“How much water should I drink?” This is one of the most common questions we’re asked in clinic. The simple answer is, we recommend 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water daily. This would be the minimum level to stay hydrated. This volume does not account for variables such as activity or climate. Staying hydrated is about more than just how much water you should drink.

How Important is Water?

A person can survive only about 1 week without water though complications from dehydration happen much sooner. Water is essential for our bodies to function properly making up between 50-80% of our total body weight. It lubricates our joints, regulates body temperature, moves nutrients in and out of cells, aids digestion, carries away waste products, and plays a role in most chemical reactions demonstrating the significance of this essential nutrient on our health.

Hydration is a Balancing Act

Water moves throughout the body in several ways. Osmosis is the passive movement of water from an area of more fluid (and low solute concentration) to an area of low fluid (and high solute concentration). In our circulatory system, water moves through capillaries via capillary filtration and hydrostatic pressure. Staying hydrated is when water absorption equals fluid loss. We gain fluid through liquids, foods, and our metabolism. We lose fluids through our sweat, breath, feces and urine.

Is Thirst a Good Indicator of Hydration?

The feeling of being thirsty is a usually the result of fluid loss. The issue is, medications we take and foods we eat can affect the mucous membranes of the mouth. If you rely on thirst to tell you to drink you are already at a loss of hydration. The thirst mechanism, controlled by the hypothalamus, doesn’t “turn on” until your body provides feedback that you are already low.

Causes of Dehydration

You are considered dehydrated when you have a fluid loss of 1% or greater of your body weight. It can be as simple as not consuming enough water, but there are other factors that can cause the drop in volume. High environmental temperatures cause an increase in sweating to cool your body. Similar to high temperature, increased activity levels cause an increased water loss through sweating. There is also increased metabolic demand resulting in greater utilization of water. Several diseases can cause a fever, diarrhea, and/or vomiting each resulting in additional water loss. Finally, dietary factors such as high-sodium, high-protein, and high fiber all require a greater need for water.

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Delirium
  • Extreme thirst
  • Dry skin
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dropping blood pressure
  • Reduced urine production

Water Quality Matters

Water is the best fluid to stay hydrated, and the better the quality the better the health building effects. If you are consuming tap water you want to utilize a filtration system. Municipal water supplies may contain contaminates such as lead, bacteria, and environmental particulates that can negatively affect quality. Filtration systems will reduce heavy metals, chlorine, and other toxins. A whole house filter is best to reduce absorption of these contaminants through your skin. You do not want to consume distilled water as it will leach minerals from your body and bones. You want some level of dissolved solids in your water to provide minerals for use and improve absorption.

How to Increase Fluid Intake

Soda, juice, coffee, and alcoholic beverages all provide fluid, but they are not ideal for many reasons. If you want to increase you level of hydration keep water by your side available to drink. Drink on a regular schedule before you are thirsty. Have a glass of water before your meal and another as part of your meal. Eat more fruits and vegetables; especially those that have a high water content. Make sure to increase your fluid intake when it is hot, you are exercising, or are experiencing illnesses that causes fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Getting More Hydrated

We highly caution you against jumping right into consuming half your body weight in water. You need to give your body, and its systems, a chance to acclimate to the increased volume. Start by adding 6-8 ounces tomorrow. Maintain this increased level daily over the week. Next week, add another 6-8 ounces and stay at that amount each day of that week. Do this again each week until you get to the recommended level. Start with small incremental steps, and you will be amazed at how much better you feel when you are well hydrated.