We all know that two-thirds of our body weight is made of water. The water in our body serves such functions as digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature; to name a few. Along with air and food, water falls under the ‘rule of three’. Humans can survive three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Many facts such as these have been etched into our minds since school days and reinforced in public health information throughout our lives. So much so, that it almost seems strange to highlight the significance of water at this point. However, it is this very significance that may lead us to re-examine our water consumption habits and ensure that we are indeed giving this fundamental component of human life our full consideration.
Water is essentially a nutrient in our body that is contained in liquids and foods. Its consumption is vital in order to replace the large amounts of fluids lost continuously. Whenever the amount of water we consume is less than the amount we expel, dehydration occurs. Failing to stay hydrated can lead to significant health problems and also makes us more prone to irritability and fatigue. Our cognitive functions can become impaired, which may have serious consequences on our ability to carry out basic tasks. Some experts have even compared driving dehydrated to driving drunk!
Drinking sufficient water is key to the optimal functioning of bodily organs. The kidneys are primarily responsible for flushing waste out of the body. However, they require significant amounts of bodily fluids to remove waste from our cells and excrete it through urine waste. Water also keeps things moving smoothly in our gastrointestinal tract and helps prevent congestion. When we don’t consume enough water, our colon begins drawing water from our stool as a way to prevent dehydration. When this happens, constipation is soon to follow. Moreover, failing to drink enough water can cause electrolyte levels to fall, leading to muscle fatigue and, ultimately, to poor muscle performance. Water also helps to keep our skin looking good, as dehydration can make the skin appear more dry and wrinkled than it otherwise would.
Water can also help us lose weight and maintain diets by acting as a kind of hunger regulator. When we feel those pangs and rumblings in the belly, drinking a glass of water can be a great first course of action to determine whether our hunger is real or merely a craving. The water then swirling in our stomach should fill the void and subdue the appetite, and allow us to continue about our day. If the hunger is real, however, those pangs and rumblings will soon return and we can then be certain that it is genuinely time to eat. Moreover, drinking water before meals may even encourage us to consume less food when we do sit down to eat. Another factor is that food itself contains liquids; making up around 20% of our total fluid intake. Food with high water content tends to appear more sizeable and the higher volume requires more chewing and is absorbed more slowly by the body; which contributes greatly to feeling fuller than we otherwise would. And, to top it all off… Water contains zero calories!
So, practically speaking, how can we go about drinking more water? The most popular and widespread recommendation is to drink 8 glasses a day. This might require setting alarms or some kind of reminder system at first, for those of us who aren’t in the habit of drinking water regularly. Most people have reported positive results with the 8 glasses a day method and have found that staying hydrated is a habit that soon becomes hardwired in the body and requires no external prompting at all. This may be due, in large part, to how quickly the body responds positively to hydration; and negatively to dehydration. The benefits of increasing our water intake are felt more immediately than the benefits of many other health regime changes and recommendations. For this reason, it can act as the perfect springboard or accompaniment to a new diet or exercise routine. Changes in lifestyle can only be attained, sustained, and progressed upon through positive reinforcement. Feeling the boost that hydration gives us, regulating our appetite, and keeping our organs functioning at an optimal level are just some of the benefits that drinking more water can bring to our lives. In turn, these benefits become the foundation upon which we can build and achieve the healthy lifestyle that we aspire to.