Water Anyone (and Everyone)?

Water is the most abundant compound on Earth and its liquid form covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface.  Water (agua, H2O, and dihydrogen oxide) is also interesting chemically and exhibits a host of unique and complex properties, validating its importance for life and our human existence.  Water has several functions in the body, with several roles listed below.

  • regulates body temperature
  • lubricates joints
  • carries nutrients and oxygen to cells
  • prevents constipation
  • lessons burden on kidneys and liver
  • protects body organs and tissues

Humans are astonishingly made up 60-75% water (not Diet Coke or Snapple, I might add).  This range exists because water in the body is influenced by a variety of factors including your age, where you live, your activity level, muscle mass, along with how well-hydrated you are!  Although the popular recommendation is to drink 8 cups of water a day, there is no evidence validating this claim.  Each person’s recommendation varies and this amount is also determined by how much you sweat, current medications, and diagnosed diseases.

So how much water should we be drinking?  I would first like to add that how much water we put into our systems not only includes water, but also other beverages that include water (i.e., milk is about 85-90% water, and tea and coffee are essentially water) and foods that have a high water content (i.e., an apple is about 84% water).  The Institute of Medicine suggests men to drink about 13 cups of total beverages a day and about 9 cups for women, due to the influencing factors above, however, my answer to this question is to look in the toilet bowl!  If your urine is dark yellow or amber in color as in the color of apple cider vinegar, you should definitely be drinking more water.  You ideally want the toilet-bowl water to look like lemonade, and not the yellow #5-artificially-colored lemonade which is bright yellow!  It should be a pale yellow.  Note, however, if you are “going #1” shortly after taking a multi-vitamin or B-vitamin complex supplement, the toilet bowl is likely to be bright yellow even if you are properly hydrated.  This is due to the excretion of excess water-soluble vitamins, which our bodies need in small, frequent doses.   

Of course there’s always the person (the difficult one) that says “well you can die by drinking too much water.”  Trust me, there is a much larger risk of a person dying prematurely of diabetes or heart disease with sugary beverage intake playing a role, as opposed to dying from too much water.  I would like to set the record straight for the devil’s advocates reading this.  

So in the very seldom case that a person dies of too much water, it’s actually due to extremely low levels of sodium in the blood, a condition called hyponatremia (hypo- meaning less or below, Na being the chemical name for sodium, and -emia meaning “condition of the blood”).  Unless your diet is close to perfect, there is often plenty of sodium to go around to prevent fatally low levels of sodium in your system. This condition in fact rarely occurs in the average person and is more prone for athletes working out in extreme conditions who are losing lots of sodium in their sweat (think pre-season football in the dead of summer or ultra marathon runner NOT the average person aiming for a healthy lifestyle).  Hyponatremia can also be due to unique diseases or medication use.     

The bottom line is to drink more water in its natural form.  Stay tuned for tips for increasing your water intake.  For more information, click here.  

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