Water: It really does a body good!Posted: August 13, 2011 | Author: onhc | Filed under: Blog | Comments Off on Water: It really does a body good!
This summer has been extremely hot and humid in the Athens, GA area, and we are nowhere near the end of it yet. The entire nation has been experiencing exceptionally high temperatures. In this weather it’s easy to get dehydrated. Easier than you think.
Mild dehydration in adults occurs when the body has lost about 2% of it’s fluid–that can happen easily in this weather if one is not paying attention to the signs and symptoms.
Typically, with mild dehydration the symptoms are:
2. Loss of appetite
3. Dark colored urine
4. Muscle weakness or fatigue
5. Head rushes
With more severe dehydration, when the body has lost about 5% of it’s fluid, the symptoms get worse:
1. Increased heart rate
2. Increased respiration
3. Decreased sweating
4. Decreased urination
5. Increased body temperature
6. Extreme fatigue
7. Severe muscle cramps
10. Tingling in arms and legs.
The more severe the dehydration, the more severe the signs and symptoms become. When the body has lost about 10% of it’s fluid the severity of dehydration could be fatal and is, at the least, an emergency situation.
This type of acute dehydration is more common in the elderly than in younger adults, however, there is a second type of dehydration that is far too common in young adults and middle-age adults. Chronic dehydration is more common than you might realize and many of you may recognize the symptoms of this less obvious form of dehydration as your own.
Chronic dehydration has a long list of possible symptoms including, but certainly not limited to:
3. Low or high blood pressure
4. Joint pain
6. Little or no thirst
9. Dry skin
10. Dark (vs. Clear) urine
If you think, after reading this list, that you could be chronically dehydrated, commit to a trial of drinking an adequate amount of water daily for one month and see how many symptoms improve. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Keep reading.
Below, I’ll answer some common questions about rehydration, but first, let’s take a look at why water is so important to us and how it functions in our bodies. First, it’s important to realize that our bodies are Between 55% and 78% water, depending on size. Our brains are right at 90% water, muscles are about 75% water, blood comes in at 83%, and our bones at 22% water. The water in our body functions to regulate our body temperature, transport nutrients and oxygen into cells, protect and moisturize our joints, and moisten the air in our lungs. Above and beyond these essential roles, water also helps our organs absorb nutrients better and helps with metabolism and detoxification. Without water we would die; With a deficit of it, we can not experience optimal health. So what is a deficit, and how much water do we need. I’ll answer that and other questions below.
Common questions regarding water and proper hydration:
Q: Is thirst a good indicator of when I need to drink water?
A: Thirst doesn’t develop until body fluids are already depleted well below the level needed for optimal functioning. If you are thirsty, your cells are already dehydrated. The best way to ensure optimal hydration is to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Q. How much water do I need to drink each day for optimal hydration?
A. Most of us have heard that 8 glasses of water per day is the magic number, but it’s not hard to see that we are not a one-size-fits-all population. A 120 lb. female athlete, a petite eighty two year woman, and a 200 lb. man who works outside in Athens, GA during the summer clearly need different amounts of water. A better way to determine how much water you really need is to divide your weight by half–the answer you get is, approximately, the number of water ounces you need to drink daily under normal conditions. Clearly, you will need to adjust depending on the temperature, the humidity, how often you exercise, and how intense your work-outs are. There are other factors that come into play as well, including your basic physiology; however, the variables mentioned above are the most important ones to consider when determining optimal water intake. Some training athletes, for example, will need as much as one ounce of water per pound of body weight for optimal hydration.
Q. Do water based beverages such as coffee and tea count toward my water intake for the day?
A. While an occasional glass of iced tea may help hydrate you in the moment, don’t count on these caffeinated beverages to replenish you body fluids. It’s true that these beverages are water based, but the diuretics contained in these caffeinated drinks actually flush water out of the body. Other beverages that act as diuretics include sodas and alcoholic beverages. The fact is, what our bodies need most is pure, clean water.
Q. What type of water should I be drinking?
A. A comprehensive answer to this question is beyond the depth of this blog, however, the following information might help you decide. For those that have specific health needs and can afford the added cost, deep spring water, glacial water, and natural mineral water are ideal choices. Filtered municipal (tap) water is also good. Reverse osmosis (RO) filtration is one of the best types as it removes chemicals, chlorine, heavy metals, most microbes, and more. There are many different types of filtration systems from whole house RO systems to kitchen sink systems to basic water pitcher filters. Of course they vary greatly in quality and price. Most importantly, don’t let cost get in the way of staying well hydrated for optimal health. Rehydration can come straight from the tap. It should be noted, while considering cost, that some bottled water, including Aquafina and Dasani are simply purified tap water. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something worth considering.
Q. When should drink water?
A. The best answer is: all day long. Start the morning off with a glass of water–before any other morning beverage. Always drink water before and after meals to help with digestion. Drinking water after exercise is something most of us know to do, but hydrating your tissues before a work-out is just as important. Keep a bottle (a recycled glass bottle or lidded jar works great!) beside you while you are working or studying and sip it frequently. Trying to stay hydrated by gulping down your optimal amount of water in the early to late evening, before bed, isn’t going to work! Changing your habits will!
HERE’S MY CHALLENGE: figure out how much water is right for you, using the weight calculation and physical activity and heat considerations. Drink that amount every day for one month, making sure you drink it slowly, throughout the day. Let us know how you feel at the end of one month. Keep a simple journal regarding symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, headaches, congestion, dry skin, constipation, and joint pain.
My guess is that we will all be pleasantly surprised!
Wyler Hecht, N.D., L.Ac.