Water is essential for maintaining the function of every system in our bodies. But when we get caught up in our daily activities, it can be easy to forget to drink water or make sure we’re getting enough of it.
Did you know water makes up about 60% of your body weight? When you consider that fact, you would think we wouldn’t have to worry about a shortage of it. But staying properly hydrated can be difficult. This can lead to dehydration and other health issues.
Symptoms of Dehydration
According to WebMD, if dehydration is mild, you may just need to drink more fluids. But if dehydration isn’t addressed quickly enough and symptoms get more serious, you may need a doctor to treat you with intravenous (IV) fluids or go the hospital.
Symptoms of mild or moderate dehydration may include thirst, a dry or sticky mouth, less frequent or dark yellow urine, a headache, and muscle cramps.
You may be experiencing severe dehydration if you:
- Have not urinated in 8 hours
- Have very dark yellow urine
- Have had a seizure
- Are disoriented or confused
- Have a weak or rapid pulse
- Feel very tired
- Feel dizzy when you stand
- Have fainted
- Are too sick (nauseated or vomiting) to take in fluids
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe dehydration.
How Much Fluid Do You Need?
Drinking enough fluids and staying hydrated is important for good health, but exactly how much water do we need? It’s a tougher question to answer than you might think.
General guidelines from the National Academy of Medicine say the adequate intake for men is roughly 3.7 liters or 125 ounces of fluid per day. The average intake for women is about 2.7 liters or 91 ounces of fluid per day. But this is just an average.
There are some sources that state getting 30 to 50 ounces of fluid per day is sufficient, and we’ve probably all heard the rule of thumb, make sure you drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day (8 x 8 rule, which would equal 64 ounces).
If you’re not sure what amount is right for you, talk to your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may need to adjust your total fluid intake based on certain factors, such as:
- How active you are (exercise makes you lose fluid through sweating and those who do intense workouts will burn more water, faster)
- The climate you live in (sweating in a hot climate can rob you of fluids, but you could also need more fluid during winter months when heated indoor air causes you to lose moisture)
- Your health status (certain medications, health conditions, and symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea may cause you to quickly dehydrate)
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
Fluid We Get Through Foods
It’s also important to note that intake amounts are for total fluid intake, not just water. While water is best, fluids include other beverages, such as milk, juice, coffee, tea, and soda, as well as liquid-based foods like soup or broth.
Fluid goals also include the approximately 20% of our total water intake that comes from the foods we eat. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as spinach and watermelon, are 90% or more water by weight. According to the USDA, the high water content of select foods include:
- 90-99%: Fat-free milk, cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach, pickles, and cooked squash
- 80-89%: Fruit juice, yogurt, apples, grapes, oranges, carrots, cooked broccoli, pears, and pineapple
- 70-79%: Bananas, avocados, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, baked potatoes, cooked corn, and shrimp
- 60-69%: Pasta, legumes, salmon, ice cream, and chicken breast
Benefits of Staying Hydrated
The benefits of staying hydrated are many. Not only does it help prevent you from becoming dehydrated and the potential negative effects that come with that, but it also helps:
- Improve mental state
- Regulate your body temperature
- Lubricate and cushion your joints
- Protect vital organs and tissues
- Support kidney function (as stated in a National Institutes of Health publication, “Kidneys function more efficiently in the presence of an abundant water supply.”)
- Rid the body of waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements
Ways to Reach Your Hydration Goals
To make it easier to get enough fluids each day, here are several tips for meeting your hydration goals:
- Record how much water you drink throughout the day. You may be surprised to learn how little you actually drink, and that may help you plan for better fluid intake.
- Eat more foods that are high in water content. Top your sandwiches with iceberg lettuce or use romaine lettuce as a wrap in place of bread. Add fruit to your chicken salad. Put chopped celery and radishes on your salad.
- Ask someone to keep you accountable for the amount of fluids you are drinking each day until drinking the correct amount becomes second nature.
- Make sure you have a beverage with every snack and meal.
- Keep a bottle of water next to you or with you at all times to encourage and remind you to drink.
- Make it a habit to start your morning with a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it. Doing this regularly is believed to provide additional health benefits, such as helping to flush your body of toxins, quicken your digestive system, reduce constipation, and cleanse and stimulate the liver and kidneys.
- Choose beverages you enjoy that have no calories or are low in calories. If you’re drinking what you like, you may drink more.
- If you’re not regularly fond of water but want to drink it more, consider flavoring it with the juice of a fruit, a sprig of fresh mint, fresh slices of cucumber (they contain 96.7% water) and lime, or flavored drops available in retail stores.
- Try juicing to increase your intake of liquid.
- Fill a container with the amount of water you need to drink during the day and then make sure you have emptied it by the end of the day.
How Do You Know if You’re Well-Hydrated?
As you improve your fluid intake, you’ll probably feel better physically, and that will encourage you to stick to your new routine of staying well-hydrated. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re reaching your hydration goals:
- You rarely feel thirsty
- Your urine is colorless or light yellow
- Your urine output measures 6.3 cups (1.5 liters) or more per day if you are keeping track
If you have any questions, are unsure you are getting enough fluid, or have health issues that raise concerns about hydration, ask your doctor for advice about what is right for you and your health.