“I am the most uninteresting man in the world. I don’t always drink water, but when I do, I drink...water. Stay hydrated my friends.”
In a world with so many wonderful flavorful beverages available to us it’s no wonder that water takes the back seat. The human body is composed of 75 percent water. Trillions of cells depend on H2O to function properly and to communicate effectively with each other.
We all have heard that we need 6-8 glasses of water a day, or more in cases of extreme heat or exercise, to stay hydrated. So, what happens if we don’t consume that much? As a chiropractor I see a lot of patients who come to our ofﬁce suffering from headaches. There can be many reasons for headaches, but did you know the most common reason is dehydration? Other common symptoms of dehydration are nausea, fatigue, constipation, urinary tract infections, respiratory problems, high/low blood pressure, difﬁculty focusing, muscle cramps and joint pain or pain in general just to name a few.
Did you know that every disease is accompanied with dehydration? That’s not to say that if you stay hydrated you will have a golden ticket to living 100 years disease free, but your likely hood will increase. When one is dehydrated it takes longer for nutrients to be delivered to and from muscles and organs and athletic performance can drop by as much as 25% if you lose as little as 4% of your body’s water during exercise.
There is a difference between being acutely dehydrated for a few days and having to rush to the hospital to get IV fluids and being chronically dehydrated over the course of years. Acute dehydration can be very serious and life threatening, but maintainable rather quickly given the proper medical attention. Symptoms include dry mouth, dry mucous membranes, lethargy, increased respiration rate, dry skin, headache, and thirst to name a few. Chronic dehydration is more challenging to notice and takes perseverance to overcome. If you suffer from headaches, general pain, fatigue, constipation, stomach problems, or are prone to urinary tract infections chances are you are chronically dehydrated. You may not suffer from any discomforts and be living in a chronically dehydrated state, but if you continue to down the same path, chances are you will develop some type of disorder in the near future.
Our bodies are constantly regenerating themselves. Your body is not the same body it was a few years ago. Nearly every single cell has passed on and a new cell has taken its place. During that process our own bodies produce a stunning amount of metabolic waste. That waste is transported or ushered out of our bodies by water through our urine, breath, sweat and stool. If water is limited that metabolic waste cannot be exported properly and builds up in our bodies. To put it crudely our cells’ waste products are hanging out in our tissues. This brings new light to the phrase “You’re full it.”
So what happens when our bodies can’t properly rid our own metabolic waste? Our cells contain mostly water and they need all that water to function effectively. When our water supply is low our bodies naturally conserve that water. As a result many of our body parts stop functioning optimally. Our muscles may cramp, our colon may withhold the amount of water necessary to produce a smooth bowel movement resulting in constipation, our blood pressure may go up due to our blood vessels constricting to make up for the lack of water, and our brain may stop producing at blazing fast speeds and move more like that old HP in the back room that takes 30 minutes to boot up.
Asthma and allergies may be a direct result of chronic dehydration. When the body is dehydrated histamine becomes activated and aids in redistributing water throughout the body to the vital organs. When histamine is left unchecked or dehydration is not dealt with reactions may occur due to the fact that we lose a significant amount of water through our lungs and in the body’s efforts to conserve water the bronchioles restrict to limit the amount of water loss resulting in difficulty breathing.
Joint pain can also occur from chronic dehydration. The cartilage in our joints is composed primarily of water. It is also avascular (doesn’t have a direct blood supply) in adults. Because of this, water is needed to transport the nutrients to maintain and repair any damaged cartilage from wear and tear. When the adequate water supply is limited, the joints may not repair themselves fast enough to keep up with the daily grind causing chronic joint pain.
If you know that you don’t drink much water, and it may even be difficult to drink water because you can’t stand the way it tastes, then here are 10 simple tips to get you drinking water like never before.
- Start small. Where ever you are currently, up it by a glass gradually, until you have reached your optimal level.
- Try putting just a little bit of citrus juice in your water (lemon or lime), or use certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils in your water to flavor it. (Avoid artificial sweeteners)
- Drink at designated times throughout the day. For instance, drink a tall glass first thing when you wake up in the morning. Then just before you know you are going to eat or at break time.
- Carry a water bottle with you or in your car. I recommend glass for a few reasons, but everything tastes better in glass anyway.
- Try drinking from a straw.
- Substitute your beverage of choice, like that acid forming soda or coffee, for a drink of pure clean water instead.
- Set reminders around the house or alerts on your phone or computer to remind you to drink every few hours.
- Drink water steadily throughout the day especially when hiking or skiing. Would you believe that more people are dehydrated in the winter than in the summer? It’s true.
- Don’t rely solely on thirst to be your guide. Contrary to popular belief, dry mouth or thirst is not the first sign of dehydration.
- For children, offer them water first and if they just will not drink try very diluted juice as a way to quench their thirst. Discourage your children’s schools from carrying caffeinated or sugary drinks in school vending.
There are many enticing drinks that get in the way of water like coffee, tea, soda, juice, crystal light, alcoholic beverages and energy drinks, but beware of the myth that these drinks contain water which makes them part of the daily allowance. This is a great mistake. On the contrary, these drinks and many others dehydrate the body further. A simple rule to remember in order to stay hydrated is to drink twice the amount of water to whatever other beverage you are drinking.
How much water do I really need each day? An easy way to be sure you’re getting enough is to drink half your body weight in pounds. So, if I weigh 120 lbs. then I’m going to consume 60 oz. of water each day and more if I’m exerting myself or am sweating frequently. Now remember, your urine should be clear or slightly colored on a continual basis to ensure you are getting enough water.
Doc, I tried to increase my water intake, but I had to run to the bathroom all the time and that got annoying real quick, so I stopped drinking as much. Be patient. That should only last a few weeks. It takes some time for your body to begin to utilize that extra intake of water.
In conclusion, many ailments can be prevented by simply drinking an adequate amount of water on a daily basis. There are also many benefits to staying properly hydrated. You can learn to love water and make a part of your routine. As you do so you can be assured that you are doing your body a great favor in allowing it to perform its proper function.