Water, water everywhere. How much do you drink?

(with apologies to Coleridge)

Water is H2O – a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. It covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface. It is the basis for all the fluids in the body; every cell and organ needs water. It makes up about 50-65% of the human body, more than 75% of the brain, more than 80% of blood, and 90% of the lungs. Water is essential for life as we know it. A human being can go for 3 to 5 days (depending on a number of factors) without water.

Why do we need water?

Every single one of the thousands of biochemical reactions in the body needs water.

Water helps regulate our body temperature. It cushions and lubricates joints. It protects internal organs and nourishes the brain, spinal cord and other tissues. Water keeps our digestive and elimination systems working smoothly. Without water, skin becomes dry, flaky and prone to developing wrinkles.

Water dissolves minerals and nutrients and delivers them throughout the body. Water delivers oxygen to tissues. Lack of oxygen in the lungs can make it hard to get a proper breath. Lack of oxygen in muscles makes them ache and unable to function properly.

The liver, kidneys and intestines need water to flush away waste.

Joint and back pain can often be relieved by drinking adequate water.

How much water do we need?

On average, every day we need to replace about 10-15 cups of water lost through sweat, exhaled air, urine and bowel movements. Exercise, medications, extreme heat or diarrhea can result in significantly increased water loss.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 91 to 125 ounces of water per day for adults (the needed amount varies depending on age, weight, activity level and medical conditions).

The Baylor College of Medicine guideline states that if you are not often thirsty and if your urine is pale-colored, you are drinking enough water.

Because the needed total includes both food and drink there is really no set “number of glasses” of water to drink.

Can we drink too much water?

It’s very difficult – but possible – to drink too much water. Hyponatremia or “water intoxication” is a sodium imbalance that may be caused by drinking too much water. Cells swell as they take in fluid to attempt to correct the imbalance. Swollen brain cells can result in headache, mental confusion, fatigue, cramps or convulsions. Hyponatremia is most often seen in endurance sports and in drinking games.


Up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Whenever you lose more fluids than you take in, you are dehydrated. Dark-colored urine can be a sign of dehydration.

The body can tolerate a 1-2% water loss; more than that begins to affect work or athletic performance. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already about 10% dehydrated. Symptoms of mild dehydration can be dry mouth, loss of skin elasticity, sluggishness, headache, dizziness, or decreased sweat or urine output.

Severe dehydration can be a medical emergency. Seizures, kidney failure, vomiting, brain swelling and even coma and death can occur.

 Should we drink warm or cold water?

Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine recommend a glass of warm water in the morning to activate the digestive system and help detoxify the body. Warm water is a natural expectorant and helps relieve nasal and throat congestion. Joint pain and menstrual cramps can be relieved by the increased blood flow that warm water promotes.

Cold water is preferred in the summer, or after a workout, to help lower body temperature. The body absorbs cold water more quickly than warm or hot water. Cold water boosts metabolism and may help with weight loss.

What counts as “water” intake?

We get some water from food and from metabolic processes in the body, but most of our water comes from consuming liquids: coffee, tea, milk, soda, soup, juices, and plain water.

Alcohol provides some water but also has a diuretic effect, causing us to lose water. Coffee and tea also have a diuretic effect, but their water content helps make up for that – unless we overdo coffee/tea consumption.

We get about 20% of our water intake from food. Fruits and veggies contribute to your total intake. Cucumbers check in at 97% water – that’s the highest of any solid food! Also at 90% or more are: iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, peppers (red, yellow and green), cauliflower, spinach and watermelon. Broccoli is high in water content. So are berries; strawberries are the highest of the berries, at 91%.

 Remember to eat/drink enough water daily!










Photo: via morgueFile



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