School is out. For most people this would mean the beginning of warm weather and pool time, for those of us south of the Mason Dixon line it was hitting 95 degrees in May, so we’re over it already. Unfortunately Mother Nature isn’t done with it yet, so we must learn to enjoy it. But it is hard to enjoy summer to it’s full garden harvesting, flower blooming, berry picking glory if you’re dehydrated.
I would venture to say that most Americans (including myself) spend most of their lives dehydrated and don’t even know it. We have heard for a very long time that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day, that is 64 ounces, a HALF GALLON. Raise your hand if you think a half gallon of water everyday is a little excessive. If you raised your hand and you weigh less than 120 pounds, you’re right. If you weight MORE than 120 pounds, you’re wrong, The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies says to drink half your weight in ounces each day. For example: if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to drink 75 ounces of water daily to stay hydrated. So if you’re drinking 16 ounce bottles of water throughout the day, for a 150 pound person you would need to be sucking down five of those each day.
I like to learn the hard way, I did not pay much attention to my water intake until a day last fall when I came home from the gym at 5:00 pm and collapsed on the couch. I felt TERRIBLE. I did not want to move, my entire body felt so weak that eating dinner wasn’t even appealing. That’s when I knew something was wrong. And as if he had known it was going to happen eventually, my husband said “You’re dehydrated,” very matter-of-factly, not “I told you to drink more water, woman,” but he also didn’t seem very surprised by my condition. Being the loving man he is, he went to the store and came back with what seemed like a years worth supply of Pedialite. You know, that gross stuff you give your kids when they’ve got the squirts (more on electrolyte replacement later).
I spent the next two days drinking Pedialite and more water than I thought possible, but when I was finally hydrated I felt MUCH better. Based upon how good I felt, I started making hydration a priority. Two 32 ounce water bottles daily works well for me. If I don’t get enough I can immediately tell the next morning, I wake up with dry eyes, a dry mouth and I am not very lively. If this sounds like they way you feel every morning, you should get up right now and get some water. I will wait.
Now that you have your water, let’s dive into WHY it is so very important. You have heard that you can only live like 3 days without water, but exactly what does it do?
“The largest single constituent of the human body, water, is essential for cellular homeostasis and life. It provides the solvent for biochemical reactions, is the medium for material transport, and has unique physical properties (high specific heat) to absorb metabolic heat. Water is essential to maintain vascular volume, to support the supply of nutrients to tissues, and to remove waste via the cardiovascular system and renal and hepatic clearance. Body water deficits challenge the ability of the body to maintain homeostasis during perturbations (e.g., sickness, physical exercise, or climatic stress) and can impact function and health.”
(Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water)
That all sounded very geeky, let’s break it down. Your body is made up of about 60% water, and it is ESSENTIAL for keeping a healthy equilibrium in your body. Things are constantly changing in your environment and your body must adjust to that, water is necessary for this process. Biochemical reactions are the processes through which molecules interact to create a product, water provides the solvent for this to happen. A biochemical reaction can also involve the breakdown of a single molecule and the production of more than one product (SDSU). Basically, you need water in order for the important interactions going on in your body to happen.
Just like we use rivers and oceans to transport goods, our body uses the water we drink to do the same thing. Water is used to metabolize and transport our food through our bloodstream, to transport waste out of our bodies, as well as transporting nutrients to cells. And that is just three of the MANY jobs water is doing in your body at this very moment. As I am sure you knew, water also cools you down, which is pretty important considering an internal temperature that gets too high can mean kidney and liver damage, even death.
Your blood is made up of about 83% water and is imperative in the process of oxygenation, when oxygen enters the tissue of the body. Without the correct amount of water, your blood volume decreases. If your blood volume gets too low, so will your blood pressure. Most people don’t seem to have much trouble with having blood pressure that is too low, but blood pressure that is too low can lead to a lack of blood and nutrients being pumped to organs and tissues. Last but not least, water is necessary for removal of waste, not only from the digestive system, but from the cardiovascular system as well.
Are you thirsty now? Drinking enough water may be a little uncomfortable at first, but your bladder will adapt and after a few days you will feel better than you have in a long time. If you are an extremely active athlete and lose a lot of electrolytes that need to be replaced quickly, I would suggest you stay away from the Pedialite and Gatorade/Powerade drinks because they are full of sugar. Instead, I would suggest buying some Nuun, a fizzy electrolyte replacing supplement that is sweetened with apple juice concentrate, as opposed to sugar, and has a very short ingredient list.
“Pattern Matching Organic Molecules.” http://www.biologylessons.sdsu.edu/classes/lab6/glossary.html. San Diego State University, 20 March 2009. Web. 23 June 2010.
Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water, Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. “Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate.” Washington D.C.; The National Academies Press. 2005.