The importance of water to your body cannot be overstated. Our bodies are about seventy percent fluid to begin with. And that’s a lot of liquid to take care of during a normal restful day, not to mention those days when we may be running a marathon or out working in the hot sun sweating away. Each day our bodies are drained of water through the disposal of feces, sweat, and urine. Every breath we take also dissipates some of the water our bodies need, as anyone who has ever seen their breath coming out in clouds on a cold day knows. That’s why it’s so important to stay fully hydrated; it’s the fluids in our bodies that keep our temperature regulated, that flush out all waste particles and make it possible to vent our feces. Water keeps our joints supple and protects them from undue shock. Water even protects sensitive tissues like the spinal cord from becoming bruised during the rough and tumble of contact sports or an accidental fall.
Scientists now know that water is also a key element in controlling the electrical current of the human heart. When the body becomes dehydrated the current that powers and regulates the heart can become unstable, and that can lead to all sorts of problems, from tachycardia to low blood pressure. Most clinical dietitians recommend around eight glasses of water a day, between and during meals. Of course, the standard amount can differ depending on age, weight, body size, activity levels, and even the weather can play a significant part in how much water a person should drink each day. Surprisingly enough, more water is required for the body during a cold winter day than during a hot summer day — if the body is at rest. That’s because the low humidity and the body’s stress at keeping warm use up more water than just the average amount of sweat produced on a warm summer day.
Sometimes just plain water is not enough. When large amounts of fluid leave the body through sweat and urine, or the body reacts to an illness with vomiting and/or diarrhea, a good deal of sodium, phosphorus, and potassium is lost as well. Usually a small cup of any kind of sports drink, or even a fountain drink, is enough to restore those essential elements. In severe cases of fluid loss, and also in the very young, it may take a specialized formula to bring those important trace elements back up quickly. Children don’t always know when they are dehydrated, so their caregivers have to keep a watchful eye on them for the signs of dehydration; these include excessive licking of the lips, mucous build up in the throat, scant urination, and a lethargic activity level.
Adults should be aware that alcohol and caffeinated drinks can replenish lost fluids, when taken in moderation. But they should never take the place of several glasses of water each day — beer and coffee are diuretics, meaning they induce the body to dump water unconditionally. That’s why bathrooms are such busy places in bars and coffee shops.
Tap water versus bottled water? The experts say there’s very little reason to buy bottled water as long as the local tap water is safe and has no aftertaste. Tap water that smells strongly of chemicals can be set out in an open container for a half hour, allowing the chemical aroma to dissipate completely.