Your body needs water. 90% of your body weight is water, and water plays a major role in your body functions. Water regulates your internal body temperature – that’s why you sweat. You need water for digestion: the carbohydrates and proteins that you eat and then metabolize, are transported by water in your bloodstream. Water helps remove liquid and solid waste from your body. Your brain and spinal cord use water as a shock absorber for protection. Without water, you couldn’t swallow – no saliva. You also couldn’t move because your joints need water. Your heart depends on water to function. Every cell in your body uses water. Simply put, without hydration – the state of having enough water in the body to keep all these systems going – your body will begin to shut down.
What if you don’t get enough water? Dehydration, which happens when you don’t get enough fluids to maintain your body’s various systems, can occur from not drinking enough fluids or losing too much fluid (sweating too much, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, urinating too much), or a combination of both. How do you know you’re dehydrated? Look for mild signs like thirst, dry or sticky mouth, headache or muscle cramps. If you or a loved is experiencing severe dehydration signs like dizziness or lightheadedness, irritability or confusion, rapid heartbeat and/or breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Pay close attention to children as they are more prone to dehydration due to their smaller size. Seniors are also at higher risk for dehydration because their ability to sense thirst decreases, so they may forget to drink or may not realize they are dehydrated. Make sure you check on the seniors in your life to make sure they are getting enough fluids.
Tips on staying hydrated. If you wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids, you are already dehydrated. To ensure that you are getting enough fluids every day, use this simple formula: take your weight and divide it in half. That is the amount you need daily in ounces. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you need 100 ounces a day, minimum. You will need more if it is hot outside or if you are exercising.
What counts as water? Besides tap or bottled water which should be at least half your daily fluid consumption, fruit is an excellent source of water. Watermelon is 90% water – and right in time for summer! Oranges, mangoes, melons and papaya also have high water content. Veggies like cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, are full of water. Iceberg lettuce (yes, iceberg) has the highest water content of ALL lettuce, so use it as a sandwich wrap.
Make flavored water by adding fruit or herbs, and no-sugar added 100% fruit or vegetable juices to your water for variety.
Other beverages you may consider are tea and coffee. Though they have a diuretic effect, they are not dehydrating, as is commonly believed. Low-fat dairy, and plant-based-milk beverages like almond, coconut and soy milk are also great choices. Seltzer is also a decent option. I add 100% cranberry juice with a touch of honey to plain seltzer over ice, for a delicious, cooling drink.
Water is the body’s best friend so make sure you get enough to be your best!