Hydration and the importance in our everyday lives
Many people may not think about hydration when they think about nutrition. This is an important topic as the weather has made a drastic change in the last few weeks. The human body’s make-up is about 50-70% water. Even a small amount of dehydration can result in a decrease in cognitive functions including short-term memory, alertness, and concentration, as well as many other bodily function impairments. Overhydration, also known as hyponatremia, is more commonly seen in marathon runners and can also cause serious problems, such as encephalopathy. If untreated, encephalopathy can lead to irreversible cognitive impairments or death. Water is critical to life and all of our body’s systems. Listening to our bodies and finding that balance with hydration is key.
Some of water’s most important functions include body temperature regulation and homeostasis, nutrient absorption, protection of organs and other tissues, headache prevention, and better digestion. Many things can influence the body’s water volume and total body weight, such as consumption of food and drink; medications and supplements; urine, feces, and sweat excretion; loss of water from breathing; sodium consumption; and other metabolic processes. Athletes typically have a higher total body water weight compared to non-athletes because of an increase in muscle mass and and increase in metabolic functions. As we age, total body water typically decreases as our muscle mass and metabolic functions decrease. That does not, however, mean that the risk of dehydration decreases.
Why is hydration important for my nutrition and overall health?
- It assists with nutrient absorption and digestion
- Water may help relieve symptoms of uncomfortable constipation (along with a nutritious diet)
- Staying hydrated helps maintain a good blood volume and blood pressure
- Water helps prevent muscle cramping
- It helps rid the body of toxins by way of digestion, metabolic processes, and breathing
- Water helps with skin complexion and clarity
- Hydration helps keep all mucous membranes lubricated (mouth, nose, eyes)
- Being hydrated helps keep our heads clear and our brains alert
- Hydration is a great indicator of our day-to-day health
What should I do to get better hydrated if I do not get enough water?
- Buy a new, fun water bottle and bring it with you everywhere you go
- Carry a gallon with you if you have a hard time counting how much water you drink or if you do not have a source to fill it from
- Drink a big glass right when you wake up and finish it before leaving for your day
- Drink more water earlier in the day to prevent making up for it at night and having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night
- Eat plenty of water-containing vegetables and fruits
- Drink a glass of water with all meals
- Get fancy and throw some natural flavor in there occasionally (fresh lemon, strawberries, basil, etc.). *Limit the added sugars and acids as they can affect your teeth and cavity risk
- Mark tallies on your water bottle with a dry-erase marker and erase each time you fill it up. Have a goal of how many times you should fill your specific water bottle
- If you exercise a lot or exercise in higher heat, your hydration needs will be increased, so guzzle a little more water. Some athletes may benefit from an electrolyte-replacing beverage to help with hydration and replacing lost electrolytes from prolonged exercise
I hope this helps keep your skin clear and hydrated, intestines well-digested, brain alert and focused, muscles hydrated and cramp-free, and your body feeling and moving well! Find that balance and listen to your body.
-Janna Holmgren, email me : firstname.lastname@example.org
Muth, Natalie. Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 2015.
Andrews, Ryan. Precision Nutrition: All about dehydration. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-dehydration