Health Benefits of Drinking Water

by Sam

How much water should I drink per day? How much is enough and is there something like drinking too much water? This article aims to answer all these questions - and more.

Summer is upon us, at least in the northern hemisphere, and once again a lot of people will suffer under serious dehydration despite the fact that they have as much, clean, water at their disposal as they want and need. Drinking enough water is paramount to maintaining a good health. If you are dieting, water will help you to lose weight even more easily (I will explain further down why) and water is also the best, cheapest and only detox product you will ever need in order to achieve a healthy, well-toned body. I have also added some helpful links, including to a converter from liter to other fluid measures like ounces, gallons etc. Before you read further, please note the following:

Disclaimer

This article was written to the best of my knowledge as a healthcare professional and after an exhaustive research. Nevertheless, before you make any drastic changes to your life style, you should always consult beforehand with a GP or healthcare professional that knows you and your medical history well. Especial care should be taken if you are, or could be, pregnant and / or suffer from a chronic disease such as kidney or liver malfunctions, any form of heart or pulmonary disease or any other chronic or acute disease that has been or is currently under medical treatment or observation.

Another look at water!

Click image to start reading it!
Water: For Health, for Healing, for Life: You're Not Sick...

Ok, that one is out of the way, if you are still here, that means most likely that you are a healthy person that is curious to learn to know if s/he drinks enough water and how much water you should drink. Lets see first how much water the body needs - and loses - everyday:

In an adult, healthy person, water is needed for and lost by:

Breath: 0.5l

Just breath against a mirror and you will see that your breath contains water. This water was added to your breath during the normal breathing circle from the surfaces in bronchial and pulmonary system. If you do a lot of exercise (running after your toddlers certainly counts as exercise!) then this amount can increase even further.

Kidneys: 1.5l

Your kidneys are the main detox station (together with your liver) in your body. They determine what needs to stay in your blood and body and what has to leave because it is toxic, waste or simply in too much supply. Whilst your kidneys can work perfectly well with only 1.5l of water per day, more makes their 'life' easier, especially if you have a lot of waste to expel, as for example after an especially salty meal. That is the reason that salty snacks like crisps make us thirsty ;-)

Skin and Stool: 0.5l

Whilst the amount of water we lose with our stools (sorry for the involuntary pun ;-) ) depends on their, eh, looseness, the amount we lose via our skin depends on the outside temperature, our own temperature (think fever!) and the amount of exercise we are doing (think running a marathon). BTW, drinking enough water also prevents and cures constipation!

You see that, in total, a healthy human being needs around 2.5l water daily just to make sure that its minimum requirements can be met. Now, add to that any extra water you may need because you:

  • Exercise a lot.
  • Are ill and suffer from fever and / or diarrhea.
  • Live in a hot climate.
  • Eat too salty or similar.

And you see that 2.5l is the bare minimum you need to drink. But how do you know if you drink enough?

Are liters and gallons confusing you?

Use this converter!

How to know if your body is well hydrated

Whilst there are many symptoms that go together with a dehydrated body (means a body that has not enough water) such as tiredness, headache, dry skin etc a really easy method to see if you need more water is to look at the color of your -drumroll- urine! I know, from friends that serve in the military, that a lot of armies that deploy soldiers into hot climates actually put urine color charts up in each toilet to make this easier – no joke. So, how do you now evaluate your urine at home, without the help of an army approved urine color chart? Very easy. Do you know the color of white wine like Chardonnay? (I am sure you do!), this pale yellow color should be the color of your urine when your body is well hydrated. The darker your urine is, the more in need of additional water is your body. If it has the color of ale or Guinness, you are in real trouble!

Another tell-tale sign is your skin. Just lift, with two finders and gently!, the loose skin on your hand up a bit and let it go again. If it falls back without leaving any folds, you are fine, if it takes some while until the fold disappears - you are dehydrated!

After so much talking about how much water a human body needs, now something about what kind of water you should give to your body. Not all water is equal!

Why water and not just any liquid?

