Published on November 20th, 2013 | by Joe Starks0
Water and Health: All You Need to Know
We all know that if we don’t drink any fluids for 3-5 days we simply cannot continue living. There is a plain reason for that: we are made from 60% water. We constantly lose a lot of water from our bodies, when we urinate, sweat and exhale. We lose traces of water in other ways too, but in the end what is most important is that we drink at least as much as we lose. Our bodies are smart enough to lose less water when we don’t drink a lot, but they can’t keep us hydrated on our reserves forever. There are many myths about there on how you should drink your water and how much you need. Let’s look at the issue with a scientific point of view.
What is water to us?
Water is actually an amazing chemical compound. It contains one oxygen and two hydrogen molecules and this is why we often see it written as H2O or HOH in scientific magazines and chemical products. Over 70% of our planet’s surface is made of water and it exists on earth in solid, liquid and vapor form at the same time.
Water does not contain any calories, but it still is just as important as food to consume it. It pretty much flushes all the toxins out of our body, by carrying them from the cells into our urine. It is part of our blood and when we don’t drink enough our blood is far more dense in blood cells. This is why dehydrated people often seem to have normal blood counts even when they are actually anemic.
Dehydration is the state our body is in when we lose more water than we drink. There are various levels of dehydration. We pretty much all will get slightly dehydrated every single day, without having any ill effects. For instance most people are slightly dehydrated after 8 hours of continuous sleep, but that is immediately resolved when you drink a glass of water after getting up from bed. Dehydration becomes a medical issue only when it is sever and lasts for a long time.
How can you detect dehydration and what are its effects?
The first signs of serious dehydration are dry, cracked lips and dark urine. Urine should be a pale yellow color; if it is dark yellow or brown then you are seriously dehydrated and need to drink some pure water immediately. Dehydration causes headaches that vary from extreme to slightly annoying. Dehydration is the main reason why drunken people have a “hangover” the next day.
When dehydration begins to be life threatening, your skin will lose its elasticity and you will feel severe pain. This level of dehydration is not easy to achieve in our modern society, but let’s not forget that over 1 billion people on earth have no safe water to drink and some people have no water at all.
What should we drink and how much?
You don’t need to drink pure water to be hydrated. Almost every edible liquid hydrates you. So, soups, soda and juices are just as good at hydrating you as water is. The reason why you should drink a few glasses of pure water per day is that most other drinks contain calories and will add to your weight gain. If you drank all your water need in juice you’d drink around 1000 calories per day.
Some liquids like alcohol simply can’t hydrate you, because they contain substances that cause you to urinate more than you drink. This is why, if you have to indulge in alcoholic beverages, you should absolutely follow with the same amount of simple water. So, for every beer or drink, have a glass of water too.
As far as the amount of water you should drink every day is concerned, science has no clear answers. Our bodies are equipped with an excellent thirst mechanism that shows us when we are about to become dehydrated. Drinking water when thirsty is a must. When you know that you have lost a lot of water, whether through sweat, urination or vomiting, you should immediately replenish the amount. There is no reason to drink more water than your body needs. Your body will simply flush excess water out quickly, like a bucket that has been filled to the brim.
Sometimes you can forget yourself and drink less water than you need. This is especially true for children and people who drink alcohol often. This is why consuming water regularly should be a habit.
You can actually die from consuming too much water. If you drink 3 liters (or more) of water very quickly (within a few minutes) you are in danger of dying from it. This does not happen if you drink the same amount over a longer period, like for instance a day.
So, in the end we should listen to our bodies and drink when we are thirsty. Prefer simple water as often as possible and remember not to waste drinking water! There is not enough for all of us to waste it.