Thirst can be a poor way of monitoring of your water needs. You can lose your thirst sensation and the critical perception of needing water. No longer recognizing a water need (unless very dehydrated), you can become gradually, increasingly, and chronically dehydrated with increasing age. A "dry mouth" may be a late sign of dehydration.
Water has many functions in your body. Water:
- Transports vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucose, hormones, enzymes and other substances throughout your body
- Assists chemical reactions such as the burning of glucose and the breakdown of fat for energy
- Carries digestive juices
- Lubricates joints, eyeballs, nasal passages, and the intestines
- Is a shock absorber for your eyes and spinal cord
- Maintains your body temperature - cools it by evaporation from the skin and lungs, throws off heat when blood is circulated near the body's surface - helps retain warmth in winter
- Removes wastes through the kidneys and helps solid waste pass through the intestines
Here are some interesting facts:
- 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. (This likely applies to half the world population)
- Even MILD dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3%.
- One glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.
- Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.
- Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day (half of that coming from food and drinks other than plain water) could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
- A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.
- Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer. Are you drinking the amount of water you should every day?
Signs and Symptoms
Pain may be a warning of localized thirst
; that is, the pain signal may be a warning of dehydration in that specific area (a regional thirst), for example low back pain, migraine headache
, joint pain, and angina
. Chronic dehydration may contribute to a reduction in lymph
flow, which in turn may contribute to or cause varied problems.
Obvious signs of dehydration include: crinkled skin, dry mouth, excess thirst or absence of urination for over six hours.
Treatment and Prevention
It is a common error to substitute tea, coffee, caffeine-containing soft drinks, or alcohol-containing beverages for water. Do not consider alcoholic beverage, soda, coffee or tea as an equal substitute for water. Caffeine
and alcohol act as diuretics
, further increasing your water needs.Remember that approximately half of your daily water intake comes from the food that you eat, so you only need to drink around half of your suggested requirement directly.
Calculate your overall daily need by taking your weight in kilograms (or your weight in pounds divided by 2), in ounces per day. For example, 140lbs / 2 = 70oz; 70oz / 8 = about 9 cups per day.
It is recommended by some that you not drink water with meals, unless you need to. Other doctors believe that the stomach needs a certain consistency to do its job and if we don't drink enough with our meals the stomach pulls water from the blood stream; if we drink too much with our meals the excess water simply gets absorbed. The logical recommendation, therefore, is to try both and see what works best for you.
Good times to drink water are on rising, at least 1/2 hour before meals and 2-3 hours after, and before bed. You need more if the temperature is hot and if you exercise. A general rule is to add an extra 2 glasses per day for every 5°F over 85°F if you are at rest, and more if you exercise.
References and Further Information
We recommend that you read Your Body's Many Cries for Water
by Dr. Batmanghelidj, MD. It may be available from your local library. If purchased, you may be able to help others you think of while reading it! "In my professional and scientific view, it is dehydration that is the biggest killer, more than any other condition you could imagine. The different aspects and 'chemical idiosyncrasies' of each individual's body reaction to the same pattern of dehydration have received different professional labels and have been treated differently and ineffectively."
Dr. Batmanghelidj, MD.