Have you already started to wonder why I write the whole time stubbornly 'water' and don't use the more general term 'liquid'? That has a good reason, actually more than one:

First of all not all liquids add to your daily water intake. Take coffee or beer for example, they contain a huge amount of water, but they also contain certain substances that make them 'diuretic' (forcing the body to excrement more water than normal) and this means that you end up losing more water than what was in the cup of coffee you just drunk. So, when calculating your daily water intake you should only count:

  • Clear Water
  • Herbal Teas
  • Fruit Juices (best diluted with -you guessed it- water!)

and nothing else. And that brings us to the next question:

What kind of water is best for me?

The simple answer would be, the water you have! Tap water is normally fine in most parts of the world. If you live in an area with hard water or if you simply don't like the taste of it (chlorine is a common offender for this), consider buying a water filter. I prefer the Brita Filter system, but there are also others around. Word of mouth is a good method to see which filter system is the favorite one in your neighborhood – and for your water.

Bottled water is also fine, it is normally of higher quality as simple tap water, but it can also get pricey over time, depending on which brand you prefer. As for teas and juices, also here is true that you get what you pay for. The higher quality you want to have the more you have to pay for it. You can make juices last longer by diluting them with water, that reduces also your overall calories intake.

Filters like these can improve the taste of tap water!

Click any image for more info!

Water and Salt, an important relationship

Remember these old adventure stories that played in colonial Africa and India? Remember 'salt tablets'? Salt is an important factor to keep water in your body, instead of losing it immediately. Take an athlete for example, that runs a marathon race and drinks only pure water, he or she never will make it to the finishing line, they will break down because of – dehydration! The reason for this, seemingly paradox, event is that a runner loses a lot of salts and minerals with his sweat. If he replaces only the lost water, but not the lost salts and minerals, his body is unable to keep the water in the body, he dehydrates despite the fact of drinking enough water. Additionally he will also suffer from severe cramps due to the imbalance of electrolytes in his body. Not nice!

Now, before you now go off and buy some fancy electrolytes containing sport drink, that might not be necessary. For human beings that just exercise normally, normal salt will do. Also here I can tell you a little trick. I used to do a lot of long-distance walking and I always carried a tiny container with table salt with me. From time to time, I would carefully lick some salt crystals. The trick to determine the right dose is simple, as long as it tastes good your body is still in need of salt, when it starts to taste ugly, your body has enough salt. Salt and water need to be in balance (called isotonic) for your body to function at its best, but it is not rocket science to achieve that. You simply have to learn some simple biological facts (which you should have done when you finished this article) and learn to listen to your bodies signals.

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Can too much water kill?

Apart of drowning, you mean? Yes, but you must be either very stupid or very unfortunate to die of water intoxication. The few reported cases have been either been contestants in a 'Who can drink the most water'-contest (that are the stupid, or should I better say the misguided ones) and small children or elderly people that suffered from a massive diarrhea or similar cause of a huge water and electrolyte loss and got only the lost water replenished, but not the electrolytes. This is also called water poisoning and is always considered to be a severe mistake in medical treatment of any form of water loss. There are also other, rare cases and diseases known to doctor-kind that can cause this but generally speaking it is really, really difficult for a healthy adult to drink accidentally so much water that it causes health problems. Just keep the above mentioned key points (urine color and regular salt intake) in mind, and you will be fine.

Water Intoxication Wikipedia

Water intoxication, also known as water poisoning, is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside of safe limits by overhydration, i.e., over-consump...

Water and Weight Loss

Water has many benefits, one of them is that it really helps to lose weight. This happens via two mechanisms, the first is that drinking water often calms down the hunger signals the brain is sending and second is that it pre-fills the stomach before a meal, making it less likely that you eat too much. Another, less researched reason, could be that a well hydrated body has a better functioning liver which breaks down fat more easily.

Can you lose weight with a water fast?

As for a water fast, now that would mean that you take only water and some vitamins, mineral and salt in. Sure, you will lose weight, but it is very hard to live only on water and pills, so most people give up rather soon. And, secondly, such an extreme diet should be only attempted under close medical supervision and in extreme cases of obesity. The risks and side effects of such a 0 calories diet are considerable and shouldn't be underestimated. Additionally you should note that a lot of people that went on such extreme diets have re-gained their initial weight (and some more) in the year, or even earlier... So, no, unless your GP recommends it, a water fast is not really a good way to lose weight.

