Hydration and Healthy Living: How Much Water Do You Need Daily?
Since 60% of your body and cellular structures are composed of water, hydration is an essential part of a healthy immune system, organ functioning, digestion and more. Did you know that by the time you register the sensation of thirst, your body is already moderately dehydrated? There are no early warning triggers, which means that regulating your daily water intake can be more challenging than many people realize. To complicate matters more, some of the fluids you drink every day can fool you into ‘thinking’ you are adequately hydrating. Coffee for instance, is a beverage that many of us rely on to fuel our early morning alertness and energy throughout the day. While moderated amounts of coffee act as a gentle diuretic (with healthful benefits), consuming more than four cups of caffeinated coffee per day can impact hydration, and even contribute to high blood pressure. A diet that is high in sodium, and consumption of alcohol are the two most common causes of chronic dehydration in adults.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Bad breath
- Muscle cramps
- Fever and chills
- Food cravings (for salt and high carbohydrate foods)
Drinking too much water can also have a compounding negative health effect for your body. Over hydration may seem less of a health concern, but it can be a problem for individuals who are dieting, and using water as an alternative to healthy snacks and meals. The general rule is to not drink more than one liter per hour of water (or other hydrating beverages) to avoid placing additional stress on kidneys and other vital organs.
Symptoms of over hydration include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion or disorientation
An important fact to remember is that, while hydration does aid as an appetite suppressant, over hydration can lead to a dangerous drop in normal electrolytes (sodium level) called hyponatremia in the body, which if left untreated, can cause seizures, muscle weakness, unconsciousness and coma.
How much is enough?
In an average climate (non arid) and for normal, daily activities, the average male requires 13 cups of plain water for health and wellness, or approximately three liters per day. The average healthy adult woman requires nine cups of plain water, or roughly 2.2 liters per day for adequate intake (AI), according to the Institute of Medicine.
Tips to Make Daily Hydration Easy
Consider purchasing new, non-plastic reusable water containers (glass or medical grade aluminum) for work, at home and for the gym. Having an ample supply of safe water containers is not only better for the environment, it is convenient for people with busy schedules. Hydrate on-the-go while driving to work, watching television and especially when exerting yourself, as your body displaces fluid volume faster when engaged in aerobic exercise.
There are several free apps that you can download to your smart phone to help you train healthy hydration into your day. Improve your personal health and wellness by starting a healthy new habit of routine hydration. Individuals with health concerns should also consult regularly with their family physician to monitor unique hydration needs.