For something so simple and tasteless, its importance to us cannot be overstated. It is the essence of life. War have been fought over water, but let's not get sidetracked.
Water makes up more than 2/3 of our body weight and facilitates so many of our body’s functions. Your chance of survival (without shelter) in extreme weather (hot or cold) is about 3 hrs. Staying longer than 3 days without water is fatal.
On the other hand, you can survive 3 weeks on average without water but the experience is no doubt not fun. There are some who have been known to survive 8 to 10 days without water as well, but it’s not common.
What exactly is dehydration?
When you lose excess water from your body, you are ran the risk of dehydration. This triggers your thirst response, a signal that your fluid level is imbalanced and needs to be corrected.
Our bodies lose water in various ways including breathing, sweating and urinating. As a rule of thumb, if you sweat out more than 2% of your body mass, you need to hydrate.
What happens when you're dehydrated?
Muscle cramps or feeling faint. When this happens, our bodies reabsorb fluid from our blood and other body tissue to try and maintain normal body functions. But at this point, you become severely dehydrated. This means you no longer have enough fluid in your body (cell crenation) to get blood to your organs. As a result you may go into shock – a life threatening condition.
Continuous dehydration can cause many issues but it is often associated with renal problems and neurological problems like seizures. It should be noted that excessive urination (polyuria) might be an indication of diabetes mellitus or diabetes insipidus. Drinking excessive amounts of water can also cause excessive urination. Dehydration also affects our normal cognitive and psychological functioning. Studies have documented that even mild dehydration can cause memory, concentration and mood dips. In a similar study, Harvard University Medical School found that without water, your brain cells lose dry out and shrink. So next time you're reaching for a soda, think of your noggin and grab a water instead!
The bottom line
The amounts of water we need vary from person to person. It also depends on what we're eating and drinking, the environment/ climate and our activity level. Addition of fruit and vegetables to your diet means you're probably getting the water you need.
However there are times when more attentive effort should be placed on how hydrated we are: when we're sick with fever or have a stomach bug (diarrhea), exercising or staying in the heat for prolonged periods.
Did You Know: Our bodies have a pretty nifty when it comes to fluid balance that makes us crave drinks that are replenish the both quench thirst and contain sodium. This is because when we sweat excessively, we are losing water and other electrolytes. When you're working out and sweating streams like the champ you are, reach for drinks that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes (found in coconut water or sports drinks).
Drinking water also helps replenish valuable lost electrolytes. However downing excessive quantities of water can get you overhydrated. This causes fluid imbalance in your body and your kidneys can't keep up.This is especially the case whenever we engage in vigorous exercise for long periods. In rare cases, this results in dilution of sodium levels in your body, which can lead to water intoxication or water poisoning.
There are fluid intake calculators that recommend how much to drink. However, they should be used as a starting point. Instead, take cues from your own body to figure out how much you should drink. The better we know our own bodies, the more certain we can be that our actions (or inactions) are not cutting into our bodies normal functions.
Pro-Tip: The color of your pee (hear me out) offer's great clues into how hydrated you are.
Check out this simple infographic we made here.
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