It’s Wellness Wednesday! In Wellness Wednesday I will provide you with simple and easy tips that will help improve your health, assist in your weight loss efforts and hopefully restore balance to your life. I will begin this series with the question, are you drinking enough water?
Why do we need water?
Sixty percent of the human body is made up of water. Water is vital for survival. It is essential for maintaining fluid balance. We need it to flush out toxins from our bodies. Without water you are at risk for dehydration. Early symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, low energy, headaches and constipation. It only takes 3% to 5% of body fluid loss to cause mild dehydration. If you have diarrhea or you are sweating profusely you can lose that much very quickly. When dehydration advances it can compromise your kidney function which can lead to electrolyte imbalances that will compromise your cardiovascular system.
We need water, so why aren’t we getting enough of it?
Unfortunately, many people choose sugary drinks such as juices, sodas and diet drinks to quell their thirst. These drinks have no nutritional value. Moreover drinking empty calories will increase your weight and increase your risk for developing Diabetes. Sugar sweetened beverages have long been considered the single largest contributing cause of childhood obesity. Unfortunately, we continue the habit of drinking sugary beverages as adults.
Secondly, people tend to mistake hunger for thirst. So instead of hydrating you opt for food, thus further increasing your caloric intake which leads to unwanted weight gain.
Lastly, another common reason folks don’t drink water is because they feel it lacks flavor.
So how much water should you drink?
That question used to be easy to answer. Most everyone has heard the 8-8 rule, which is to drink eight 8-ounces of water per day, which is roughly 64 ounces or 1/2 galloon. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support this rule. Also complicating matters further those with certain diseases such as heart failure, chronic kidney disease or liver disease may need to take in less water. Thus it is critical for you to discuss with your physician what your daily water requirement or limit should be.
Secondly, our water needs varies in certain situations or conditions. In warm climates you have a tendency of losing water when you sweat. Also, when you exercise you need more water. In addition, your body needs more water when suffering from a respiratory or gastrointestinal that causes vomiting or diarrhea.
Conversely, too much water can cause hyponatriemia, a condition where your sodium level is too low. Low sodium can cause confusion and critically low levels can lead to death. So what are you left to do?
You should know your body. Drink when you feel thirsty. Increase your intake when you are more active, such as when working out. Drinking water before and after a workout is essential for optimal performance and recovery. Also, be able to identify signs of early dehydration. Dark urine may be an indicator that you are not getting enough water. Also going hours without urinating may be a sign you are not well hydrated. Feeling tired and having no energy can also be a sign. Lastly, know your medications and supplements. Some medications and supplements can cause increase water loss or make you feel thirsty.
What you can do to increase your water intake:
- Start your morning off with a 8-ounce cup of water.
- When you feel hungry, drink water. If your hunger goes away, it’s a sign that you were probably thirsty and not hungry.
- Opt for water instead of sweetened or artificially sweetened beverages. You don’t need the empty calories and you certainly don’t need the extra weight gain that goes along with it.
- Try drinking a glass of water before and after your meal. This may make you feel full faster and less likely to over eat.
- If lack of flavor is your concern, spice up the water by infusing it with fresh fruits such as watermelon, berries, lemon or limes. You can simplify this by investing in an infusion water bottle which has a separate compartment to store the fruit.
In summary always consult with your physician if you have a medical illness, since with certain illnesses your water requirement may need to be strictly monitored. Also, choosing to make water your primary beverage of choice will most likely assure that you are getting enough water. Just remember, “water does the body good.”
by Marjorie Binette, MD