Water, so precious yet so often taken for granted, is fundamental to good health. It lubricates the organs, regulates temperature and maintains tissue structure. Water deprivation leads to life-threatening dehydration within a few days.
As if that weren’t enough, a 12-week trial run by a team from Virginia Tech has found that drinking water before meals can lead to weight loss. The Economist magazine reports that a year-long follow up trial both confirms and expands on that finding. The group who drank water before meals lost about seven kilograms each, whereas as those who didn’t lost only five kilograms.
Why is Water Essential to Good Health?
The human body is composed of 65% water. Blood is 95% water, while skin is 70% water. The brain is about 75% water. Everyone loses water as they go about their daily activities, and therefore needs to replenish what has been lost on an ongoing basis each day.
The body is able to regulate how much water it holds. The kidneys can either excrete excess water as urine, or withhold water when the body needs it. In the latter case, dehydration is at work and thirst soon makes itself felt. By the time a person feels thirsty, he or she is already dehydrated.
Symptoms of dehydration include the obvious dry mouth, headaches dry eyes and light-headedness. Long-term effects include constipation and kidney stones.
The Importance of Keeping Hydrated
The obvious answer to keeping hydrated is to drink water. The official advice has long been to drink about eight glasses of water a day. This has led to some confusion, as sources of water can and do vary. In addition to mineral water or water from the tap, sources can include other drinks such as fruit juices and herbal teas. Coffee and tea, long thought of as diuretics, can also help make up the daily quota of fluid, as their diuretic effect is fairly mild. Also, there is water in food, so in effect the eight glasses a day can be made up from a number of sources.
It is important to drink regularly throughout the day, as the kidneys function better when they have a steady input and output of liquid. Those people working up a sweat through exercise or in hot temperatures will need to drink more throughout the day.
Tips for Keeping Hydrated
To stay hydrated, keep the following tips in mind:
- Keep a bottle of water at hand.
- Drink at regular intervals.
- Water-containing foods such as fruit contribute to daily fluid intake.
- Alcohol is dehydrating.
Drink more during exercise and when the weather is hot.