by Sarah Martin
Did you know that while we can survive weeks without food, we can only live a few days without water? It’s true, and we use it up faster during the warmer months. With spring here and summer around the corner, let’s talk about hydration!
The human body is about 60 percent water and it comprises much of our body fluids. Water lubricates our joints, regulates our temperature, transports oxygen and nutrients, and helps eliminate waste products. There are several reasons why water is critical to our body working properly. One way in which water helps control our body temperature is through sweating. As water is released through our skin, it evaporates and cools our body. We actually sweat all the time, but may not notice unless we are exerting ourselves.
Water also transports nutrients throughout our body, much the way a cargo ship travels along a river. Our blood is a little over half plasma, and about 90 percent of that is water. When blood is thin and viscous, it travels through the body easily, delivering nutrients to our cells, and returns waste products to our liver, colon, and kidneys for processing and elimination. Proper hydration also helps maintain normal blood pressure. The blood in our veins pushes against the vessel walls, creating pressure. If we become extremely dehydrated, this pressure falls, forcing our heart to work harder to pump blood throughout our body.
We also rely on water to eliminate waste. Waste products are transported from cells to the liver for recycling. From there, waste is eliminated through the colon or the bladder via the kidneys. Our bodies are constantly pumping blood through our kidneys — about 150 quarts a day! Our kidneys are like big sponges, filtering out waste while retaining the nutrients we need. The kidneys are very sensitive to changes in blood pressure, so it’s important to maintain good hydration to keep them healthy.
Finally, water lubricates our joints and tissues, helping keep our cartilage supple so it can absorb shock as we move. Water also makes up about 99 percent of the mucus, saliva, and fluids that moisten membranes like our sinuses or gut, helping to protect us from infections and wounds.
How do we know if we’re hydrated? The best way to tell is to check the color of our urine. If it’s clear, we are hydrated! If it’s dark and concentrated, then we could use a glass of water. There are a variety of recommendations, like eight glasses of water a day, or half our body weight in ounces. A little trial-and-error will help you figure out what’s best for you.
The best way to stay hydrated is to drink water throughout the day. It can be plain water, or something flavored or bubbly like seltzer. We can also drink juice, sports drinks, or tea. Even some fruits and veggies are good hydrators — cucumbers and watermelon are mostly water! You might also try keeping a water bottle with you throughout the day, or even setting a timer to remind you. Try out these tips to help you stay hydrated during the warmer months.
Sarah Martin is a registered dietitian who resides in Buffalo and enjoys writing about nutrition, health, and wellness. Visit bodyandspiritnutrition.com for recipes, nutrition tips, and more. Email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.