Water is the most abundant, and the most important, nutrient in your body. You need it to carry the other nutrients to organs, and oxygen to your cells. Blood is made mostly of water, as are your lungs, muscles, and brain. You need water to regulate your body’s temperature, remove waste, and cushion your joints and organs.
A lack of water can cause mental and physical problems. If water is not replenished as it is lost, you begin to see symptoms of dehydration. Regardless of how much water you drink, you are constantly losing water throughout the day in urine, perspiration, and respiration.
Perspiration is the body’s natural cooling system. Sweat on the skin cools our overall body temperature as it evaporates. Respiration releases moisture with every breath you exhale. Exercising increases this type of water loss, as breathing becomes heavier and more frequent. In general, active people need more water than sedentary folks.
Fatigue, irritability, and headaches are some of the first noticeable symptoms of dehydration. Thirst is a later symptom, usually indicating that dehydration is well underway. Symptoms of prolonged dehydration include pain in joints, muscles, and the lower back, as well as constipation and dark urine.
Diuretics are substances that trick the body into thinking it has more water than it really does. They do this by making the kidneys generate urine. Caffeine is the most common diuretic. It causes you to lose more water than you should, causing dehydration. This is why quenching your thirst with caffeinated drinks is counterproductive.
Sugary drinks also cause dehydration. When glucose enters the blood stream it attracts water, and your body tries to compensate for the loss by making you thirsty. You can really notice this effect after eating particularly sweet foods, like ice cream.
To keep your body healthy and hydrated, water is by far the best thing to drink.
In-flight air is said to be drier than the Arabian Desert. Fifty percent humidity is a comfortable environment, but the dry airplane cabin air is typically about 1 percent. If you are traveling in an airplane, you should drink eight ounces of water every hour to combat airplane-induced dehydration. And avoid the free salty snacks.They only make matters worse.
How Much Is Enough?
For years you have been told to drink eight glasses of water a day. It is a good general rule, although there has been little scientific study to support this recommendation. With water, as with other elements of good nutrition, the right amount varies with the individual.
One popular formula is to divide your body weight in two. That number is the number of ounces you should be drinking daily. If you are active, you need to add more water. If you live in a dry climate, you need to add more. If you drink alcohol you should add that amount of extra water as well.