Most people know that the human body is made up of about 60% water and that drinking water is important. However, many are not aware of some of the concrete effects that water – or the lack of water – has on the body. These effects make a strong case for anyone to make changes in their water drinking habits and make the effort to drink enough water. So, what are these effects that water has on the body and what are some good reasons to drink water?
First, a basic understanding of the water balance in our bodies is needed. A lack of water in our systems is known as dehydration. This occurs when water intake does not reach the level of your water output. Under normal conditions the body constantly uses and processes water. The body’s use of water increases in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, after health treatments as the body automatically starts to detox and in high altitudes. Some other health conditions and changes in your body such as diabetes, pregnancy, breast-feeding, growing older, menstruation, and some prescription medications also make your body use up water more quickly than under normal conditions.
Just some of the effects that water has on the body and reasons that drinking water is important are:
1. Balance of body fluids – On a very general level, drinking water helps maintain the body balance of body fluids. Some of the functions of bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation on nutrients and maintenance of body temperature. The body knows how to maintain a balance and when it is low on fluids, it will trigger the body’s thirst mechanism. So, when you feel thirsty, you’re already a bit dehydrated.
2. Muscle cell maintenance – Water helps energise the muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. When muscle cells don’t have adequate fluids, they don’t work as well and performance can suffer. This is why hydration during exercise is key for success.
3. Skin health – Water helps keep skin looking good. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Dehydration makes your skin look dry and wrinkled. Your skin health and appearance can be improved with proper hydration. Furthermore, water is necessary to keep skin clear and free of pimples or blemishes. Water can help wash out toxins in the skin, helping decrease the appearance of pimples.
4. Kidney health – Water helps your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The kidneys cleanse and get rid of your body toxins as long as your intake of fluids is adequate. The more water you drink, the less concentrated the waste is. This is important in order to avoid contracting urinary tract infections which can also lead to kidney infections. In studies, kidney stones have also been related to chronic dehydration.
5. Bowel functions – Water helps maintain normal bowel functions. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. Drinking water can also help prevent and cure other unpleasant intestinal and rectal complications such as haemorrhoids.
6. Maintain a healthy weight – The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight are numerous. Choosing water over calorie-filled drinks can help you maintain a healthy weight. Also, choosing foods that are high in water-content such as fruits and vegetables help you feel full without packing in the calories.
7. Energy – Studies have shown that one of the side effects of dehydration is tiredness. This is true while you’re exercising or going about your daily routine. Dehydration means your blood volume is lower (your blood becomes slightly thicker), causing your heart to work less efficiently. This means that oxygen reaches your muscles and organs at a slower rate. This lowers your energy levels, keeping you from performing your best.
8. Mobility – Our joints are surrounded by cartilage which helps make our movements smooth and pain-free. Cartilage is up to 85% water. It is an important protective material for our bones, helping us in our daily movements. Adequate hydration is necessary to keep cartilage healthy.
It’s hard for busy people to incorporate drinking enough water into routines and sustain healthy water-drinking habits. However, drinking enough water is important and the toll taken on the body can be high when dehydration kicks in.
If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of maintaining a well hydrated body:
- Have a beverage with every snack and meal. Try to finish your beverage every time and be sure the beverage is at least 8 oz.
- Choose beverages you enjoy. You’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste. Try to choose natural drinks like juice, lemonade, tea, etc.
- Eat more fruit and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. Some particularly good options for increasing water intake with water percentage contents upwards of 90 are: cucumber, celery, tomatoes, watermelon and strawberries.
- Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk or in your bag. Fill the bottle and make a goal to finish it before a certain time, and then repeat.
- Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, go for non-caloric beverages or water. Try small additions to your water to add taste such as a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange. Adding cucumber slices or mint to water also adds a very nice taste without adding calories.
- Make a habit of drinking a glass of water when you wake up, in addition to your coffee. The caffeine in coffee may counteract the water in this beverage by causing you to eliminate it quickly. Adding a glass of water to your morning routine will help you catch up on water lost while sleeping and the caffeine in your coffee.