We’ve all heard the “drink eight glasses of water each day” comment. And now we’re being told maybe we don’t need to drink water, that we get enough from our foods. So, who’s right?
First, let’s start with why hydration is so critical. In short – everything in your body works better when properly hydrated. All the receptors in the cell membranes (which are the means of command and the control message system) function more efficiently, proteins and enzymes are more efficient, oxygen is delivered better to the cells, nutrients are properly transported, body temperature is regulated, toxins and waste are more easily removed, the immune system is strengthened, as well as bones, joints, and organs are better cushioned. Water is the most important nutrient in the body, making up 55-60% of our total body mass. There have been direct links between serious conditions such as pain, hernia, heartburn, cataracts, chronic fatigue, kidney stones, lupus, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, stress, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, weight gain, asthma, allergies, and diabetes with the continuous state of dehydration.
Next, let’s do the math with water. On average, we need about 12 cups worth of water each day to stay hydrated. These don’t have to all come from drinking water though. It can come from our food and the water released when food digests. In the U.S., we average about 4 cups of water from a day’s food and one cup from the breakdown of this food. So we still need to drink the remaining seven cups (and that’s just on average).
Third, we are diverting our water intake with the consumption of coffee, soda, tea, milk, juice, etc. These upset our water balance even though they consist mostly of water. They are diuretics and can actually cause the body to excrete more water than the drink contains. Soda pop, is highly concentrated with sugar or chemicals. When it enters the digestive system it causes the body to “steal” water from elsewhere to dilute the soda pop and make it less concentrated.
Fourth, the first step of good nutrition is to know the origin, process, and contents of anything we take into our bodies. If you’re unsure about the water you’re drinking have it tested. You can also check http://water.epa.gov/type/, go to the bottom of the page to “Where You Live” and follow the prompts to find how your local tap water rates.
Finally, how much water do you really need? Although every body is different in the rate of metabolizing, a basic standard is to take your body weight and divide it in half. That number is the minimum about of water you need to drink each day. Example: weight 150 pounds, divide by 2 = 75 ounces of water. Remember to add more for exercise or high heat environments. But that’s a good goal. Try and sip your water throughout the day because most people can only metabolize about 1/2 cup of water every half hour. No need to take in the water if it’s not going to get used.