Water. It’s one of the most important elements for all living things.
Up to 60 percent of the human adult body is made of water. It’s
essential for biochemical reactions, supplying nutrients throughout the
body and removing waste, and maintaining blood circulation and body temperature.
It aids in digestion, prevents constipation, cushions joints, stabilizes
the heartbeat, and protects vital organs and tissues.
Without it, or without enough of it, we can become dehydrated. Dehydration
might show itself in the form of muscle cramps, fatigue, thirst, and other
unpleasant symptoms. Our thinking and cognition can suffer. We might lose
appetite, experience mild constipation and lightheadedness, or kidney stones.
Getting enough water every day is important to keeping your body functioning
correctly. Your body needs more water when you’re in warmer climates,
physically active, running a fever, and having diarrhea or vomiting. It’s
easy to go about your day without thinking about how much water you’ve
had to drink or forget to take those sips until you start to feel bad.
But, especially in the summer heat, water is vital to helping your body
stay healthy and hydrated.
How Much Water Do You Need?
According to doctors, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for daily
water intake. The amount of water you should drink daily depends on your
body, your health conditions, your medications, and other factors. Certain
conditions like thyroid disease or kidney, liver, or heart problems make
it possible for some people to have too much water, while some antidepressants
and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) make people retain water.
There is no standard for how much plain water adults and children should
drink daily, though there are general recommendations for both women and
men. Here’s one rule of thumb: women should drink approximately
2.7 liters of water each day while men should average 3.7 liters of total
water. You can also divide your body weight in pounds by two and drink
that number of ounces each day. Regardless, drinking water should be a
part of your daily routine, not something you have to go out of your way to do.
How to Stay Hydrated
The key to staying safe and healthy this summer is staying hydrated. And
the key to staying hydrated? Follow these 10 easy tips:
1. Drink water—and plenty of it!
According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, daily fluid intake recommendations vary by age, sex, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.
Start by drinking a cup of water each morning when you wake up or a glass
before bed. Have another glass with every meal. Drink one or two cups
after working out. To ward off dehydration, drink fluids gradually throughout the day.
2. Know the signs of dehydration.
Does your skin feel dry, irritated, inflamed, itchy, or sensitive? That’s
a sign of dehydration. Experiencing a headache or feeling dizzy or fatigued?
These are signs, too. Muscle cramps, rapid breathing, fainting, and not
urinating (or having very dark yellow urine) are others. If you’re
experiencing any of these symptoms, the simple solution is to get out
of the heat and drink plenty of liquids. There are small over-the-counter
options like Pedialyte and Hydralyte that balance out electrolytes and
sodium with dehydration as well. If your dehydration is severe, call 911.
3. Check your urine.
A good measurement of hydration is the color of your urine. Pale urine,
similar to the color of straw, indicates proper hydration while darker
urine is a sign that you need more water. A dark yellow or amber color
means you may have mild to severe dehydration. Of course, other medications
and health conditions could affect this. If you’re concerned about
the color of your urine,
consult with your health provider.
4. Avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, and/or caffeine.
Tricky fact—some liquids work against hydration! Drinks like coffee,
sugary sodas, beer, wine and hard liquor, lemonade, sweet tea, energy
drinks, smoothies, and flavored milk are all culprits. They are loaded
with sugar, sodium, and other ingredients that remove water from your
tissues. Consider swapping some of these out daily or rehydrating with
more water for each dehydrating drink you consume.
5. Cool down.
Proper hydration isn’t just about drinking water—it’s
about regulating your body temperature, too. During summer, when the risk
for heat stroke is at its highest, wear light, loose-fitting clothing
in light colors; schedule strenuous sports and physical activities during
cooler times of the day; protect yourself from the sun with hats and other
shade accessories; take drink breaks often; and mist yourself with a spray
bottle if you become overheated.
6. Eat foods with high water content.
Did you know that approximately 80 percent of our water intake comes from
drinking water? The other 20 percent comes from food. All whole fruits
and vegetables contain some water, but snack on these for maximum benefit:
cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, cauliflower, watermelon,
spinach, strawberries, broccoli, and grapefruit. They all contain 90 percent
water or higher.
7. Replenish when you sweat.
Play a sport? Heading out on a hike? It’s essential to drink water
throughout these activities. Your sweat rate, the humidity, and
how long you’ve exercised are all factors to consider. Proper hydration means getting enough water before, during, and after
American Council on Exercise recommends these guidelines before, during, and after a workout:
• Drink 17-20 oz. two to three hours before you exercise.
• Drink 8 oz. 20-30 minutes before you exercise.
• Drink 7-10 oz. every 10-20 minutes during exercise.
• Drink 8 oz. no more than 30 minutes after exercise.
8. Choose water during flights.
Airports and flights can be very dehydrating. It’s not easy to drink
as much as you usually do when you’re on the go for summer vacation,
and airplanes are known for low-humidity air, which contributes to low
hydration at touchdown. Pack an empty reusable water bottle with you in
your carry-on bag and then fill it up with water after going through security.
Skip the vending machines at the airport and ask for water when the beverage
cart passes by mid-flight.
9. Infuse with flavor.
Not a frequent water drinker? Try sprucing up your water by adding a few
simple ingredients. Limes, lemons, mint, oranges, berries, cucumbers,
and other fruits improve the taste without artificial sweeteners or preservatives.
This can help you drink more water than you usually do, too. You can also
give coconut water a try. This mineral-rich liquid is packed with potassium,
magnesium, sodium, and calcium, so it replenishes lost fluids and electrolytes
from exercise and hot climates quickly.
10. Consider a probiotic.
Our bodies are home to good and bad bacteria. They’re in our mouth,
gut, and skin. Probiotics are living microorganisms found in yogurt and
other cultured foods and supplements that can help improve your body’s
bacteria. Taking a probiotic can help improve your immune system, protect
against infection, and improve your digestion and absorption of food and
nutrients—including water. Probiotics also help with several conditions
associated with dehydration, including diarrhea.
Stay safe, cool, and hydrated this summer. And remember, if you’re
experiencing any symptoms of dehydration or heat stroke,
Frederick Regional Health System is here for you.