What necessary component is missing in the diet of more Americans than any other substance? Is it iron or protein or B vitamins? No, what most of us lack above all else is water! H2O ranks second only to oxygen in sustaining life. But statistics estimate that three-fourths of us are chronically dehydrated! The reason for this stems from what we drink rather than how much we drink.
Per capita, American’s swallow almost a gallon of soda per week and roughly half that much coffee each week. Throw in fruit juices and milk and many individuals think their fluid requirements have been met. Unfortunately, coffee and other caffeinated drinks cause us to lose water. Beverages containing natural or refined sugars are also dehydrating. For every ounce of these drinks that we consume, we must sip an extra ounce and a half of water just to maintain normal balance in the body!
As the weather heats up, remember that your typical 2.5 cups of water lost through perspiration can easily double, so it’s even more critical to keep a water bottle in use! You only have to lose 2% of the body’s water volume to start feeling fatigued.
If you are playing in the sun and feel your concentration slipping and your aggravation rising, it’s quite possible you are losing too much water. Don’t wait longer to replenish because the consequences get worse: headache, dizziness, nausea, flushed skin, cramps and weakness are troublesome, but they are followed by life-threatening symptoms: confusion, rapid heartbeat & breathing, low blood pressure, lack of sweating and failing kidney function.
Since the body cannot store water as it does vitamins, minerals, or even fat, you have to replenish daily. An adult body is composed of 40 to 50 quarts of water! Most of that is fluid contained within the membranes of our trillions of cells. But you exhale about 1.25 cups of water each day through moistened air leaving the body, and lose roughly 6.25 cups through urination. Add that to the debt incurred by perspiration, and you’re down 2.5 quarts!
But hydrating isn’t just for restoring lost body fluids. The coming vacation season means travel. Along with new sites and adventures, come new pathogens. Your immunity can be truly challenged during these trips. You body’s first line of defense against foreign microbes is its mucous barriers: the sinuses, the lungs, and the gut. Ideally, these moist linings trap bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic invaders as they enter the body. Then white blood cells in these membranes destroy the harmful microbes before they can colonize and create disease. But what if these membranes – normally 98% water – are shrunken and parched? Where is your defense then? Is it asking too much to drink 8 cups per day?
Of course bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and 8 cups is only an average. A better measure of water need is your weight. To compute your water requirement, divide your weight in half. Take your answer and drink that much in ounces each day, capping at 100 ounces if you are over 200 pounds.
Perhaps your complaint is the too frequent trips to the bathroom when you try to hydrate. Adding some electrolytes to your water can help you retain it better. Easy electrolyte solutions include a splash of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of sea salt, or a dribble of coconut water.
Be aware that plastic bottles left in hot cars can leach harmful BPA. Keep your water in a cooler or use a metal thermos to have a safe, wet summer!