By Eric Sharpe
Water is life. Yeah, heard that one before. The Billings area is clearly not located in a desert… but we’re close. The Wyoming Basin, which touches the southern border of Montana along the eastern side of Red Lodge, is considered a “cold desert” and makes up a majority of Wyoming’s land area. During the summer, and this is obvious, the Billings area gets hot… and very dry. The High Plains is gorgeous in the Fall, Spring, and Winter. But when Summer hits, we all know that water becomes scarce, yet
we often forget just how important it is for our body, mind, and general health. So, here’s the skinny on water. Quiz yourself as you go – how much do you really know about water?
How much water do you need?
A gallon. More than a gallon. Whatever feels right.
Answer… there really is no answer.
There is a pretty widespread debate as to how much water a person should consume on a daily basis. Really, it depends on so many factors including activity level, humidity of where you live, how much you weigh… too many factors to give a definitive answer… but, for what it is worth, research has shown that the ideal water intake for a healthy adult male is a little less than 1 gallon a day. For women it is a little less than ¾ of a gallon a day. The problem with most water consumption recommendations you find online and in magazines is that most actually includes the foods you eat too. About 20% of our average daily intake of water comes from the food we eat.
If you want age specific recommendations, the chart below is based on a fairly heavily researched piece of work. Regardless, the best indicator may actually be the color of your urine. The clearer it is, the more hydrated you are.
Water v. Soda
People buy more bottled soda than bottled water:
Actually, that is False.
Surprised? More bottles of water were sold in America than bottles of soda in 2017… but not by much. But here’s the hitch: In 1965, 11.8% of the average American’s daily calories came from beverages. In 2002 (the most recent data), 21% of the average American’s calories came from beverages, most of those due to sugary content. And though more bottled water is being bought than soda, it is a fact that we are drinking far less water than our parents did. Adults are drinking 12% less water than those in the late 1960’s. The good news is that children are drinking 35% more that kids in the late 60’s.
Are you dehydrated?
I’d bet you are… and you don’t even know it. We often think of dehydration as a pretty critical condition. And it is. But mild dehydration is far more common than people think.
But how do you know? Well, it may seem silly to count, but if you are not urinating at least 7-10 times a day, you are probably at least mildly dehydrated. And as icky as it may sound (yeah, I’m an adult, and I can use the world icky), if your urine is yellow or darker, than you are probably at least mildly dehydrated. (light yellow to clear is ideal).
Mild dehydration is not dangerous, but it is affecting your health! Having problems concentrating? Slight headache? Feeling tired all day? In a bad mood for no reason? Try upping your water intake and see if there’s a difference… if there is – you’ve just been mildly to moderately dehydrated all those weeks and months of feeling that way. The less obvious symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include blood pressure problems and difficult or incomplete bowel movements.
“Under relatively mild levels of dehydration, individuals engaging in rigorous physical activity will experience” obvious drops in performance, reduced endurance, increased fatigue, and reduced motivation. Does this describe your gym experience? Being underhydrated by as little as just 2% revealed decreases in performance amongst athletes in more than one study. And keep in mind, thirst is not the best indicator that you need some water.
Is Grandma drinking enough water?
Recent studies show that “ dehydration is one of several predisposing factors in observed confusion in long-term care residents.” One study showed that “in response to primary dehydration, older people have less thirst sensation and reduced fluid intake” in comparison to younger people.
Where does all that water go in your body?
Water is processed directly through the kidneys
Though fluids are absorbed along nearly every inch of your gastrointestinal tract (including the stomach) 90% of fluids are absorbed in the first portion of the small intestine (the proximal portion). The small intestine has a capacity of absorbing up to 4 gallons a day while the colon can absorb about 1 and a third gallon a day. The small intestine then transports water into your bloodstream for circulation. Water in the bloodstream carries blood cells, oxygen, and nutrients to the rest of the body and helps transport waste from those cells to the kidneys. The kidneys then filter out all those waste products, passing them into the bladder for removal. Still, healthy kidneys do of course rely on water to properly dispose of toxins. Adequate hydration also can help prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Can you drink too much water?
Yes… but it is a bit difficult to do.
Actually, bloating from water consumption is temporary. Longer term common bloating is typically caused by other factors such as the foods we eat (it’s more about the gas than the water) but bloatring can also be a sign of illness – some, pretty serious.
Hyponatremia is caused by drinking too much water – like way too much. It is almost impossible to do, but in such extreme cases, it can cause nausea, headache, confusion, seizures, and even death. It actually has happened – a women died during a radio contest where participants had to drink gallons of water to win a Playstation Wii where contestants had to “Hold Your Wee for a Wii”. Enough explanation.
Water and your Skin
More water equal better skin complexion
Nope. Not true.
Drinking more water does not hydrate the skin, but it is vital to general skin health. Dryness of the skin has more to do with external factors – ie, the sun. But the skin does hold about 30% of our body’s water, which does help skin elasticity, resiliency, and overall skin health. By the way, the skin is not actually the thing than sweats…. sweat glands located deep in the skin distribute perspiration across the skin.
Your Heart and Water
Blood volume, blood pressure, and heart rate are closely linked.
Oh, this one is very true.
Blood volume is “tightly regulated by matching water intake and water output.” Blood volume actually does change in the body. Though the average person has anywhere from a gallon to 1.5 gallons of blood in his/her system, minor changes in volume are always taking place as blood plasma is highly sensitive to water intake and output. Blood plasma constitutes 55% of your blood, and 92% of plasma is made up of water. When blood volume fluctuates, the heart has to compensate. Excessive sweating without proper fluid replacement can drop blood pressure, resulting in dizziness. Ever “get up too fast” from your chair and get a “head rush”? That is dizziness, and it is a result of a quick drop in blood pressure, and that could mean you are dehydrated (please note – if you are experiencing this, it may be symptomatic of a more serious problem – see your Doctor if it is happening a lot!)
Water Helps Fight Disease and Infection
There hasn’t been a host of research on the topic, but it is believed that good hydration is associated with “a reduction in urinary tract infections, hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease” blood clots, and risk of stroke, though again, clinical trials haven’t been conducted to prove these assumptions. However, there is strong evidence that “exercise related asthma” is linked to low fluid intake.
So, back to the start. Have you heard all this before? Water is life… yeah, but did you really know what that actually means? Water. Drink it. You’ll be glad you did.