Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Water 101

Importance of Water

We all know how important it is to drink water on a daily basis, but do you know why? Well depending on where you look or who you ask you will find that water makes up between 60% - 70% of  our bodies. That's a pretty significant chunk. If you don't get enough water your body will tell you in multiple ways in an attempt to get your attention. Things as simple as a mild headache, dry mouth or fatigue can all be signs you need more water.

Dehydration

The number one way to become dehydrated is simple. Don't drink water. Fortunately the number one way to avoid dehydration is equally simple. Drink more water. Easy right? For some people yes, others no. to understand what dehydration is you should understand what it does to your body. If you don't maintain the proper balance, your body starts protesting; you feel sluggish, achy, cranky and have a general crap feeling. Think of water as lubrication for your muscles, bones, joints and brain. If you don't keep your inside lubricated they will start to dry out in a way, if they dry out then it gets harder for everything to function the way it is supposed to. Water is the vital lubrication your body needs to run smoothly, withhold this simple thing long enough and it can lead to a rapid decline in your health, severe dehydration is an emergency situation and not one to be taken lightly, without water long enough and your body will fully shut down (die). Sounds scary huh? It is. You can only go so long without water and once your body notices the deficit it doesn't really know what to do so it will pull water from any source inside you that it can in an attempt to stay alive. Now that we are past the more frightening part of the post how about I list some symptoms to watch out for?

Mild Dehydration:
  • headaches 
  • thirst
  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • urine is darker
Moderate to Severe Dehydration:
  • fainting
  • extreme fatigue
  • sunken and shriveled skin
  • extreme thirst
  • lack of sweat
  • fever
  • rapid heartbeat/breathing
  • decreased urine output
 In cases of severe dehydration realize this is an emergency situation and please call 911 IMMEDIATELY!

Overhydration

By now you are probably freaking out and ready to start guzzling gallons of water at a time. DON'T! Just as dangerous as dehydration is overhydration. Seems like a sick joke right? Wish it was but its not. Now this is fairly simple too. Drink too MUCH water. Now you should know that becoming overhydrated is much harder than the former. Still it is something that can end in a trip to the ER. The idea is that if you consume mass quantities of water, in theory what you down is drown your body in water. The balance of your sodium levels get diluted and your body can't flush all of the water fast enough from your system. Please know that this is highly unlikely to happen in individuals with healthy organs and from drinking water alone. The most common cause seems to be from people with heart and liver disease which could impair your body's ability to flush everything out. Here are some symptoms of overhydration.

Signs and Symptoms of Overhydration:
  • changes in mental behavior
  • confusion 
  • muscular cramps 
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rapid breathing
  • sudden weight gain
If you suspect this, the best thing to do is call your doctor and discuss options with him or her. Again it is harder to over-hydrate than under-hydrate so the vast majority of the population should be safe with increasing their daily intake.
Here's a link I found that seems to be quite good for figuring out how much water you should consume. It has several fields that you input information such as your weight, time you spend exercising per day, and your environmental conditions. Based off of what you put in it will show you an estimate of how many oz. your body needs daily. It also shows it in several different conversions which could be handy.
http://www.csgnetwork.com/humanh2owater.html


NOTE: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be. This article is based off of what I have found and learned through experience. Please contact your doctor with questions about hydration and risks involved with it.