Hydration Smarts: What You Need to Know
Most of us have heard for years how important it is to stay hydrated. Beginning with our early years of education in our health classes it was stressed to us the need to drink up to 8 glasses of water daily. It is something that we understand from an early age but often overlook in our busy lives.
The real impact of how important it is to stay hydrated is very easy to ignore. We come to rely on thirst as an indicator of our liquid needs and reach for various substitutes for water such as coffee, soda and juices, feeling confident that we are quenched. In truth, more than 50% of Americans are in some state of dehydration daily despite our fluid intake. If we were to actually think about the fact that up to 64% of our adult body weight is water and in the case of an infant, up to 75% of their body weight is water, it would be easier to understand the need for hydration. If we lose even 1% of our body weight from fluid loss, we can begin to feel the effects of dehydration such as fatigue. If we lose 2% of our body weight from fluid loss we begin to have mental confusion and after losing 10% of our body weight from fluid loss it becomes a medical emergency. Some of the ways we become dehydrated include fever, diarrhea, burns, being in higher altitudes and extreme exercise. We are familiar with the need to hydrate under these conditions, but it is just as important to hydrate daily because of the good work water does to keep us healthy.
What Water Does For You
- Regulates you body temperature
- Converts food to components needed for survival – digestion
- Acts as a shock absorber for brain and spinal cord
- Helps deliver oxygen all over the body
- Needed by the brain to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters
- Forms saliva
- Keeps mucous membranes moist
- Allows body’s cells to grow, reproduce and survive
- Flushes body waste
- Lubricates joints
- Water is the major component of most body parts
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
— Walt Disney
Simple Ways to Increase Your Water Intake
With just a little attention to how often you could be drinking water instead of your favorite go-to drink, you can start to improve your levels of hydration. Start enjoying the healthy benefits of proper hydration by trying these simple ideas. It will help you to maintain normal bowel function, improve your skin, energize your muscles and even help to fight fatigue and keep your focus.
- Invest in a sleek water bottle and carry it with you always
- Drink with a straw…it will help you to drink more water
- Schedule set times to drink water just before you eat or at break time
- Replace at least one of your regular drinks per day with water
- Set alarms or reminders on your phone or computer (there are even apps now!)
- Make up flavored water ahead of time to keep it on hand
- Play water games invite your neighbors to join in a challenge!
How Much Water is Enough?
Don’t forget, while you are hydrating it is important to keep your electrolytes in balance. Hydration should be over time in small amounts, not all at once as that can lead to loss of important minerals your body needs. The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day. If you stay within these limits or close you will avoid dehydration or over hydrating.
Electrolytes include these common minerals: Sodium, Chloride, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphate, Potassium and Bicarbonate. A great way to get these minerals is by increasing your intake of the following fruits and vegetables…
- Apples – Magnesium
- Avocados – Magnesium
- Bananas – Magnesium, Potassium
- Beans – Phosphate
- Black Beans – Magnesium, Phosphate
- Broccoli – Calcium, Magnesium
- Carrots – Magnesium
- Cucumbers – Magnesium, Potassium
- Dates – Potassium
- Figs – Potassium
- Garlic – Phosphate
- Kale – Calcium
- Peas – Phosphate
- Potatoes – Magnesium
- Raisins – Magnesium, Potassium
- Sweet potatoes – Magnesium
- Tomatoes – Potassium
- Turnip greens – Calcium
- Watermelon – Potassium
Fibromyalgia and Water
Many people who suffer with Fibromyalgia are prone to excessive sweating. It is thought that temperature sensitivity is the result of miscommunication between the nervous system and hormones sending the wrong signals to the brain to regulate body temperature. To combat the dehydration that this can cause it is important to drink plenty of water. Dehydration contributes to fatigue and brain fog which is already problematic with Fibromyalgia. Water flushes the toxins and generates energy as it enters through a cells membrane. Water helps to regulate your temperature and by eliminating the waste that burdens your kidneys and liver it helps to breakdown the vitamins minerals and other nutrients your body needs to use them. The simple activity of drinking water can make a big difference and is an essential ingredient in the therapy of Fibromyalgia patients.
Helping the Elderly to Hydrate
Dehydration in the elderly is a common issue that if addressed early enough can prevent bigger health problems. As we age, our body water content decreases. Combined with medications that we take, our aging kidneys and limited mobility, dehydration is a constant threat. Here are some facts that show how important it is that we make hydration a priority in our lives and that of our elderly loved ones.
- Dehydration has been associated with increased mortality rates among older adults
- Dehydration can accelerate or bring about emergency hospitalization and/or increase the risk of hospital stays
- Dehydration is a frequent cause of hospitalization of older adults and one of the ten most frequent diagnoses responsible for hospitalization in the U.S.
- Dehydration has been associated with many elderly health issues, including elderly confusion, impaired cognition, falling and constipation
- It is estimated that avoidable costs of hospitalizations resulting from dehydration is $1.14 billion, annually
Some things you can do to improve hydration for your loved one…
- Offer fluids on a regular basis all day long
- Be sure to offer at least 8oz each time medications are taken
- Keep water bottles or coolers nearby seniors at all times
- Make special water drinks that are attractive with strawberry or coconut water
The sensation of thirst is diminished with age and it is difficult to encourage hydration when this is the case. A gentle reminder to drink before they get thirsty is helpful and with regular attention to the need to hydrate, the onset of dehydration can be avoided. The following is a guideline for meeting hydration requirements for seniors ….
- If you are 65 or older, your mission is to get in ~2 Liters per day, or 9 glasses (1 glass = 8 oz) of fluid.
- If you have kidney or heart problems, please ask your doctor for specific amounts.
- Remember that all liquid counts (milk, soup, coffee and tea, popsicles) and some fruits and vegetables too.