You've probably heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day. It is definitely easy to remember and is a reasonable goal. But why should we drink so much water and why is it so important to do so? What are its benefits and why is something so simple necessary to staying healthy?
Water regulates body temperature.
Body water has an important role as a thermoregulator, regulating the overall body temperature by helping dissipate heat. And because water can absorb and transfer heat well, the human body uses it to stabilize temperature.
Water has a relatively high heat capacity, meaning it can absorb a lot of heat before its temperature rises. This trait allows the water in every cell of the human body to act as a buffer against sudden temperature changes. Our blood, which is made largely of water, moves heat away from the extremities and toward the vital organs when it needs to conserve heat. It flows towards the skin surface to release excess heat when necessary, and it transports muscle heat away as needed.
Water also helps get rid of excess heat from the body as water vapor from the lungs and sweat on the skin. When heat activates sweat glands, these glands bring that water, along with the body’s salt, to the surface of the skin as sweat. Once on the surface, the water evaporates. Water evaporating from the skin cools the body, keeping its temperature in a healthy range.
Water aids cognitive functions.
There is growing evidence that cognitive functions are impaired in case of uncompensated body water loss or dehydration. As hydration levels decrease, brain functions begin to suffer. And since the average adult human body contains around 60% water, all the cells in the body including our brain cells depend on this water to carry out essential functions. If water levels are too low, our brain cells cannot function properly, leading to cognitive problems. This is why dehydration is so closely correlated with poor brain health, and why neuroscientists and brain health experts recommend increasing your fluid intake to support and enhance your learning, thinking, focus, and more.
Water Keeps Your Cardiovascular System Healthy.
The connection between dehydration and heart rate is clear. Your heart is constantly working, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood a day. By staying hydrated you are helping your heart do its job. A hydrated heart is able to pump blood more easily, allowing the muscles in your body to work even better.
Dehydration causes strain on your heart. The amount of blood circulating through your body, or blood volume, decreases when you are dehydrated. To compensate, your heart beats faster, increasing your heart rate and causing you to feel palpitations. Also, your blood retains more sodium, making it tougher for it to circulate through your body.
Dehydration also causes the blood to become thicker, which causes the blood vessels to narrow. This leads to limited or blocked blood flow. It makes it difficult for the heart to function properly and causes it to apply more pressure to pump blood. This further leads to hypertension.
Water Helps Keep Skin Looking Good.
The skin is the largest organ in your body, and it’s mostly made up of water. Without water, your skin can’t function at its best. If your skin doesn’t get enough water, not only will it become dry, tight, and flaky, but it will also become even more prone to aging.
The truth is that your body loses large quantities of water every day, so if you don’t replace it by drinking more water, your skin will suffer the consequences. It’s easy to see the visible difference that hydration can make for your skin.
Water keeps your body hydrated and refreshed and helps maintain your skin’s elasticity and skin tone. People who drink large amounts of water are less likely to suffer from scars, wrinkles, and soft lines and they won’t show as many signs of aging as those who drink only small amounts. Since water allows the skin to bounce back and heal scars faster, it’s easy to understand that it also helps improve overall skin tone.
Water protects the tissues, spinal cord, and joints.
Water keeps the tissues in your body moist. Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas like your eyes, nose, and mouth. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints. This will help you enjoy physical activity and lessen the discomfort caused by conditions like arthritis.
Water helps by creating saliva
The salivary glands in our mouth produce about 1-2 liters of saliva daily of which 99% is water. By consistently drinking water, you are supplying your salivary glands with the ingredients they need to produce healthy saliva and protect your mouth.
Saliva is an essential component of the digestive process. It moistens the mouth and helps compact food into softened particles for easier swallowing. Our teeth and tongue work as food processors, using saliva as the liquid necessary to create a mixture suitable for the stomach.
Saliva is your mouth’s first defense against tooth decay. It washes away leftover food and keeps your teeth strong by washing them with calcium, phosphate, and fluoride. When your saliva supply runs low, you might experience a dry mouth. This puts you at risk for tooth decay, your mouth becomes prone to infections from bacteria, yeast, and fungus. Swallowing and digesting food also becomes difficult, and bad breath often occurs. By drinking enough water, you help prevent dry mouth and ensure that your saliva is produced at an optimal rate.
Water Can Help You Eat Healthier.
While water doesn’t contain any magical fat-burning properties, it can be a useful aid in managing hunger and improving bodily functions that help us maintain a healthy weight. People often confuse thirst for hunger and end up snacking on unnecessary calories instead of drinking. Although drinking water is no substitute for food or skipping meals, drinking fluids can take the edge off hunger. And it can also help with sugar cravings.
In a study of more than 18,300 American adults, people who drank just 1 percent more water a day ate fewer calories and less saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and cholesterol. Water may also help you eat less, especially if you drink before eating a meal. And while water doesn't have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for higher calorie beverages can certainly help.
