Are You Hydrated?

Nutrition | | August 11, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Photo by digitonin.

Whenever my grandfather was offered a glass of water to drink, his response was always, “No thanks, water makes me rust!” When it comes to hydration, there are two kinds of people: those who carry water bottles everywhere they go and those who prefer to drink non-water beverages (juice, tea, coffee, soda), like my grandfather.

Water creates pressure in plant cells, which keeps the leaves and green stems perky and upright. Your body is 60% water and just like the sad wilted house plant that you neglected, your body responds physically when you forget to water it.

It’s something like 40 days that you can survive without any food (hence the 40 day hunger strike). On the other hand, go without fluids and you won’t make it past 3 days! Water is the most important nutrient you can give you body.

Your body relies on water to move oxygen and nutrients into your cells and tissues, to remove toxins and waste products out of your cells, to break down fat cells for weight loss, to lubricate joints, to provide fluid for the discs that protect the spine and other important stuff too.

Lots of people don’t realize that every day symptoms like headaches, back pain,  low energy, poor concentration, joint pain, wrinkly skin and poor immune system can be caused by dehydration. The good news: these symptoms can often be relieved by staying hydrated!

But what if I’m not thirsty?

When you’re dehydrated, your brain gives you a signal called the thirst reflex, but when you don’t give your body what it’s asking for, over time this thirst reflex dies down, and you just don’t get thirsty. Also, many people confuse the thirst with hunger, reaching for a snack instead  of water and sabotaging their weight loss efforts.

Even if you can’t stand the thought of drinking, you’ll find that as you slowly increase your water intake, your thirst reflex will improve and drinking water won’t feel like such a chore.

Health benefits of staying hydrated include:

  • Better concentration and ability to focus
  • Higher energy levels,  less fatigue, and improved mood
  • Fewer headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Improvement in low back pain
  • Improvement in joint and arthritic pain
  • Improved immune system- less colds, sore throats, flu and sinus infections
  • Improved skin quality and less wrinkles
  • Improvement in acne and other skin problems
  • Reduction in kidney stones
  • Improved cardiovascular symptoms, lowered cholesterol, reduced blood pressure
  • Relief from constipation and more regular bowel movements

How much water should I drink?

The rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 120 pounds, you’ll need to get an average of 60 ounces daily, which is about 8 8-ounce cups of water. If you weigh 200 pounds, you’ll need 100 ounces of water per day, which is about 13 8-ounce cups.

Remember to increase your water intake with on a hot sunny day, with excessive sweating and exercise, or when you drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and sodas that are dehydrating to the body.

Another easy rule to follow if you can’t be bothered with counting your glasses per day is to go by the color of your urine.  If your urine is dark or amber yellow, pour yourself a glass of water and start sipping!  If your urine is clear or pale yellow, then you’re right on track!

Of course these are general guidelines and there are a few conditions (such as congestive heart failure and some kidney diseases) for which these guidelines would be contraindicated. You should consult your physician before dramatically changing your water intake.

NishantDr. Nishant Rao is a co-founder of He is a well-traveled naturopathic doctor and new father, practicing an integrative approach to create wellness in and around Los Angeles. Become a patient or discover his practice.

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