The human body is 60 percent water. Your muscles are composed of 75 percent water. And 85 percent of your brain is water.
Water is like the oil in the machine. And we all know what happens to a car when the oil level gets too low.
The engine burns itself out and dies.
Mahatma Gandhi survived 21 days without food. But four days is about as long as a person can go without water.
Dehydration is a real health threat that many people don’t take seriously. They think it only happens to someone trekking through the desert, or to marathon runners or other athletes.
This is a dangerous misconception.
The dehydration epidemic
When New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center surveyed 3,003 Americans on their drinking and activity patterns, they discovered that at least 75 percent were actually losing fluid on a daily basis. In other words, they were chronically dehydrated.
That begs the question: how much water do we really need to drink?
Most of us know the “8×8” rule (eight 8-ounce glasses per day).
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommends 104 ounces for adult men (about 13 cups) and 72 ounces for women (about 9 cups).
If this seems like a lot, keep in mind that the water you consume in the form of foods counts toward this total.
What does water do for you?
In case you’re wondering what the big deal is about getting enough water, stop for a moment to consider the fact that water is necessary to:
- Regulate body temperature through sweating and respiration
- Flush waste, mainly through urination
- Protect your brain and spinal cord by acting as a shock absorber
- Form saliva
- Lubricate joints
- Deliver oxygen throughout the body
- Allow all our cells to grow and reproduce (when this doesn’t happen, you’re at higher risk of premature aging!)
Given all of the above, it stands to reason that not getting enough water can have serious health consequences.
One study showed that being even mildly dehydrated did the same damage to the heart as smoking a cigarette.
7 signs that you’re dehydrated
Dehydration can happen to anyone, at any time of the year. More often than not, it’s a result of insufficient water intake, rather than excessive sweating.
Dehydration is often the reason for the following seven symptoms. If a few of these occur together and are ongoing, pay attention:
- Bad breath. If you’re not producing enough saliva, bacteria overgrowth in the mouth can cause foul breath. Your lips and tongue will also feel dry.
- Dark urine. Urine that’s dark yellow or orange usually signals a lack of water. (It could also indicate a problem with the liver, so pay attention to this symptom).
- Muscle cramps. Dehydration is only one reason for this. But if the weather is cool and your cramping is spreading from one muscle group to another, it’s likely that dehydration is the cause.
- Craving sweets. When your body lacks water, the liver has a hard time releasing glucose, and your body will crave sugar to make up for this missing energy source.
- Clearly, a headache can have many causes. But even mild dehydration can bring on a headache or migraine. It’s always a good idea to drink a glass of water at the first sign of a headache.
- Brain fog and irritability. If a glass of water helps alleviate these, you can be sure you’re dehydrated.
- Hunger, even right after a meal. Thirst and hunger cues come from the same part of the brain. If you feel hungry even though you’ve just eaten, you’re probably thirsty.
Tips for staying hydrated
Keep water handy. Make it easy to get enough water. Stash a bottle in every room. If it’s there, it’s a simple matter to take a few sips, no matter what you’re doing.
If you’re not a fan of plain water, add lemon, lime, strawberries or other fruit. Add cut fruit to ice cubes. Or drink unsweetened fruit-flavored seltzer.
Try herbal tea. Tea, after all, is made of water. And there are endless varieties to try. A pitcher of iced tea on a hot day is just what the doctor ordered! Or try this peachy green tea cooler recipe.
Choose hydrating snacks. Trade your pretzels and popcorn for fresh or frozen fruit, smoothies, celery with peanut butter or veggies and hummus.
Choose these summer fruits and veggies for their high water content:
- Watermelon – 92% water
- Strawberries – 91%
- Cantaloupe – 90%
- Peaches 89%
- Zucchini 94%
- Tomatoes 94%
- Spinach 91%
One word of caution
After all of this, it may surprise you to hear that there’s actually a danger of going overboard and drinking too much water.
Overhydration, also known as water poisoning, usually occurs in elite athletes, long-distance runners and military members involved in training.
Drinking too much water results in hyponatremia, where the sodium concentration of the blood is abnormally low.
Also be aware that diuretics (water pills), antidepressants and prescription pain medications may interfere with the kidneys’ ability to regulate sodium levels. If you take any of these medications, check with your doctor before drastically increasing your water intake.
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- 6 Unusual Signs of Dehydration You Should Know About — Everyday Health
- 9 Signs You’re Dehydrated — Self
- The water in you — U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Science School