The Importance of Hydration
Not only is water is essential for good health, but our bodies depend on water to function correctly and for survival. Proper hydration does more than just keep us from getting thirsty; water inside our bodies also has a number of benefits.
Water helps transport nutrients and oxygen to cells in the body, helps convert food into energy, helps maintain body temperature, removes waste, protects and cushions vital organs and also lubricates joints.
Water makes up more than half of our body weight. The entire human body is about 66 percent water. Our brains are 95 percent water, lungs are 90 percent, blood is 83 percent, muscles are 76 percent, and bones are composed of 22 percent water.
We lose water each day when we use the restroom, sweat, and even when we breathe. We lose water even faster when we perform hard labor, exercise, or when we have a fever. When we are asleep, we lose as much water as when we are awake, and we need as much water in cold weather as in warm weather.
For most of us, consuming between 48 to 64 ounces of water each day is necessary to stay properly hydrated. However, different people need different amounts of water. A good way to check for proper hydration is by evaluating the color of our urine. If it is light yellow, we are most likely properly hydrated. After every trip to the restroom, consider drinking a glass of water to replenish fluids.
If we don’t replace the water we lose, our bodies can become dehydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Extreme thirst
- Dark urine or little to no urine
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Our bodies can last up to six weeks without food, but only five to seven days without water. Good ways to prevent dehydration would be to drink plenty of water throughout the day and consume a glass of water with every meal.
There are times when you may want to increase the amount of water you’re consuming. These instances include the following:
- Those pregnant or breastfeeding
- If you’ll be outside during hot weather
- If you’ll be exercising
- If you have a fever
- If you have been vomiting or have diarrhea
Staying hydrated helps with alertness, controlling appetite, and improving sport performance. It is important to drink before, during, and after exercise or when heavy sweating is likely. Adding a slice of lime or lemon to water is a good way to give it flavor without adding extra calories.
In addition to drinking water, you can consume drinks like fruit and vegetable juices, milk and teas. Water can also be found in fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, tomatoes and lettuce.
Make water part of your daily routine for good health, and drink before you get thirsty. Thirst is actually a sign that your body is already dehydrated. If you are thirsty, drink as soon as possible and continue to drink throughout the day even after your thirst has been quenched.
Roxanne Phillips is a Registered Nurse employed by Jersey Shore Hospital in the Emergency Department.