Mountaintop Medicine: Nutrition Notes — Say Hello to Proper Hydration
Welcome back! This week’s topic on Mountaintop Medicine: Nutrition Notes is hydration. Every single one of our cells, tissues, and organs requires water to function. You may have even heard that 70% of our bodies are made up of water.
But why else is drinking plenty of water so important? Staying hydrated has been linked to maintaining a healthy weight, helps prevent chronic disease, and is key to healthy aging because it helps lower serum sodium levels. It also helps to deliver nutrients to our cells, regulates our body temperature, helps to prevent infections, aids digestion, removes waste, and lubricates our joints. It also helps improve sleep, mood, cognition, and focus. As you can see, proper hydration is a key component to our overall health.
How much water should you drink in a day?
General water intake (from all beverages and foods) that meet most people’s needs are:
- About 15.5 cups of water (125 ounces) each day for men
- About 11.5 cups (91 ounces) daily for women
People get about 20% of their daily water intake from food. The rest is dependent on drinking water and water-based beverages. So, ideally men should consume about 100 ounces (3 liters) of water from beverages, and women, about 73 ounces (2.12 liters) from beverages. Although, your fluid needs depend on your location, health status, age, and activity level. Remember to increase your water intake if you are of older age, reside in or are visiting a hotter region, work outside, or when exercising to avoid dehydration.
You can assess your hydration status through your thirst and the color of your urine. Feeling thirsty indicates your body is not receiving an adequate amount of water. Urine that is dark or colored indicates dehydration, and on the other hand, pale or non-colored urine typically indicates proper hydration.
What exactly is dehydration?
Dehydration is a condition that occurs from either a lack of water intake, excessive water loss, or both. There are several types of dehydration that vary in severity and in symptoms. The most common symptoms of mild dehydration are thirst and dry mouth, which can progress to moderate dehydration that is characterized by dark urine, headaches, and muscle cramps. Severe dehydration symptoms include loss of ability to produce urine or sweat, dizziness, confusion, and sweating. This can be extremely dangerous as it can cause vital organs to shut down!
Here are some ideas for how you can be sure you drink enough:
- Keep track of your daily water intake and aim to meet your minimal daily requirements.
- Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go.
- Pace yourself to approach half of your recommended intake by midday. You can always finish about an hour before you plan to sleep.
- Flavor your water with fruit. Some of my favorite fruit combinations to use are cucumber-lime, lemon, and strawberry-kiwi. Although, you can use any combination of fruits that you like.
- Replace sugary drinks like sodas, coffees, and juices with glasses of water.
If you have any questions or if there are any nutrition-related topics that you would like me to discuss here on Nutrition Notes, please reach out at LGardner@EPH.org.