The Importance of Staying Hydrated
Living in the Southeastern Region of Wyoming, we understand this as a fact of life, water is precious. Our environment is a high plains desert where arid conditions are the norm most days. The living organisms that are our bodies though need this life sustaining element, sometimes even more than nutritional intake. While the body can survive on minimal nutritional sustenance in dire situations it can only go a mere three days without water.
What we may not realize is that the majority of people don't get nearly the daily intake of water we need for optimal health. Estimates are theft 75% of Americans are operating in a state of chronic dehydration. The recommended average is 64-80 ounces of fluid intake spread out over the course of a given 24 hours. But not all fluids are created equal. With soda consumption and caffeine (read coffee) intake marking the largest percentage of fluid intake for Americans most days, what we may not realize are these fluids aren't the best at reaching hydration.
Hydration is defined as providing ample fluid or moisture. Our internal organs, our bodies must have not just the minimum but ample resources of fluid, re: water to even function. When we incorporate solely coffee, sodas, or other fluids in the place of water or even unsweetened tea the sugars and caffeine in these beverages can actually dehydrate you while their fluids contents attempt to hydrate.
We spoke with Tom Holt, Population Health Director at MHCC, on this very important topic for advice, tips and also understanding why proper fluid intake is crucial to our overall health.
Why is it important to stay hydrated?
More than half of your body weight is made up of the water that you get from foods that you eat and beverages that you drink. This fluid bathes, cushions, and lubricates the cells, tissues and organs. On a tiny scale, this water is the basis for your blood and other fluids that transport nutrients, waste materials, hormones and other substances throughout the body. Staying hydrated also helps maintain proper blood volume and aids in the regulation of normal body temperature.
Water is an essential nutrient, more important to life than any of the others. The body needs more water each day than any other nutrient. Furthermore, you can survive only a few days without water, whereas a deficiency of proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins or minerals may take weeks, months or even years to develop.
What are some of the physiological symptoms/effects of dehydration?
Simply said, dehydration is a condition when you lose too much water and don't replace it or don't replace it fast enough. Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dry skin, dry mucus membranes, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, weakness, exhaustion and confusion. Severe dehydration can lead to the need for hospitalization and possibly death.
To maintain water balance, intake from liquids and foods must equal losses from the kidneys, skin, lungs and GI tract. The amount and type of water a person drinks may have positive or negative health effects.
Is there an average of fluids we should be consuming during the summer months versus the rest of the year?
The average person needs to drink about 48 to 72 ounces of water per day. That's 4 to 6 bottles of water - the 12oz. sized ones each day. Or, it's been said that you should drink eight 8oz. glasses of water per day. Exactly how much fluid a person needs is largely based on individual needs, body size, diet, the environment and the activity level of the person.
During the hot and dry summer months, the recommendation is to drink ½ of your body weight (lbs.) in ounces of water each day (ex. 180lb man = 90 ounces of water, 7.5 bottles of water).
Also, the more active you are, the more fluid that you need. As you exercise you use your large muscle groups and they generate heat. When your body temperature rises then you begin to sweat to vent the extra heat produced by all that movement. As sweat forms on your skin and evaporates, it carries heat away from your body. All this means is that you are losing fluids and need to replace them.
Does the environ of our region of Wyoming play a significant role in our likelihood of becoming Dehydrated?
When the temperature is perfectly comfortable, you lose about four pints of water a day through the skin, the moist air that you exhale and urine. In the summer time, as your body works to cool itself you lose even more water through sweating and that hot air blowing across your skin. In the mountain west where our relative humidity is very low the dry air tends to draw even more water out of your body. Yes, our dry plains environment does play a role in making us more susceptible to becoming dehydrated.
What are ways we can include water or more fluid intake in our homes and make sure our kids are staying hydrated?
For topping off your tank, plain old water is hard to beat. It is pure and has no calories or additives and is just what your body needs. And when it comes from the tap, water costs a fraction of a penny per glass. Whatever the source (artesian, bottled, carbonated, fruit infused, distilled, filtered, mineral, purified, well, or comes from a natural spring) it's very important that you drink enough water, because water constitutes about 60% of an adult's body weight and must be constantly replaced. So, have bottled or filtered water easily available for the adults and kids to get on these hot summer days.
Another easy way to encourage our kids to drink more water is to try the "Rethink Your Drink – 30 Day Water Challenge"
The Rules are Simple:
Drink MORE WATER (at least ½ your body weight (lbs.) in ounces of water)
Drink LESS coffee, soda, and drinks with added sugars or artificial sweeteners
Do this for 30 days…..you'll see and feel the health benefits.