our survival…hydrating us, bathing our cells, organs, and body systems so they can function properly. Water is us. We’re composed mostly of water: our brain, about 95 percent; our lungs, 90 percent; blood, 83 percent, muscles, 76 percent, and bones, 22 percent.
Being sufficiently hydrated maintains our body’s balance because we are constantly losing water by breathing, sweating, urinating, digesting nutrients…just by being alive. When we are not hydrated sufficiently, we risk dehydration, which throws a lot of body functions out of whack. Some of the more visible signs of dehydration are fatigue, dizziness, lack of focus, and fainting. But even if we don’t experience any of these symptoms, doesn’t mean we’re sufficiently hydrated.
Being hydrated is important to maintain body function and health. It’s like the oil that lubricates a car engine. Plenty of water in our system keeps all our gears operating at peak performance and prevents many health breakdowns. How much is enough? As a rule of thumb, eight 8-ounce glasses might be enough, but weight and activity level should also be factored in.
How Water Maintains Health
We sometimes use the words “water” and “hydration” interchangeably, but does water hydrate like other liquids? It turns out that not all fluids are equal when it comes to staying hydrated. Water, tea, juices, coffee, sugary soda, and foods do help hydrate the body, but pure water does it best. Caffeinated, alcoholic, and sugary drinks can work against hydration and can contribute to dehydration rather than reduce it. Drinking water is one of the safest and healthiest ways to hydrate for maintaining overall good health and energy level. Here are some of the benefits:
Controls weight. Sometimes feeling hungry is a signal that what we need isn’t food but water. Drinking can give you a satisfied feeling and keep you from over-eating. If you have hunger pangs or a craving to eat between meals, try drinking water first.
Regulates body temperature. Water stored below the skin comes to the surface when the body heats up and when we exert ourselves through breathing and exercise. When these activities reach a certain level, we sweat. As sweat evaporates, it cools the body.
Increases energy. The blood in our body, which is composed mostly of water, delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. And every cell in our body needs constant replenishment of these to function. By delivering ample oxygen and nutrients, cells can optimize performance, and especially during strenuous exercise, muscle cells need plenty to fight body fatigue. Athletes are well aware of the importance of drinking water to keep up their energy.
Flushes out toxins and waste. Staying well-hydrated can flush out waste. Water helps materials pass through and out of your body; it’s like the body’s transportation system. The bladder and kidneys are especially affected by insufficient hydration. And since these organs are critical for eliminating waste and toxins, we can be in danger without enough water.
Keeps airways unrestricted. Lubrication of our breathing passageways minimizes water loss and makes breathing easier. Not enough can aggravate asthma and allergies.
Reduces digestive problems. Drinking more water keeps us from having constipation as it flushes nutrients, metabolic waste, and possible toxins more quickly through the intestinal tract. It can help eliminate and reduce bloating, gas, acid reflux, and inflammatory conditions such as IBS.
Lubricates the joints. Water lubricates the joints, spinal discs, and cartilage, acting as a shock-absorber. If we don’t drink enough long term, we feel stiffness and pain in our joints. And when we put our joints through physical workouts or get injured, proper hydration helps speed up joint repair.
Makes for healthier skin. Insufficient hydration takes its toll and is reflected in how young or old we look. We can keep our skin less vulnerable to skin disorders and wrinkling by drinking more fluids.
Improves brain function. Hydration cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other tissues that are involved in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. It affects brain structure and function. With enough water daily, we can maintain healthy brains and nervous system.
Strengthens Immunity. Staying hydrated can help resist illnesses. As mentioned, water in the blood transports nutrients and oxygen to every organ and removes toxins like harmful bacteria and viruses out of the body. Keeping airways lubricated and well-functioning also minimizes germs from entering the body.
Water loss can be dramatic when the body is overheated. That’s why there’s a higher need to drink water when temperatures are high, when you’re exercising, when you’re in a higher altitude, when taking medications, and when you’re ill. All that huffing and puffing performing a sport, working a job, walking on a treadmill, jogging, and running needs to be counteracted with hydration to restore the water you lost while performing those activities. And when you’re ill, hydration replaces the loss of fluids when there’s fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Some tips to increase your fluid consumption:
- Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
- Choose beverages you enjoy so you're more likely to drink more.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20 percent of our fluid intake comes from foods.
- Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.
- Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you're watching calories, go for non-caloric beverages or water.