The Importance of Hydration

Water is an important component of almost EVERY function that takes place in our bodies.  Water is the major part of our saliva, stool, and urine and it also cushions and lubricates brain and joint tissue. It transports nutrients and carries waste away from body cells, and it helps regulate body temperature by distributing heat and cooling the body through perspiration (blood is 83 percent water, muscles are 76 percent water and even 22 percent of bones is water!).

Under average circumstances the body loses and needs to replace approximately 2 to 3 quarts of water daily. Breathing, urinating, defecating, perspiring and sneezing all cause water loss, water that needs to be replaced on a daily basis. Luckily, many of the foods we eat, like us, are composed primarily of water. Foods with particularly high water content include most fruits, greens, and most vegetables. Caffeinated beverages such as soft drinks, tea, and coffee also count, in part, toward our daily fluid intake. Though they don't 'dehydrate' you, they can promote increased urination, so they shouldn't be the primary nonfood source of liquids during your day.

When we are sick, particularly when we have fever, our need for fluids increases beyond the 2-3 quarts experts recommend. All the secretions our bodies produces (from the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs) become thicker when we are sick, and increasing our fluid intake is the easiest and safest way to 'thin' those secretions and get them out of the system. The best source is probably plain old tap water, or drinks that are primarily water, such as sport replacement drinks, herbal teas, lemon water, and vegetable broth. During an illness, it is a good idea to double the recommended daily fluid intake to one gallon a day!

Top Tips for Increasing Your Fluid Intake

1) Have a glass of water or juice on arising in the morning, since you've had no fluids for many hours.

2) Drink constantly throughout the day rather than several 'big gulps' at once—this meets your body's needs better and may prevent the problem of frequent urination.

3) If you have problems with constipation, it could be because you don't drink enough water—our bodies need water to balance the fiber intake that comes from fruits, vegetables, and grains.

4) Fluids are more easily absorbed from the body when they are somewhat cooler, about 40-60 degrees. Keep a 1 or 2 quart bottle of water in your refrigerator and make sure you need drink and refill it daily.

5) When you pass a drinking fountain, stop for a refreshing drink.

6) Use the color of your urine as a guide for how well your are hydrating. If you urinate regularly and your urine is light yellow, you're drinking enough. If it's dark yellow, increase your fluid intake.

7) Carry a water bottle with you and drink regularly between meals.

8) Allergy sufferers and persons taking any medication should try to attain the fluid goals outlined above. Our kidneys and liver need extra water to process medicines.