We have all heard the phrase that the human body is 60 percent water, especially when we are told about the health benefits of drinking water, but what does it really mean? Are we really up to our eyeballs in water? Unlike a glass filled with water, the water in our body is spread out, with two thirds of it in our trillions of cells. The other third is in mucus, digestive juices, plasma, joints, and other fluids like ocular fluids and the fluid that surrounds the cells. So when we are told to drink more water it is not like filling up a gas tank from empty to full; it is more like filling up a sponge that needs to stay moist to do its job.
Without water, we get dehydrated. Mild dehydration is easily overcome by drinking fluids, but severe dehydration can cause weakness, confusion, paralysis and even death. Millions of people die every year from dehydration that is caused by diarrhea. While most people do not get to this point, it is critical that you have an adequate intake of fluid, so your cells are able to function.
There are many ways that the body loses fluids. Respiration causes fluid loss, but things like exercise, sweating, urinating and bowel movements are the largest contributors. In order to replace those fluids, we need to drink something. Filtered water is best because the contaminants that are found in drinking water like viruses, chlorine, chloramines and bacteria are filtered out.
We should drink enough fluids to replace what we lose, so on a normal day it is recommended that you should take in half your body weight in fluid. Soda, tea, and coffee can count towards fluids, but they may contain sugar, fat, and caffeine. When the body has to filter these things out, it has to work harder to absorb the water. In addition, caffeine is a diuretic and may contribute to fluid loss.
If you participate in exercising or sweat a lot on a hot day, you want to try and replace all of the fluid that you have lost. Runners who run marathons often weigh themselves before and after a race to see how much fluid they have lost and use that as a basis for how much they need to replace. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you sweat a lot it is necessary to replace the electrolytes that have been lost. In order to facilitate the electrochemical balance of the cells, it is necessary to have electrolytes. Sodium, potassium, and chloride are charged particles that help to draw the water into the cells. This is why when someone is severely dehydrated he or she will get an intravenous saline solution.
The signs of dehydration are sometimes easy to spot if you have been sweating or exercising. However, it is a little tougher to determine if you are hydrated if you are not involved in a lot of physical activity. One of the tried and true methods is to check the color of urine. Clear urine indicates that you are getting enough fluid. If you take B vitamins your urine may have a bright yellow color to it, this is from riboflavin and worth noting. Yellow urine means you could be drinking more. Dark yellow urine means that you are dehydrated and should have some fluids.
Drinking water benefits the body in many ways. The best way to keep hydrated is to have something to drink on hand at all times. Drink something even when you think you are not thirsty to keeps your cells in balance.