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The health benefits of drinking water

woman drinking water. health benefits
Aqua Mechanical via Flickr

The human body is about 60% water; the brain is about 70% water, and blood about 90% water. You may have seen frequent assertions that we need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. That’s half a gallon. As it turns out, no particular scientific experiments stand behind that recommendation. But the health benefits of drinking water, and drinking enough of it, are clear.

How much water you need really depends on a lot of variables, including your size, location, physical activity, metabolism, diet, and general health. That is, larger people need more water than smaller people. People in a hot, dry climate need more water than people in a cooler and more humid climate. And so on.

Also, foods and other beverages have water content. And that water counts. Drink a handful of grapes. Even corn flakes provide a little bit of water!

All those variables may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t need to know what quantity of water you drink or eat to know if you’re getting enough. Look at you urine. Pale is good. A bright yellow or darker means you need more water. 

Signs and dangers of dehydration

Dehydration occurs when we take in less water than water than we lose through sweat, breathing, urine, and stool. We lose more water in warmer than colder climates and during strenuous exercise—especially in high altitudes. Older adults may not have as sharp a sense of thirst as younger people and are thus more  prone to dehydration. 

Whenever we feel thirsty, we ought to drink something, so long as it is not alcoholic. Alcohol, however, is a diuretic. That is, it removes water from your system. Drinking alcohol, therefore, inhibits the benefits of drinking water It makes you pee sooner than other liquids, so it can actually dehydrate you if you don’t also drink enough water.

We may actually be dehydrated even when we don’t feel thirsty. Here are some telltale signs, some of which indicate severe dehydration:

  • Rough, flaking, or cracked skin and lips
  • Dry or sticky feeling of the mouth or tongue, possibly also including bad breath
  • Dark urine and less frequent urination
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Less alertness, concentration, and general brain function
  • Anxious, tense, depressed mood
  • Headaches, including migraines
  • Nausea and vomiting (which causes even more water loss)
  • Fainting
  • Fast heartbeat and rapid breathing

Even being dehydrated by as little as 1%, can cause noticeable symptoms. Athletes may sweat away as much as 10% of their water. The more extreme the dehydration, the more serious the symptoms.

How drinking water enhances health

benefits of drinking water

Our bodies comprise anywhere from 70 to 100 trillion cells. Cell health demands that nutrients can efficiently get into a cell and toxins can efficiently come out. Water transports both the nutrients and the toxins. It plays an  important role in all the body’s functions. Deficiency of water prevents the efficient exchange of nutrients and toxins. 

The body eliminates toxins through urination, defecation, exhalation, and sweat. All these functions require water. Insufficient water appears to inhibit detoxification before anything else. The body then stores the toxins at locations away from major organs, including joints, arteries, and fatty tissue. Of course, they are not harmless there. Eventually, the body must eliminate them or suffer some kind of disease. 

While proper hydration alone will not cure diseases, it makes an important part of the healing process from many of them. 

Here are some health benefits of drinking enough water:

  • Your blood will be the right consistency to flow and carry nutrients to all parts of your body and carry toxins to the kidneys.
  • You are less likely to experience constipation.
  • Water helps lubricate your joints and keep them healthy.
  • Adequate water prevents kidney disorders.
  • It also takes care of your skin as effectively as expensive moisturizing lotions and creams.
  • Sufficient saliva lowers your risk of tooth decay by keeping your mouth clean. 
  •  

The safety of our drinking water

Our drinking water comes mostly from rivers or lakes. Municipal water treatment plants filter out sediment, excess minerals, etc. They also disinfect the water to destroy pathogens. The output must meet strict standards determined by federal law. 

More than 13 million Americans get their water from private wells. No government agency regulates these wells. The owners are responsible for having their water tested and, if necessary, treated. 

Despite the scare tactics of some advertisements, bottled water has no advantages as far as safety is concerned. Drinking bottled water has no extra health benefits. It is less heavily regulated than municipal water systems. In fact, the EPA, which regulates tap water, has standards for at least one of the chemicals used to make plastic. The FDA, which regulates bottled water, does not.  

And frankly, most people can’t taste the difference between tap water and bottled water. Some brands of bottled water, in fact, are nothing but municipal tap water put in plastic bottles. The bottles, of course, leach microplastics into the water. Never drink bottled water from bottles that have ever gotten hot to the touch, such as from having been left out in the sun or a hot car.

Filtering drinking water

water filtering pitcher. health benefits of drinking water
Water filtering pitcher.
Photo by Patrick Haney via Flickr

Despite the best efforts of water systems and bottlers, all drinking water has some contaminants. The EPA requires municipal water systems to test the water and publish levels of certain contaminants every year. 

Municipalities use chlorine to disinfect the water. If chlorine kills bacteria, it stands to reason that it’s not very good for us, either. Some remains in tap water. And tap water picks up minerals in water mains and pipes after it leaves the treatment plant. 

While tap water must meet certain safety standards, not every local tap water tastes good enough to satisfy its residents. In areas with naturally hard water, lime scale or sediment can also affect the taste and appearance of tea or coffee, not to mention foods cooked using the water. Hard water can also make it difficult to keep pots, teakettles, and other utensils clean, and may even shorten their lives.

Therefore many people choose to filter tap water before drinking or cooking with it. Some people can get filtered water from their refrigerator. Other home drinking water filter systems range from simple water filtering pitchers to more expensive and more complicated whole-house water filtration. (Scroll down to see some choices.)

If some kind of filtration will encourage you to drink more water, get one. You don’t get the benefits of drinking water unless you drink it!

Shop related products

APEX EXPRT MR-2050 Quality Dual Countertop Drinking Water Filter – 5 Carbon Block and 5 Stage Mineral Cartridge – Best Alkaline Filtration System – for Healthier Safer Purified Water (Clear)

Eco Living Recycled Glass Juice/Water/Wine/Cocktail Glasses 8 oz (Set of 6)

Brita Water Pitcher with 1 Filter,
w 1 std, White

TRIPLE TREE Stainless Steel Water Bottle 34/26/17oz 18/8 for Cyclists, Runners,
Hikers, Beach Goers, Picnics, Camping – BPA Free

Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System for hiking and camping

Frizzlife Under Sink Water Filter System-High Capacity Direct Connect Under Counter Drinking Water Filtration System-0.5 Micron Quick Change Removes 99.99% Lead, Chlorine, Bad Taste & Odor
Sources:

7 science-based health benefits of drinking enough water / Joe Leech, Healthline. June 30, 2020
Health benefits of drinking water: the healthy cell concept / Nancy Hearn, Water Benefits Health
How can you tell if you’re dehydrated? / J. Keith Fisher, Healthline. October 1, 2019
How much water do you need daily? / Cleveland Clinic. August 6, 2020

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