Water covers nearly three quarters of our planet’s surface, falls on us as rain and snow, sustains all life, and is as misunderstood as it is taken for granted. We drink it, wash with it, play in it, grow our food with it, and use it to carry away our waste, but most of us never give it a great deal of thought.
You don’t need to be a specialist to understand water’s health benefits, however, so you may want to consider these essential facts.
Weight control: Anybody who has successfully lost weight and kept it off will tell you that drinking water — which is calorie free — before every meal and throughout the day will make you feel more full. Eating foods with high water content, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, creates the same satiating effect while adding only minimal calories to your diet.
Fluid balance: Each one of us is about 60 percent water. Water drives digestion, absorption of nutrients, and circulation, while maintaining the body’s internal temperature. When you’re thirsty, your body is telling you it needs to replenish its fluids, and you ignore those signals at your peril. Of course, you can drink any liquid — any liquid except booze, that is. Although alcohol is a liquid, it actually dehydrates you and depletes your body’s fluids.
Good for your muscles: Fluid is essential to the health of every cell in your body, and if those cells don’t get enough fluid they will literally dry up and die. If you’re exercising or exerting yourself physically in some way, you’ll need even more fluid to stay healthy.
A good hair day and a good skin day: Your skin and hair are made up of those same water-hungry cells. Drinking enough water won’t reverse the aging process, but your skin will certainly look more dry and wrinkled if you don’t drink enough.
Getting rid of waste and toxins: Our cells remove wastes and toxins by excreting urine and solid matter, and all of that waste removal also requires water. Without enough water, your urine will become dark and smelly, and you’ll be constipated because your intestines will be forced to draw water from your solid waste. And if that’s not enough to convince you, highly concentrated urine can lead to kidney stones, which are really, really painful.
So how much water do you need? Not so long ago, the conventional wisdom urged everyone to consume 64 ounces of water a day – or eight 8-ounce glasses — but today experts say we need even more than that. Many variables dictate the amount of water that each one of us needs, including your weight and activity level, whether you live at a high altitude or in a hot climate, and your overall health. In general, you should drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for every pound of weight – that’s between 75 and 150 ounces, or roughly three to five quarts, for someone who weighs 150 pounds. Symptoms of illness such as fever, vomiting, and diarrhea will mean you’ll need still more fluid to replenish what you’ve lost.
Too much water? Hyponatremia is a rare condition that occurs when your kidneys can’t get rid of excess water. The minerals (electrolytes) in your blood become too diluted and cause your blood sodium to drop to dangerously low levels. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, memory loss, confusion, and lethargy. But hyponatremia generally has an underlying medical cause (kidney disease, congestive heart failure, liver failure among them) , and isn’t caused by simply drinking too much.
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