By Adrian Sparrow
Sure, water is essential for life, but how important is it? How much should you drink each day, and what does it do in your body? The human body is about 60% water and needs to be continually replenished. We get thirsty when our body is running low on water. Water restores fluids lost through digestion, breathing, sweating, and waste.
Many of us aren’t drinking enough water throughout the day, which leads to dehydration and even severe medical problems. Dehydration can lead to weakness, dizziness, confusion, mood changes, and increase the risk of certain conditions like kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Roughly 20% of our water intake comes from water-rich foods like celery, leafy green vegetables, summer squash, berries, and melons.
Some of the benefits of water include:
Helping you eat healthily
Water is vital for digestion. Water breaks down the food you eat and allows the body to absorb nutrients. The intestines absorb moisture from your food which is then carried through the bloodstream.
People who drink more water tend to eat fewer calories and saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and cholesterol. It can fill you up and stave off the desire for excessive snacking.
Carrying nutrients in the bloodstream
Plasma, the pale liquid portion of blood, is 90% water and carries essential electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Dehydration leads to the blood becoming more concentrated or less able to take nutrients throughout the body. It also means a lower blood volume, which means lower blood pressure. Low electrolytes can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, and confusion.
Water is essential for the daily maintenance of your body. It helps the body regulate body temperature, protect organs and tissue, and keep your heartbeat steady. It acts as a cushion for the spinal cord and lubrication for joints. It also keeps sensitive areas adequately moist. The eyes, nose, mouth, bones, blood, and brain require adequate moisture to function normally. The brain is 75% water and requires a balance of electrolytes to function optimally. Dehydration can bring with it brain fog or confusion. Plus, water makes you feel less sluggish and more alert.
Removing waste and bacteria
Water is the main component of your body’s waste management system. You lose water and electrolytes through sweating, urination, and defecation. The kidneys filter waste from your blood into the bladder, while the skin sweats and carries excess electrolytes out of the body. The intestines remove usable nutrients and expel stool. Water helps these organs function and keeps the neighboring blood vessels open to filter nutrients in or out.
How much water should you drink?
The answer depends on you. Most healthy adults need 4-6 cups per day. Still, certain conditions like thyroid disease or kidney problems can mean drinking too much water. Marathon runners and other intense activities that require constant hydration can also lead to dangerously low sodium levels, which sports drinks and salty snacks can replace.
For people that want more water in their diet without all the added sugar of sodas, adding a splash of juice to sparkling water or infusing water with citrus fruits and berries can be a delicious alternative to ordinary tap water.