Did you know most people walk around in a state of chronic dehydration? That’s what studies show and even mild dehydration, between 1 and 2%, can zap your energy and make you feel sluggish. It’s not surprising since every cell and tissue in your body needs an ample supply of water to regulate body temperature, remove toxins, keep mucous membranes moist, prevent constipation, and carry nutrients through the bloodstream.
The quantity of water an individual needs each day varies based on the climate they live in, how active they are, how much they perspire, what medications they take, and the diet they eat, but we all need to stay hydrated. How much does the average person need each day? Experts point out that men need around 3.7 liters of water daily while women require around 2.7 liters. Staying well hydrated has some health benefits too. Let’s look at how drinking more water can benefit your health and well-being.
Drinking More Water May Lower the Risk of Some Types of Cancer
Some studies show that staying well hydrated lowers the risk of bladder cancer, the fourth most common cause of cancer in men. Why might hydration be protective? When you have more fluid entering your bladder, it dilutes your urine so that any toxins or carcinogens are also diluted and spend less time in contact with your bladder wall.
Studies show a similar phenomenon for colorectal cancer. A study carried out in women found those who drink more tap water throughout the day had a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. The mechanism? Drinking more water speeds up the movement of waste through the colon. Therefore, carcinogens in the stool are eliminated from the body faster and have less time to interact with the walls of the colon and rectum.
Staying Well Hydrated is Better for Your Joints
Even your joints benefit from good hydration. The joints in your body are bathed in a fluid with the consistency of egg whites called synovial fluid. The purpose of synovial fluid is to lubricate your joints and reduce friction when you move the joint. Drinking more water helps enhance the consistency of this fluid so it can maximally protect your joints. Plus, almost 80% of joint cartilage is composed of water and this component is critical for function. Make sure you’re consuming enough water to keep your joints functioning their best.
Being Hydrated Lowers the Risk of Kidney Stones
If you’re prone to kidney stones, drinking more water could lower your risk of developing a recurrence or getting a kidney stone in the first place. In fact, studies show kidney stones are more common in people who work in a hot environment where they’re more likely to get dehydrated. Marathon runners also have a higher incidence of kidney stones, likely due to increased fluid loss without adequate replenishment of lost fluids. Hydration alone lowers the risk of kidney stones but adding lemon or lime juice provides added protection since the citric acid in citrus juice reduces kidney stone formation.
Improves Cognitive Function
Who couldn’t use more brainpower? Not drinking enough fluid could slow your cognitive performance. A study in walkers and runners who cover long distances found that those who consumed more water had better short-term memory and attentiveness. Not drinking enough water can even affect brain size. One study found that restricting water for 16 hours led to a 0.55% reduction in brain volume. Fortunately, rehydration reverses the volume loss.
The effects of dehydration are even more pronounced in older people. In elderly women, reducing water intake led to lower scores on tests that measure attention, memory, and motor speed. However, the same wasn’t true of men.
Older individuals are more prone to dehydration – but why? Hormones that signal thirst don’t function as efficiently and the kidneys become less capable of retaining fluid. So, it’s important for older adults to drink even when they aren’t thirsty. Thirst is not always a reliable indicator of hydration status.
Hydration is a Mood Booster
When you’re feeling down and a bit cranky, drink a glass of water! Few people realize that even mild dehydration can cause a depressed mood and lack of motivation. In fact, a cross-sectional study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry found that consuming less water is linked with a higher risk of both anxiety and depression. Why might this be?
Scientists theorize that drinking less water reduces the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and that may lead to symptoms of depression. It’s not farfetched to think there’s a link between hydration and mood. After all, the brain is 75% water. Without adequate hydration, chemical reactions are more sluggish.
The Bottom Line
Now you know some of the ways hydration affects your health. If you exercise, it’s even more important that you monitor your water intake. Strive for drinking two cups of fluid an hour or two before a workout. Sip another cup 10 to 15 minutes before launching into your sweat session. Keep a stainless-steel water bottle with you during your workouts and take a few gulps every 15 minutes or so.
It’s also helpful to weigh yourself before and after your workouts to see how much fluid you lost. Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound you’re down. Fluid needs can vary with the temperature and humidity you’re working out in and how hard and long you’re exercising. If your urine is darker than pale yellow, you’re not hydrating enough.
Don’t neglect your fluid needs! It’s easy to get busy and forget to hydrate but it’s too important to ignore.
- Illinois Bone and Joint Institute. “3 Awesome Benefits of Drinking Water”
- J Food Process Technol 2012, 3:2. DOI: 10.4172/2157-7110.1000142.
- National Association of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Prevention of Urinary Stones with Hydration (USDRN PUSH)”
- World J Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 20; 8(3): 88–96.Published online 2018 Sep 20. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.88.
- ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013 November/December; 17(6): 21–28.doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e3182a9570f.
- com. “Hydration may affect cognitive function in some older adults”
- net. “Bladder Cancer”
- com. “Dehydration and Joint Pain”