Water is essential for our survival.
So it’s shocking to see that nearly 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Crazy, since we already know that dehydration can cause illness and worsen overall health. What’s even crazier to think is that dehydration is easily treatable and preventable. So why are so many people dehydrated? … and could dehydration really be linked to disease?
Well for starters, most of us would probably prefer a soda or cold beer to a glass of water. And living in such a beverage-abundant world, that’s exactly what we choose. We have unlimited options for beverages that taste much better than water. So we tend to fill our days with coffee, tea, energy drinks, and sodas, which actually dehydrate us even more!
Over time dehydration can lead to problems in the brain, gut, and kidneys! Being adequately hydrated helps with brain power, digestion, and most importantly, kidney function. Your kidneys play a vital role in your health as they filter toxins out of your bloodstream, regulate your electrolyte levels, and balance your blood pressure. In order to work in top gear, your kidneys need an abundant amount of water every day!
How Much Water a Day Should You Drink?
The human body is approximately 55-65% water and is responsible for regulating temperature, aiding in digestion, toxin removal, brain clarity, muscle function, and more! but how do you calculate how much water you should drink a day?
The exact amount of water intake is variable for everyone, as this depends on our age, living conditions, lifestyle habits, and overall health. Your water intake goal will also vary from day to day depending on your diet and activities.
Those who are physically active need more water, but for anyone with heart failure or severe kidney disease, it’s important to restrict fluids. So, more isn’t always necessarily better for the case of water intake. Yet we see so many people pushing that you need a gallon of water a day or you’ll dry out. While some may very well need a gallon of water a day, others do not. So how do you determine your individual daily water goal?
Generally, you should aim to consume around 1/2-1 ounce of water for every pound you weigh. If you’re 150lbs, that’s 75-150 oz of water each day. A gallon of water is 128 ounces. You can see how easy it is to need a gallon a day, but most of us don’t even come close to that! Except- keep in mind we get hydration from other sources as well, not just from liquids. Some foods contain water that can be absorbed through digestion, especially whole foods like fruits and vegetables. So be sure to tally that into your total water intake each day!
But here’s the key to staying hydrated- be sure to replace fluids faster than you’re depleting them. You need more water if you’re losing water faster than it’s being replaced, as in sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. Also, if you have a fever your body will burn through the water faster. So your daily goal should vary from day to day based on what that day entails. You may need a little more water on days that you’re doing cardio or outside gardening in the heat.
However, it’s important to note that while we want to drink more water, there is such a thing as drinking too much. Usually, your brain will signal that you’re not thirsty anymore, but in some cases drinking too much can result in severe health complications. Too much water dilutes your electrolytes which are responsible for nerve functions like your heartbeat. Therefore, you should always talk to your healthcare provider to determine your individual water goal.
Symptoms & Complications of Dehydration
We lose water all day long through our skin, lungs, kidneys, and GI tract. Losing water faster than it is being replaced results in dehydration. Therefore if you’re losing more fluid than usual you should be increasing your water intake. Sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and certain medications, like diuretics, will deplete you of fluid fast.
Mild dehydration can cause changes in mood and cognition. You may experience constipation and dizziness. Being chronically dehydrated over time leads to malfunctions in certain organs. Kidneys don’t work as well if they aren’t hydrated. They need water to work! If you aren’t filtering toxins out of your blood efficiently, they will build up in the body and cause disease.
Typically, when we are dehydrated, our brain will signal that we’re thirsty. The problem is that the same area of the brain that signals thirst also signals hunger. This means sometimes we can misinterpret these signals for being hungry when we really just need some water. If you think you’re hungry and want to snack, you may just be thirsty, but if your stomach is rumbling you probably need food. If you aren’t sure if you’re just thirsty, drink a glass of water and see if it helps the cravings before grabbing the snacks.
Wait, What Did You Say About the Kidneys?
Your kidneys are responsible for the balance of fluid and electrolyte levels, which regulate bodily functions like heartrate and blood pressure. To work properly and thrive, the kidneys need a daily adequate water supply. If the kidneys do not get enough water, toxins can build up causing the kidneys to make more concentrated urine. Over time strain on the kidneys to function without enough water becomes damaging to the renal tissue. After years of this occurring, the kidneys can end up failing.
Failing kidneys means fluid balance isn’t managed and toxins can build up. Eventually, if this progresses to end-stage, it’s likely that dialysis machines will need to filter the blood mechanically forever unless a kidney transplant is an option.
So, being chronically dehydrated can lead to renal failure. Therefore, the key to having healthy kidneys is to, give them H2O!
5 Tips to Increase Water Intake:
- Flavors It Up! Add in fresh fruit, lemons, cucumbers, & mint are great!
- Keep a water bottle on you. Having water available and visualizing your goal is key!
- Carbonated water/Flavored seltzers. Look for ones that use natural flavors versus chemically flavored.
- Work out in the morning. Getting movement early in the day will stimulate your metabolism. You’ll be more hungry and thirsty throughout the day when you work out in the morning.
- Set a timely reminder. Set an alarm for every 1-2 hours to chug water.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health conditions without consulting your healthcare provider. Information used is based on experience and opinion, not 100% evidence. Always consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website. Some links in this article may contain affiliate links.