Hydration, the process of adding an adequate amount of liquid to the tissues in your body, is critical to keeping your body functioning. Water regulates your body temperature, keeps joints lubricated, removes waste, aids in food digestion, and keeps your vital organs active. Proper and consistent hydration can also help improve sleep and mood. Every single cell in the human body needs water to work properly, and because it is such a crucial element, water is 50-70% of your body weight.
Dehydration, a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body, can be mild, moderate, or severe depending on how much fluid is lost and not replaced. Signs of mild to moderate dehydration in adults include thirst, headache, fatigue, dizziness, dark urine, and muscle cramps. Infants and children show different symptoms and the American Academy of Pediatrics has a symptom list here. The elderly population is at higher risk for dehydration, they may forget to drink water or not recognize they are feeling thirsty. An older adult who is dehydrated is at higher risk for complications like constipation, kidney problems, and loss of balance. If you have an older adult in your life, keep an eye on how much fluid they are drinking.
Every day you lose water through your breath, sweat, and urine, and its important you consistently add fluids back into your body. Plain water is the natural first choice, aim to drink at least 8 cups of water every day (that’s 64 ounces if you are measuring). Some tips for boosting your water intake are: bring a water bottle with you wherever you go, add lemon, strawberry, mint, or cucumber to jars of water and keep them in the fridge, choose to drink water with meals.
Drinking plain water or seltzer isn’t the only way you can get fluids every day. Beverages like milk, juice, and herbal teas are mostly water and can count towards your daily intake. Did you know you can eat water, too? We usually get 20-25% of our water from foods every day! Fruits and vegetables are mostly composed of water (that’s why they’re so juicy!) and dairy foods like yogurt and cottage cheese provide some, too.
If you don’t think you are getting enough water every day, start small and pick one thing you know you can do, like buying a water bottle you like or eating fruit with every meal. If you think you’re getting enough fluids, that’s great! But it can’t hurt to add a little more.
Written by Adriene Worthington, RDN, LDN
- Sharp RL. Role of whole foods in promoting hydration after exercise in humans. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007;26(5 Suppl):592S-596S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2007.10719664