When you get thirsty, there are so many choices that are tastier than water. Soda, sweetened juices, or even a beer might sound good.
And sure, all of these beverages do offer some hydration. But you have to consider all of the crap found in them. Things like sugar, corn syrup, sodium, artificial sweeteners and flavorings that will send you down to the path of bad health and early death.
The more important point, however, is that your body needs water to survive. Up to 60% of the adult body is made up of water. It’s found in every cell, every organ and every type of tissue in your body. Even the bones contain water.
Yet, at last count, only about 22% of U.S. adults were drinking the general recommendation of eight cups (64 ounces) or more of water each day. And this is well below the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) official recommendation of 13 cups a day for men, and 9 cups a day for women.
There aren’t that many things that will not be improved when you increase your water intake.
For example, water can actually slow down aging. One of the ways it does this is by flushing excess sodium out of the body.
New research out of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute shows how elevated sodium levels are associated with a greater chance of faster biological aging. This includes up to a 64% increased risk of developing debilitating chronic diseases, such as heart failure, stroke, atrial fibrillation and peripheral artery disease, as well as chronic lung disease, diabetes and dementia.
Conversely, the research found that adults with the lowest sodium levels had the lowest risk of developing chronic disease.
So that’s one thing drinking more water can do for you.
Plus, I try to explain to people that every cell in the body needs water. Cell division, respiration and all of the other functions the cells in our body perform day in and day out have to occur in a liquid environment. If your cells are not robustly filled with water, then your DNA won’t work well. Cellular processes will slow down and the aging process will be accelerated.
That being said, let’s take a look at some more of the great things water can do for you.
The Amazing Power of Water
Water gets rid of waste in your kidneys and keeps your poop moving. It lubricates your joints. It helps to improve exercise performance. Water keeps your blood from getting too thick. And it’s the only way you’re going to produce saliva, which provides enzymes that are crucial to digestion. Your digestive system depends upon it.
Higher water intake can also…
Reduce your caloric intake. Water is a zero-calorie beverage. And it comes that way, naturally, without any fake, zero-calorie sweetener. So if you replace your sugary and artificially sweetened drinks with it, it’s going to help keep your weight down. Plus, if you drink water throughout the day, it keeps you feeling satiated. It tells your brain that you’ve got something in your stomach, which can help lower your food intake.
Help beat migraines. If you’re not getting enough fluids in your diet, it could trigger a migraine. In fact, headaches are one of the first signs of dehydration.
But when you increase your daily water intake, migraines become less frequent. And if you do get one, it’s less severe and doesn’t last as long. So if you ever feel a migraine coming on, make sure to increase your water intake.
Keep your mind sharp. The amount of water you drink can have a direct effect on your brain function. Even mild dehydration can decrease cognitive function, affect your concentration and reduce levels of alertness. It can also alter your short-term memory, which is necessary to learn new things.
Thankfully, these effects aren’t permanent. Once you rehydrate, your cognitive performance should return to normal.
Protect your kidney function. This is important. Your kidneys are critical when it comes to removing toxic waste from your body in the form of urine. But if you’re dehydrated, your kidneys can’t do their job. Dehydration also contributes to kidney stones and urinary tract infections. Any one of these things can lead to kidney damage.
But if you increase your liquid intake, especially with water, you could actually prevent chronic kidney disease.
Boost your energy. Did you know that drinking water during the day can help ward off fatigue? Dehydration is a known cause of low energy. Without enough water, your body can’t carry nutrients to the cells. Nor can it take away waste products. So of course you’ll feel sluggish. This gives you another reason to drink more water.
How do you know if you’re hydrated enough?
There are two ways to test your hydration levels.
First, test your skin’s elasticity. Place your hand flat on a table and pull up and pinch the skin on the back of it. The skin should immediately return to its normal state. If it takes a while to go back down, you need to drink more water.
Second, check your urine. if it’s lightly colored or clear, you’re drinking enough. If it is yellow – and you aren’t taking a vitamin B supplement (which produces yellow or orangish urine) – you need to drink more.
Now, your urine might be darker and a little cloudy when you first wake up. But after your first morning pee, that should clear up. And you’re going to want to start getting those fluids back into you to replenish what you just peed out and what you lost overnight from breathing.
So once you get moving each day, have some water. It can be plain or with lemon juice. It can be cold or room temperature. Just get your daily hydration started early, and keep it going all day long.
Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010;68(8):439-458.
Khorsha F, Mirzababaei A, Togha M, Mirzaei T. Association of drinking water and migraine headache severity. J Clin Neurosci. 2020;77:81-84.
Roncal-Jimenez C, Lanaspa MA, Jensen T, Sanchez-Lozada LG, Johnson RJ. Mechanisms by Which Dehydration May Lead to Chronic Kidney Disease. Ann Nutr Metab. 2015;66 Suppl 3:10-3.