Water is essential for life. Without it, humans can only survive for a few days. But dehydration starts long before your survival is at stake. Although the dangers of drinking too little water aren’t always easy to spot, that doesn’t mean dehydration isn’t causing you problems.
So what, exactly, does water do for us, anyway?
Water keeps us moving.
Decrements in physical performance in athletes have been observed with as little as two percent dehydration. Dehydrated athletes suffer from reduced endurance, increased fatigue, altered thermoregulation, reduced motivation, and increased perceived effort.
Rehydration can reverse these deficits, and reduce oxidative stress induced by exercise and dehydration. Exercise in high temperatures with inadequate fluid replacement is associated with hyperthermia, reduced stroke volume and cardiac output, a decrease in blood pressure, and reduced blood flow to muscle.
Water keeps the wheels turning.
Even mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning, and impacts concentration, alertness, and short-term memory.
Water eases aches and pains.
In addition to impairing concentration and increasing irritability, dehydration can cause headaches. Water deprivation can serve as a trigger for migraines and also prolong migraines. In cases of water deprivation-induced headache, rehydration provided pain relief in most individuals within 30 minutes to three hours.
Water controls body temperature.
Water is critical to the body’s process of temperature control. Water loss through sweat is an important cooling mechanism. Sweating is also a key detoxification pathway for our body to expel waste.
When the body is properly hydrated, sweat serves as an effective compensation for increased core temperature. This is especially important for children, as they are more susceptible to heat illness than adults. This is due to a greater surface area to body mass ratio, lower rate of sweating, and slower rate of acclimatization to the heat.
Water facilitates circulation and immune function.
Water is the key component of blood. Inadequate hydration impedes blood flow, which impacts everything from nutrient and oxygen distribution to our ability to fight disease. When a person is dehydrated, the cells shrink in order to get as much water as possible into the blood stream, allowing us to sweat, detox, and transport nutrients.
Our immune system is highly dependent on the nutrients in our blood stream. Without enough water, we cannot properly transport nutrients to each organ system. Staying well hydrated also assists in detoxification pathways, increasing lymphatic draining and making sure we are clearing out any foreign invaders and other waste materials.
The effects of water on daily performance and short and long-term health are quite clear.
In addition to the reasons listed above, drinking enough water each day is crucial to joint lubrication, prevention of infections, nutrition, and organ function. Proper hydration also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
Make water more fun
If you aren’t a fan of a plain old glass of water, consider infusing your drinking water with fruit. Simply place pieces of fruit in your glass, and top it off with regular water, or add some sparkling water for added bubbles. Even adding a slice of lemon to your water bottle can brighten up your hydration.
Other sources of water include decaffeinated tea, either hot or cold, or add some sparkling water to your kombucha for an extra kick of bubbles. (Keep in mind that caffeine is a mild diuretic, so it’s a good idea to keep your coffee and soda consumption to a minimum.)
LaMott, Sandee. Benefits of Water: Are You Getting Enough Fluids To Stay Healthy? CNN Health. Sept. 28, 2017. https://www.cnn.com/2017/09/27/health/benefits-of-water-and-fluids/index.html
Popkin, Barry M., D’Anci, K.E., and Rosenbergy, I.H. Water, Hydration, and Health. Nutrition Reviews. 68(8): 439-458. August 2010. https://academic.oup.com/nutritionreviews/article/68/8/439/1841926
Quinn, Maggie. Stay Well-Hydrated For A Strong Immune System. Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute. April 3, 2020. https://ssihi.uci.edu/tip/hydration-for-immune-system/
Hi! I am Ammie Chapman, mother, wife, chiropractor and clean living fan. I have had my struggles with health issues that I have been able to treat with diet and lifestyle changes. I am hoping it may help you too.
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