Both as a parent and a health writer, I find myself constantly extolling the benefits of adequate hydration. In fact, for my children, “Drink more water,” comes in second only to “Eat your fruit.”
How much water is enough? The standard advice is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
But that the rule isn’t really supported by hard evidence. However, it’s easier to remember “eight 8 oz. glasses” than the actual recommendations from the Institute of Medicine: for the average healthy woman, about nine cups a day (72 ounces); for the average man, about 13 cups (104 ounces).
An even better way to figure out your recommended daily water intake is by dividing your body weight in half and making that the number of ounces you should drink per day. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you want to drink 70 ounces of water per day — as long as you're not doing anything strenuous. But if you're working out, hiking, at a high altitude, or outdoors a great deal, you’ll have to drink even more.
Recently, a nutritionist asked me to keep track of my diet and fluid intake for a week. After marking down each glass of water, I realized that I was drinking only half the recommended amount. And playing catch up at the end of the day is not a good idea because you’ll be awake all night going to the bathroom.
A better method (it came to me as one of a fashion model’s “beauty secrets” from a magazine) is to start off the day with several glasses of water. It’s a good way to get a head start.
Another way to make sure you get enough water is to fill a large container to the recommended daily amount, then be sure to drink all of it in the course of the day. Or you can simply keep a water bottle at your desk and count the number of times you refill.
Whatever you do, it’s important to have to some kind of system to ensure you drink enough water. If you only drink when you’re thirsty, it won’t be enough.
Once, when I was in between chemotherapy sessions, I fainted on my bathroom floor. The emergency room nurse’s first assessment was that I was dehydrated, and she immediately gave me intravenous fluid.
My mother told the nurse that I always carried a water bottle around.
“But does she drink it?” the nurse asked. Her point was made.
Another time, after I had suffered a bout of vomiting and diarrhea, I went out to walk my dog. Soon my legs got wobbly and I fell backwards, hitting my head on the pavement — thereby earning another trip to the emergency room.
The cause: Dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea had led to low levels of electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, which affect blood chemistry, muscle action, and other processes.
Dehydration can also influence mental functioning, heart rate, and the body’s ability to regulate body temperature and blood pressure. At the time of both of these incidents, my blood pressure was very low.
In addition to carrying vital nutrients to the cells in your body, water also:
· Helps carry waste products from the cells
· Is a part of essential reactions within the body
· Helps regulate body temperature by absorbing heat generated by metabolism, as well as eliminating excess heat through sweating
· Helps with digestion of food
· Helps lubricate your joints
One way to check your hydration level is to monitor your urine. It should be a pale yellow color. If it is darker, it’s time to drink some water.
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