The Nurse Nutritionist
Summer has finally arrived in Western New York on both the calendar and how it feels outside. So now is a great time to review the importance of keeping well hydrated. During the warm summer months we are often outside gardening, bike riding, walking, and mowing. This increased activity combined with perspiring can lead to dehydration unless you’re careful that your input equals your output. With this in mind, many clients ask, “How much water do I need to drink daily”? Apparently the conventional wisdom of drinking eight glasses a day was only a guideline and not based on scientific evidence. So I often tell people to take their weight (in pounds), divide it in half, and drink that number in ounces. This too is just a guideline because the amount of fluids a person needs daily is unique to them. According to nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, “Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health”. A good rule of thumb is to look at the color of your urine. Is it dark yellow or orange in color or does it have a strong smell? These may be signs you’re not drinking enough. Urine should be a pale yellow to a clear color. If you are thirsty, this is the most obvious sign you need to hydrate more. It is a good practice to drink more water when you are not thirsty then to wait until you’re thirsty. Dry skin is another sign of dehydration, as is pinching the skin on your hand. If it takes more than a few seconds to return to normal, this is a sign of dehydration. When exercising, the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines recommend that “people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating”.
The role of water in the human body is vital to our survival. We are anywhere from 55% to 78% water depending on our size, but a rule of thumb is 2/3 of our body consists of water. In addition:
· The brain consists of 90% water
· Bone consists of 22% water
· Blood consists of 83% water
· Muscle consists of 75% water
Even more than dehydration though, drinking water has many health benefits. Some of which include:
· Drinking water may help with headaches and fatigue. Since the brain is 90% water, if you become dehydrated, the brain can’t function as well and you may get a headache. In addition, hydrating may help you be more alert and able to concentrate better.
· Water helps with maintain normal bowel function and prevent constipation. If you don’t drink enough water then the colon will pull water from your stools to help maintain hydration and you get constipated.
· Hydrating helps with muscle cramps and fatigued muscles. “When muscle cells don’t have adequate fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer,” says Dr. Guest. Water helps keep muscles and joints lubricated as well as giving them the electrolytes to function properly.
· Water helps to detoxify us. The main toxin in our bodies is blood urea nitrogen. This toxin is excreted through our kidneys. Water helps flush toxins and waste products through our kidneys and out of our bodies.
· Drinking water helps you to lose weight. Often times people mistake thirst for hunger. Also water flushes out the by-products of fat breakdown. There are no calories in water either. The next time you are hungry drink a glass of water prior to eating something.
· Keeping hydrated helps your skin look younger. “Dehydration makes your skin look drier and more wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration,” says dermatologist Kenneth Ellner, MD. Water helps to replenish skin tissues, moisturize skin, and increases skin elasticity.
You can increase your water intake by having a glass of water with every snack and meal Think about keeping a bottle of water with you in your bag or desk. In addition, try eating lots of fruit and vegetables (about 20% of our fluid intake comes from food). If you don’t like the taste of water add some lemon or a squirt of juice.
Remember, drinking a healthy amount of water is not only healthy it is vital to your health, so drink up!