A couple of years ago I was convinced something was physically wrong with me. I was tired all the time. I had a tough time getting going in the morning, I would feel sluggish at times through out the day – especially mid afternoon between 2 and 4 p.m. – and even though I was getting good sleep, eating well most of the time and exercising regularly, I didn’t feel healthy or energized. It didn’t make sense.
Then as I was writing my GOT TO IT Accountability journal I had an epiphany. The journal is designed to help you prioritize important self-care practices our busy lives cause us to skip, and includes daily checklists for keeping track of exercise, healthy eating efforts, and among other things how much water you drink each day. It was the only health related item on my list that I wasn’t as vigilant with and occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t drinking enough water.
Could it be possible? I was skeptical because I always had water near me. I had a glass of water by my bedside all the time. I carried a water bottle with me throughout the day. I had a mug on my desk which was always full of water… and that was the problem; it was always full of water.
So I started to monitor my water intake. One check mark for every 8 ounces I drank. What an eye-opener! I quickly learned that despite my best efforts to have water available to drink at all times I was at best consuming 2 to 3 cups a day – about a third of the amount my body needed. Water, water everywhere and not a drop I drank. Yikes! I was dehydrated!
I guess it shouldn’t be surprising since an estimated 75% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated, but me? I’m a fitness professional; a Certified Exercise Physiologist. I have my Masters in Kinesiology for crying out loud! But I guess if I was doing it and I know better, it helps explain why so few of us fail to consume enough healthy, energizing water. We need to be reminded of its numerous health benefits, and like any necessary task, we need to create a habit around its consumption.
When you consider that the body is made up of 50 to 70 percent water it’s no wonder it reacts badly when it is feeling parched. In fact, water is the second most important nutrient to the human body next to oxygen, and while you can go without food for months, you won’t last more than a week without water.
Every system in your body depends on water. Consider the following health benefits of good hydration. If these truths don’t get you guzzling your H2O quota every day there may not be hope for your desert-like cells, but I think you’ll find this interesting:
Your brain is made up of 75% water which is an essential element in neurological transmissions. You know those 70,000 thoughts you have each day? They’re helped along by little zaps in your brain, and when you’re dehydrated your grey-matter fire-power loses its oomph. Mild dehydration may be present with just a 1 to 2% drop in body water and can cause short term memory problems and significant difficulties with concentration. If you drink more water you will remain mentally alert throughout the day. That’s using your smarts!
That dull thud in your noggin isn’t going to go away with a couple of aspirin or a jolt of caffeine. You need to drink more water! Since your brain’s water content is so high even slight dehydration can bring on a headache. So if you had a bit of alcohol last night or you haven’t been drinking enough water in general, pay attention to your head. It’s trying to tell you to drink more water.
On a hot day or during exercise your body cools itself by breaking out into a sweat. All of that liquid is pulled from the cells in your body as a protective mechanism against overheating and imminent system shutdown. It’s why we need to drink so much more fluids in hot temperatures – preferably not all in the tall, frosty variety either. As long as you stay adequately topped up with water and other non-diuretic fluids your body will work to maintain a steady temperature of 37°C (98.6°F). This is vital for your health and safety because if your body temperature rises too high above that, you run the risk of not only dehydration, but heat exhaustion or heat stroke – both of which can be dangerous to your health.
Happy Digestive Function
Your digestive system needs a decent amount of water to aid in proper digestion of food. Since water is used by your body to help flush out toxins and waste products, when dehydrated you’re more likely to experience constipation and stomach acid problems. And since chronic constipation has been linked with increased risk of colon cancer it is even more appealing to stay hydrated and ‘regular’.
Additionally, if your body is adequately hydrated there will be enough fluid present in the digestive track to help distribute nutrients throughout the body. That means the foods you eat have a better chance of being utilized to their full nutritional capacity.
Decreased Disease Risk
If you consider that every bodily function including brain function, immune system response, joint lubrication, digestive health and even cellular communication depend on the availability of adequate fluid in the body, it’s not hard to understand how vital water is to our health.
Dehydration is at the root of many serious diseases, including asthma, kidney dysfunction, urinary tract infection, endocrine system and adrenal fatigue, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, arthritis, ulcers and pancreatitis.
Research has shown that proper hydration may help to minimize chronic pain such as rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, migraines, and colitis.
Some studies show hydration can decrease the risk of kidney stones and lower the risk of certain cancers by helping the body to flush out toxins.
Proper hydration can help asthmatics breathe more efficiently too. Given that lungs are nearly 90% water, dehydration interferes with how well they function, thereby increasing the likelihood of an asthma attack.
Drinking enough water can also lower your risks of a heart attack. A study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology found that men and women who drink more than 5 glasses of water a day were 54% and 41%, respectively, less likely to die from a heart attack during the study period than those who drank less than two glasses. More water intake means thinner blood that flows more easily through blood vessels in those at risk for heart attack.
Have I convinced you yet? Drink more water.
NEXT WEEK I share 4 more amazing benefits of drinking more water including 4 ways it can help you lose weight! Stay tuned.
My GOT TO IT Accountability journal helped me realize I was being less productive (and more dehydrated) than I needed to be. Use it to plan and track small daily self-care steps in your physical activity, healthy eating, even how much water you drink.
I take 2-3 minutes each morning to plan my day, and that way I remember to keep myself on my priority list.
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Wondrous possibilities are steps away!