Water Aids in Digestion.
There's should be no concern that water will dilute the digestive juices or interfere with digestion. In fact, drinking water during or after a meal actually aids digestion. Along with other liquids, gastric juices, and enzymes, water helps the digestive process so the body can absorb the nutrients.
Water helps food travel through your gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and works with fluids from your pancreas and liver to further break down food until its nutrients can be absorbed through your intestinal lining. Water in blood plasma then carries nutrients to your organs. When you are dehydrated it becomes harder for food to be processed properly, which can lead to constipation or uncomfortable bloating. For most people drinking water before, during, or after a meal can make digestion more comfortable.
Water helps remove waste in our bodies.
Drinking water regularly enables your body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation. It can also be more effective than other complicated or fancy so-called detox beverages.
Without enough water flowing through our systems to carry out wastes and toxins, we would literally drown in our own poisonous metabolic wastes. Even slight dehydration can wear down our systems in ways that seriously compromise our overall quality of life.
Water also helps dissolve minerals and nutrients. And if there isn’t enough water available, minerals and nutrients build up in the kidneys. When waste products accumulate in the kidneys, it forces these vital organs to work much harder than they would otherwise have to. These issues potentially lead to chronic kidney disease and kidney failure. But consuming the proper amount of water helps keep the kidneys healthy and functioning effectively.
Water Helps Maintain Normal Bowel Function.
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of chronic constipation. If you’re not getting enough water in your body, the large intestine soaks up water from your food waste resulting in constipation. The best combination for fighting constipation is to intake plenty of water and fiber, which will work in unison to keep your bowels functioning properly.
Water maximizes our physical performance.
A loss of water through sweat equal to 2% of body weight will cause a noticeable decrease in physical and mental performance. And a decrease in the capacity for work by roughly 30% when you lose 5% or more. In addition to dehydration affecting the capacity for work, losses of perspiration greater than 2% of body weight increase the risk of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and gastrointestinal problems.
Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and may even reduce the oxidative stress that occurs during high-intensity training. This is not surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water. Staying hydrated also improves blood flow and circulation and thus the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to working muscles. Good hydration also helps remove metabolic by-products and waste from muscles, while replacing the water that is lost through sweat.
Water helps to boost our energy.
Drinking more water gives you more energy to do anything from strenuous physical feats to staying awake at your desk after lunch. Dehydration makes you feel tired, it makes you feel sluggish and off your game. It can also cause you to feel tired or sleepy, so if you're getting enough sleep but can't keep your eyes open, you may need to just up your water intake. The right amount of water could help your heart pump your blood more effectively.
Water prevents overall dehydration.
Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don't replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated.
Your body’s natural response to inadequate hydration is thirst. But thirst isn't always a reliable early indicator of the body's need for water. Many people, particularly older adults, don't feel thirsty until they're already dehydrated. That's why it's important to increase water intake during hot weather or when you're ill.
Dehydration must be treated by replenishing the water level in the body. But prevention is really the most important treatment for dehydration. Consuming plenty of water and foods that have high water content should be enough for most people to prevent dehydration.
How much water do you need?
People often hear that they should drink eight glasses of water per day. However, that may not be entirely true, and the amount of water a person should drink can vary depending on their age, activity level, and more.
Compared to women, men generally need more fluid to support their increased body mass, lower average body fat, and increased calorie burn each day.
Hydration needs are influenced by the surface area of the body, metabolic rate, and body weight. As body weight increases, fluid needs increase as well.
Similarly, when someone is pregnant, they require additional fluids to maintain amniotic fluid levels and keep the baby growing steadily. And if you're nursing a growing baby, you’ll need to drink more fluids so that your body can make enough milk.
The foods you eat will also affect your hydration and the amount of fluid you’ll need to drink. For example, if you get ample fruits and veggies each day (both of which are packed with water), you won’t need to gulp down as much water. Soup is another food that is fluid-rich and can help you meet your target water intake.
If you eat a lot of these foods each day, you won’t need to drink quite as much. But if your fruit and vegetable intake is low on any given day, a few extra glasses of water will compensate for the fluid you’ll miss.
When you sweat during exercise or on a hot summer day, you’ll need to replace the fluids you’ve lost by drinking more H2O. The intensity and duration of exercise affect how much you sweat and your subsequent fluid needs.
So how much fluid does an average, healthy adult need? The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake should be:
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The bottom line
Water, by its simplest definition, is life. Every living thing on Earth requires it to survive. Even we as humans can only survive a couple of days without it and getting enough water every day is important for your health. Drinking water can prevent a slew of health problems, one of which is dehydration. Drinking water does more than just quench your thirst. It is necessary for keeping your body functioning properly and healthy and essential to life. So instead of grabbing the next sugary drink that you can find when you get thirsty, Grab water instead.