About 60% of your body is made up of one essential element—water.1
Maintaining that percentage of water is vital to your overall health. Did you know adequate hydration provides cushioning for your joints? It also maintains your body temperature.2 Staying hydrated reduces cavities and tooth decay (water washes away cavity-causing bacteria and helps produce saliva, which keeps your mouth clean).3 It helps flush toxins and waste out of your body (by way of urination, defecation, and perspiration),4 and can help prevent (and relieve symptoms of) constipation.5
Drinking water may alleviate some headache symptoms, especially in those who are dehydrated. Increasing your water intake also appears to reduce your risk of developing certain types of kidney stones although more research is needed to confirm these assumptions.6
Drinking water can aid in weight loss. For example, studies have demonstrated that drinking just 17 ounces of water can increase the metabolism as much as 30% for as long as an hour and a half after consumption.7 Moreover, drinking water can cause you to feel “full,” leaving you less disposed to overeat, and it helps keep your digestion process functioning properly. Some experts suggest drinking cold water may also help: Your body uses additional energy (burns more calories) to heat the water to body temperature.8
What is dehydration?
Dehydration happens when your body loses more water than you take in. Simply not drinking enough water or eating enough water-rich foods can make you dehydrated. Drinking alcoholic beverages, which are diuretics (they make you expel more water), without complementing each drink with at least one glass of water can cause dehydration—and add to hangover symptoms.
Sweating can also cause dehydration. The average person has 2.6 million sweat glands that help your body maintain an appropriate temperature by sweating.9 However, if the water you lose by sweating is not replaced, dehydration results. When athletes perform, they can lose up to 6-10% of their water weight by sweating.10
Life circumstances can affect how much water you need daily and can influence your chances of becoming dehydrated, such as:
- Illness. You can lose fluid if you are sick and have been vomiting or having diarrhea.
- Physical activity and fluid loss through sweat.
- Pregnancy and lactation.
- Age, body weight, and metabolism.
- Types of food and drink you consume.
- Chronic medical conditions that cause increased urination, such as diabetes or enlarged prostate. (In some cases, certain medications and medical conditions may require a person to take in less water throughout the day.)
- Environment. Being out in the heat and living at a high altitude results in increased fluid loss.
Anyone from infants to elderly individuals can become dehydrated.
Symptoms of dehydration in adults include:
- Dry mouth, cracked lips
- Dark-colored urine
Infants may show similar symptoms of dehydration but may also have sunken eyes, lack of tears, decreased urine output (producing fewer wet diapers), or irritability.11
Effects of Dehydration
Insufficient water intake deprives you of the health benefits that come with adequate hydration. For example, not taking in enough water makes you more susceptible to constipation and could increase your risk of kidney stones.
Dehydration can also be dangerous in other ways. If you don’t take in enough fluids in hot weather, you can increase your risk of serious heat illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.12
Dehydration impacts brain function and energy levels. Studies have found that even mild losses of your body’s total water may impair concentration, memory, and mood while also impacting feelings of anxiety and fatigue.13
How do I know if I’m getting enough water?
There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for water intake. Paying attention to your body is essential: Drink water when you are thirsty; when your thirst is quenched—stop drinking. 14 But keep in mind those daily life factors mentioned above that can influence your need to take in more water throughout the day. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends drinking 1 cup of water for every 15 to 20 minutes of moderate activity in moderate conditions.15 So, if you are doing vigorous exercise or are in a hot climate, know that you need to drink more than that to stay hydrated.
Adequate hydration does not depend on drinking water alone. Other sources can regulate your fluid balance (water intake versus water loss). Approximately 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.16 Additional water sources include drinks such as tea and coffee (without sugar) and water-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs).17
Easy ways to consume more water: 18
- Drink a glass of water with every meal. Sneak in extra sips before meals, like while brewing your morning coffee, while waiting on your lunch, and while preparing dinner.
- Skip the soda and sugary beverages and choose water instead, especially when you will be engaged in physical activity and/or out in the heat.
- For each alcoholic beverage you drink, drink one glass of water.
- Get into the habit of drinking water after you take a bathroom break.
- Flavor your water by adding fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs to a water pitcher or an infuser water bottle. Try out: strawberries, lemon, raspberries, blueberries, cucumbers, celery, mint, ginger. Add even more pizazz by drinking it with a colorful reusable plastic straw or a sleek stainless steel one.
- Download a free app to keep track of your water intake and set reminders to drink. Or attach a hydration reminder device to your bottle that will flash when it is time for you to drink more water.
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you. Stainless steel bottles will help keep your water cool throughout the day. Bottles with larger volume, like 40 ounces, will keep you from having to refill it often. If you are going to be outdoors, look for hands-free water packs; many can carry up to two liters.
- Thirst is sometimes confused with hunger. Try “snacking” on water before reaching for a snack next time. But if you really do need a snack, consider munching on water-rich foods such as cucumber (96%), zucchini (95%), watermelon (92%), and grapefruit (91%).
Staying hydrated impacts your total body – incorporate ways to ingest more water into your diet and start living a healthier life.
1 Kris Gunnars, “How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?,” Healthline, June 20, 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Water and Nutrition,” https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html
3 American Dental Association, “4 Reasons Water Is the Best Beverage for Your Teeth,” Mouth Healthy, https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/food-tips/water-best-beverage
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Water and Nutrition.”
5 Joe Leech, “7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water,” June 4, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-of-water
9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Keeping Workers Hydrated and Cool Despite the Heat,” https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2011/08/12/heat-2/
10 Joe Leech, “7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water.”
11 Mayo Clinic, “Dehydration,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
12 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Keeping Workers Hydrated and Cool Despite the Heat.”
13 Kris Gunnars, “How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?”
15 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Keeping Workers Hydrated and Cool Despite the Heat.”
16 Kathleen M. Zelman, “6 Reasons to Drink Water,” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink-water#1
17 Kris Gunnars, “How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?”
18 Jessica Cruel and Sally Tamarkin, ” 22 Easy Ways to Drink More Water Every Day,” Self, January 3, 2019, https://www.self.com/story/how-to-drink-more-water