Water and Skin

Water, as in good hydration, can help to clean up a lot of skin problems and even prevent smaller wrinkles. You will see and feel the difference in your skin after a few weeks of re-hydrating your body! It even helps against cellulite ;-)

Water, Thirst and Old Age

Experience shows that old people often lose their appetite for water and literally forget to drink enough of it. And as loss of concentration and orientation is one of the early signs of dehydration, these people enter quickly into a vicious circle of not drinking enough and forgetting to drink due to their confusion. If I would get a dollar for every senior citizen we treated in hospital for this problem, I would be rich and retired by now ;-) The most amazing thing is to see how quickly these patients recuperated after receiving a saline infusion via drip. They were as clear and orientated as you and me in no time, just by replenishing their bodies with water and salt! What brings us to the last question:

How to manage to drink enough

This tips are as valid for yourself as for a person you care for.

First of all would be to make sure that there is no contraindication present against an increased water intake (see my disclaimer above).

Then start a water diary to determine how much water and other liquids you actually drink. It is important to make the calculation so that 'good liquids' like water, herbal teas and juices are counted as positive and 'diuretic liquids' like alcoholic drinks and coffee / black tea etc as negative in the end balance. An example:

+1,5l Water

+0.5l Herbal Tea

-0.5l Beer

gives an actual liquid intake of only 1l, as the beer 'equals out' the herbal tea. This is obvious not a die hard rule, but something to bear in mind when you think about how to increase your intake of liquids the healthy way.

After you have determined how much you already drink effectively, you can now increase slowly your water intake up to the desired level. A good way to remind yourself to drink enough is always to have a glass of water at hand and to take sips frequently. Keeping a water diary for a while helps you to see if are are closing in at your goals and helps you to keep on track. An additional help can it be to set aside the bottles of water you want to drink in one day and be determined to have them emptied by nightfall.

When to drink water

You should start your water intake before breakfast and should have drunken nearly all of it around two hours before you go to bed, to ensure an undisturbed sleep. During the day it is better to continuously sip the water, rather than to gulping two glasses down in a short time and then nothing for hours.

Other good health related articles

... I have to say that, I wrote them ;-)
Does olive oil make your hair grow faster? Does it make your hair healthier? What are the best ways of using olive oil in your hair care? Find out here!
The first time I heard about the whole 'drinking olive oil' concept, I thought: OK, big detail, isn't that the same as cooking with and eating olive oil? But the idea IS different

Some last words

If you enjoyed this article it would be nice if you give it a thumb up and / or use the share function to spread the word. If you have any questions, suggestions, critics or praise, feel free to voice them in a comment and I promise to come back to you. Until then, Cheers to water!

Updated: 10/15/2012, Sam
 
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Sam on 10/26/2012

Thanks CarlThomp!

CarlThomp on 10/23/2012

This is a very concise well research article. I enjoyed reading this page

Sam on 09/17/2012

Thanks Pinkchic18 ;-) Just keep reminding yourself and do drink more water ;-)

Pinkchic18 on 09/17/2012

Awesome info! I'm always the ones saying, 'you need to drink more water!'

Sam on 09/17/2012

Thanks for your comment, lavero, as long as your drink enough water the occasional cup of coffee or mug of beer is completely ok ;-)

lavero on 09/16/2012

Great article. When I ingest some kind of fluid it's water in 99% of the time.

But that was not always the case, I remember drinking a lot of coffee, tea, alcohol and dairy stuff. Water is my favorite.

Sam on 08/30/2012

Thanks a bunch Jerrico! Glad you enjoyed it and found it useful enough to share! SY

Jerrico_Usher on 08/29/2012

Great article! Syndicated to my peeps and fellas on fbtwg+ :)

Mira on 08/11/2012

Hi Sam, thank you for this very nice article! I added a link to it. You also reminded me of a very good book, the one you showed here, by Dr. Gillian McKeith, so thank you for that as well.

Sam on 08/03/2012

Uh, oh, sodas, really, really bad for you for several reasons! Makes note to herself 'Need to write an article about sodas and why they are bad for your health'! Thanks for the internal link, highly appreciated! SY


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