Most of our body is made up of water (about 60%), with every tissue needing water to carry nutrients, hydrate the cells, flush out toxins, and provide a moist environment. Without water, dehydration ensues and the cells of the body will die within days.
Why People Should Drink Water
The body needs water to carry on many of its normal functions. These include:
- maintaining normal body temperature
- maintaining normal fluid balance in the tissues
- transporting nutrients to the cells
- creating saliva, tears, and other body fluids
- maintaining normal blood circulation
- getting rid of body wastes through sweat, urine and stools, which contain water
- lubricating and cushioning the joints
- protecting tissues, including the spinal cord, heart, brain, and lungs
Aside from these, drinking enough water helps keep muscles energized during exercise and the skin well hydrated and looking young. By drinking more water instead of sweetened beverages, one can avoid weight gain. Some people drink water before meals to make them feel fuller and avoid overeating. Some people believe that drinking more water can help suppress appetite, boost body metabolism, burn more calories and promote weight loss.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Although there are various recommendations on how much water people should drink each day, the body has its own mechanisms that help it sense when to drink water and when to stop drinking it.
A person normal feels thirst, which urges him to drink water and a sensation of fullness that tells him when to stop drinking. However, people commonly ignore these signals and either drink too little or too much, causing various symptoms of dehydration or over hydration.
To help people maintain normal levels of hydration, many experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water daily, with each glass containing approximately eight fluid ounces. On the other hand, the Institute of Medicine defines an adequate intake of water for men is about three liters of beverages per day and about two liters of beverages daily for women. However, there is no hard evidence that shows these are the exact amounts of water one should take daily to live a healthy life.
The body normally loses water daily through perspiration, breathing, urination, and bowel movement. To maintain a normal fluid balance, one should be able to match water loss with intake, which is of course, difficult to measure. Factors that influence how much water the body needs include:
- environmental temperature and humidity
- amount of water lost through sweating from exercise
- loss of fluids due to illnesses causing fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or blood loss
- menstruation, pregnancy, or breast-feeding
- diseases that affect water balance, such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease
Drinking Too Much Water
When a person drinks too much water at a time and the kidneys are not able to eliminate excess water from the body before the blood becomes too dilute, complications can occur. Normally, drinking lots of water throughout the day will just make you go to the toilet more often, which is the body's natural way of maintaining fluid balance. However, if one takes excessive amounts of water within a short period (for example, in a water drinking contest) and is not able to eliminate it fast enough, the excess fluid in the blood will seep through the tissues, causing symptoms of water intoxication such as headache, mental disorientation, and vomiting. Deaths have also been reported after some individuals drank gallons of water within a short time.
Some people believe that drinking a lot of water (beyond what the body normally needs) can cure or prevent certain illnesses. There is little research that can prove these claims and no scientific evidence to support such recommendations.
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