Hydration: Important to Your Health

July 14, 2014

  Your body depends on water for survival. Every cell, tissue and organ needs water to function correctly. Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. It makes up a large percentage of blood, the life giving red liquid that brings oxygen and nutrients. Vital processes, such as one’s immune system, depend on it. Every day we lose water when we sweat, urinate and even breathe. When the weather is hot we lose water even faster. Other conditions such as vomiting or diarrhea hasten the water loss.

  I checked out the Mayo clinic site to get my percentages right and they go like this: we're made up of about 60 percent water. The lungs are 90 percent water, the brain is 70 percent and our blood is more than 80 percent. Thirst begins after we are mildly dehydrated. That means we shouldn't wait until we're thirsty to begin hydrating. Studies on dehydration and the  body indicate that deficits in coordination, work capacity and mental sharpness begin when we are at least 1 percent dehydrated.  

Dehydration and Its Effects

   July, August and September are the hottest months of the year in California. If you’re not properly hydrated you may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness or more serious symptoms. Many of us remember to drink water only after our bodies are already dehydrated. One clue the color of our urine. Dark yellow or amber color is a sign of dehydration.

   Our kidneys function more efficiently when there is plenty of water in our bodies. If the kidneys have to economize on water, more energy is needed for the kidneys to function and that results in wear and tear on their tissues. This occurs when the kidneys are under stress, for example when the diet contains excessive amounts of salt or toxic substances that need to be eliminated.  

   Also, dehydration inhibits the effectiveness of our lymphatic system and allows cellular waste products to linger and create inflammation issues. It reduces the overall volume of blood and lymphatic fluids that are integral in a healthy immune system response. 

   Prolonged dehydration can cause central nervous system diseases such as vascular disorders, Parkinson's, muscular sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's disease, periphrial neuropathy, Alzheimer's and urinary tract infection. In extreme cases this can create confusion sometime misinterpreted as dementia.

Fruits and vegetables are full of water: iceberg and romaine lettuce, kale, mustard greens, cabbage, spinach, carrots and red tomatoes; melons, coconut, grapefruit, cucumbers, pears, strawberries, apples, blueberries and mangoes are just a few.

How Much Should You Drink?

   The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly 13 cups of total beverages a day. For women it is about 9 cups. This includes fruit juices. Another option is herbal tea. You can steep leaves from plants like mint, verbena or linden to make them flavorful. Avoid coffee, caffeinated tea, and cocoa if you are dehydrated.

   When thinking about exercising and water intake there are no set guidelines. Heat, humidity, intensity and duration are all factors to be considered. However, The American Council on Fitness has suggested the following basic water intake guidelines for people doing moderate-to-high intensity exercise:

17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising

8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up

7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise

8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise

My advice:  enjoy your summer and stay well hydrated!