Water is a critical substance for the survival of Earth and most of the life on it. On average, adult bodies contain up to 60% water. Every part of our body contains water, to varying degrees. Large organs like the brain, skin, heart, and lungs are more water than anything else. Without water, our body cannot function properly. In general, just three days without water can be fatal.
Water’s Role in the Body
Every part of our body relies on water. Here are some ways it keeps us healthy:
- It is a building block for cells
- Helps keep joints protected and lubricated
- Necessary for saliva production (which helps us process food and protects our teeth)
- Helps the body eliminate waste
- Helps control body temperature
- Regulates blood pressure and heartbeat
- Helps with regular bowel movements
- Carries oxygen and nutrients to our cells
- Helps regulate sodium (salt) in the blood
How Much Water Do We Need Each Day?
The amount of H2O a person needs depends on their individual circumstances. The common suggestion for healthy people is six to eight cups (250ml/cup) per day. People who exercise vigorously may need more. This also applies to those living in hot climates, who may lose water by sweating.
For people with certain medical conditions (thyroid disease, kidney, and heart problems, etc.), the six to eight cup rule may be too much. Speak with a doctor to determine what’s best. Pregnant people may need to drink up to 12 cups of water per day. Water makes up the amniotic sac that surrounds the fetus, which protects it from injury.
We can get water from any drink or food that contains it. Pure aqua is best, as it doesn’t contain any sugar or empty calories. But sugar-free tea, vegetable juice, and low-fat milk are beneficial, too. Even coffee in moderation (three to five cups/day) is hydrating. Foods like watermelon, lettuce, celery, oranges, broth, and cottage cheese are packed with water.
Signs of Dehydration
We have all likely experienced minor dehydration. This can occur for many reasons, like drinking too much alcohol, exercising, or not drinking enough water. Feeling thirsty is the number one sign of being dehydrated. Most times, we respond by drinking water and our body continues to operate normally. But if we ignore the initial warning signs, we may experience:
Mild to Moderate Dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Dark yellow urine
- Infrequent urination
- Muscle cramps
- Stiff joints
- High or unstable body temperature
- Quick heartbeat. Our body tries to maintain a steady rate of blood flow. When dehydrated, the heart needs to beat faster to do this. The body will also redirect blood from the skin to vital organs to keep them working. This leads to cool, clammy skin. However, this protective function will eventually fail with severe dehydration.
- Confusion: When severely dehydrated, the body’s ability to send blood to vital organs is ultimately reduced. If the brain doesn’t get enough blood, we may experience confusion.
- Seizures. Water regulates electrolytes (like sodium) in the blood. Electrolytes help our cells communicate via electrical signals. If they are unbalanced, this communication may be interrupted, leading to seizures and muscle spasms.
- Brain swelling. When we get hydration after a long period without it, our cells take in water. This may happen too quickly, which causes cells to burst. Long-term, this can affect communication, mood and thinking ability.
- Coma and death. This happens if severe dehydration goes untreated.
How to Get More Water
- Keep a filled water bottle on hand, like our Motivational Water Bottle. Take small sips throughout the day, and refill when necessary.
- Flavor water with fruit, like cucumber, lemon, or strawberries to make it tastier and more appealing.
- Drink water with meals, instead of sugary drinks like soft drinks or juice
- Set a timer as a reminder to drink water
- Aim to drink one cup of water every couple of hours
Water supports life and so many processes that come with it. From humans to the creatures in the ocean, from the clouds to the food we eat, water is necessary. If we are lucky enough to have safe drinking water, we shouldn’t take it for granted. The least we can do is make sure our body gets what it needs. When we take care of it, it takes care of us.