According to the old adage, you should drink lots of water, it’s good for you! But what exactly are the health benefits of drinking water?
To make a long story short, water does more than just quench your thirst—proper hydration affects every part of the body, as well as your overall health. Moreover, drinking enough water keeps your body functioning the way they should. Let’s take a deeper dive into the importance of hydration, and also touch on some common symptoms of dehydration (such as dehydration headaches, which are anything but fun!).
Why Is Water So Important to Your Body?
Water is so important that up to 60 percent of the human adult body is composed of it. More specifically, the brain and heart are composed of 73 percent water, and the lungs are about 83 percent water. H2O makes up 64 percent of your skin, 79 percent of your muscles and kidneys, and even 31 percent of your bones! All that water plays a critical role in how the body works. For instance:
- Water regulates your internal body temperature through sweat and respiration. For example, if you are exercising or are in a hot climate, your body produces sweat in order to stay cool. But if you don’t replace the water you’re giving off, your body temperature will quickly rise and you’ll lose important electrolytes.
- It can help to boost your metabolism.1 In order to activate your metabolism and boost your energy levels, it helps to drink the recommended amount of water (half your body weight in ounces per day).
- Water assists in flushing out waste via perspiration, urination, and defecation.
- It encourages healthy digestion. If you want to effectively digest your food, you should drink plenty of water before, during, and after your meal. Water helps your body to break down what you eat.
- Water forms saliva, which is the first step in breaking down the food you eat. Saliva’s main component is water, along with mucus, enzymes, and electrolytes.
- H2O also lubricates joints. In order to maintain a full range of motion, you need to keep your joints, muscles, and spinal cord lubricated—and water can help to accomplish this goal.
But what happens if you don’t get enough water?
All About Dehydration
Dehydration can occur if you expend more fluid than you take in and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace those lost fluids, you will become dehydrated.
The most common cause of dehydration in young children is diarrhea and vomiting—a lot of fluids can be lost that way. On the other end of the spectrum, older adults typically have a lower volume of water in their bodies. They may also have certain health conditions or take medications that increase their risk of dehydration. But no matter your age, dehydration can happen to you, especially if you don’t drink enough water during hot weather or during or after a vigorous workout.
What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration? They could be anything from extreme thirst, dark-colored urine, fatigue, or dizziness, but one of the most common is what’s known as a dehydration headache.
What are some key signs that a headache might be due to dehydration? First of all, a dehydration headache is a secondary headache caused by not having enough fluid in the body. When the body is dehydrated, the brain can temporarily shrink from fluid loss.2 This mechanism causes the brain to pull away from the skull, triggering pain and resulting in a dehydration headache. Once hydrated, the brain plumps up and returns to its normal state, relieving the headache.
Most dehydration in adults occurs because of an overly busy schedule or because of a lack of access to safe drinking water when exercising or traveling. Other causes can include fever and excessive sweating. In general, the higher the fever, the more dehydrated you become. And this compounds if you also have diarrhea and vomiting.
Top Hydration Tips
If you’ve let your hydration habits slip, now’s the perfect time to get back on track.
Hydrate when you wake up and before meals. If you don’t have a water bottle right in front of you, it’s easy to get lost in your tasks for the day and forget to hydrate. But if you make it a priority to hydrate in the morning and drink two glasses of water when you wake up, that will help kick-start the process and set you up for success for the rest of the day. In addition to having those two glasses of water when you wake up, also prioritize having a glass of water before every meal. As a bonus, drinking water not only helps you feel fuller, you’re also more likely to eat slower, and as a result, less.
Eat your water. Yes, you read that right. Fruits and veggies with a high water content can help you meet your daily hydration quota. When at the grocery store, try and fill your cart with fruits like cantaloupe, strawberries, and watermelon, and veggies like lettuce, cabbage, celery, and spinach. All of these foods contain about 90 percent water. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese are also excellent sources of H2O.
Sick of water? Try a green drink. We get it, it can be tough drinking a flavorless liquid all day long. If you’re looking to try something new, consider adding a powdered green drink mix to your water (or juice or smoothie). Drinking your greens is a great way to increase both your hydration and your veggie intake! Look for a product that contains barley grass, wheatgrass, chlorella, and kelp. These land and sea greens provide a host of antioxidants and other nutrients that can have beneficial effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and more.
Use a smartphone app to track your water intake. Make your phone work for you by downloading a well-rated hydration-tracking app like Water Reminder (free on Google Play). These apps let you track how much water you’re consuming in a day so you’ll know if you’re meeting or missing the mark.
So let’s raise a glass to all of water’s many health benefits! Aim to get your recommended amount of water per day by incorporating a few of the tips above. Your body will thank you.
- Vij V, Joshi A. Effect of ‘water induced thermogenesis’ on body weight, body mass index and body composition of overweight subjects. Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. 2013; 7(9): 1894-1896.
- Fletcher J, Weatherspoon D. How to recognize a dehydration headache. Medical News Today. 2017; https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317511#Symptoms
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.