First Lady Michelle Obama began a national campaign encouraging all of us to drink more water. You may have heard some of the controversy in the news with some scientists and medical professionals scoffing at her campaign. We commend the First Lady for leading the effort to “Drink Up!” We also think this is a good time to give you a bit more info about WHY you should drink more water and HOW MUCH.
First, the science….
- The human body is approximately 70% water; the blood is 90% water. We lose 4 – 6 pints of water daily by doing absolutely nothing.
- Water is a unique di-polar liquid like no other. When we drink it, it is quickly absorbed from the stomach as it doesn’t have to undergo digestion. Water is regulated through the colon and is the primary lubricant in the bowel.
- A 1% loss in water leads to fatigue.
- A 2% loss in water leads to constipation (due to dehydrated bowels), lethargy, and dry skin and cuticles. The blood becomes so concentrated at this level of water loss that it is often difficult to withdraw with a hypodermic needle.Consequently, the membranes in the colon, sinuses, mouth, and throat dry out, and you may experience headaches (some severe) and smelly, tenacious mucous. Stools are very dry and difficult to eliminate. Anytime we wipe and there is little to no residue on the toilet paper is an indication of dehydration Hemorrhoids can develop due to the excess or extreme pushing over a long period of time.
- Subsequently, a 1% water loss in winter leads to cold extremities. A 2% loss level leads to severe chills and shivering.
- Disease states, in general, are greatly exacerbated by dehydration, no matter what the disease is.
Water is essential for the body’s crucial, regulatory functions. As we breathe, sleep, digest, urinate, defecate, and move, our body’s water levels are used and depleted. Maintaining an adequate level of hydration is CRUCIAL for our health, well-being and correction of disease. The First Lady is right on when she said, “The more water we drank the better we felt.”
But HOW MUCH water is enough? Some experts recommend drinking 8 glasses of water per day….but what’s a glass? 8 oz.? 6 oz? Plus, everyone is different and body sizes and states of activity vary widely. We recommend that an average female, with a sedentary lifestyle, should drink 2 – 3 liters (or quarts) of water per day to maintain adequate hydration. Males should drink 1 gallon per day.
WHEN to drink water is as important as HOW MUCH to drink.
- The best time to drink water is first thing in the morning to rehydrate after your night’s sleep, when water is lost due to evaporation, respiration and urination.
- The next best time is right before bed. During rest the body goes through many metabolic processes and waste is accumulated.
- To help offset dehydration during the night, keep a glass of water on your bed stand to sip during the night.
- Drink water when you feel thirsty – it’s your body telling you it needs water Don’t go longer than 4 – 6 hours without drinking water.
- DON’T drink water while eating or chewing food. Water dilutes the digestive enzymes in the mouth, slowing down digestion. Drink water before or after you eat a meal or snack.
HOW can you tell if you’re hydrated and don’t need to drink more water?
The veins on the back of the hand should be prominent and full during normal states of hydration. They tend to collapse when we are dehydrated. There’s a simple medical test to determine this that you can do yourself: Lower your hands to your side, about hip level and look at the veins on the back. The veins should be full and should stay full as you raise your hands to the level of your heart. When raised above the heart, the veins should collapse. If your veins are flattened when the hands are below the heart it is a medical indication that you are dehydrated and need to drink much more water.
Despite some contentions, we can’t absorb enough water from the foods we eat to maintain hydration. Even watery foods – like watermelon – are insufficient as a water source. Food simply does not have the water content to contribute to your hydration status, nor can you consume enough foods to get enough water from it. People who eat food only will become severely dehydrated at the end of the day.
For further tips on the benefits if you drink more water and how to avoid re-hydrate, check out our summer blog post “Why You Should Increase Water Intake During the Summer”