By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
Do you drink enough water? Forget the whole 8 glasses a day thing for a minute and imagine you were a flower. Yes I’m being serious. Whatever you pictured, I doubt your flower is dried out, wilted, or droopy (if it was we may need to talk about other issues). But if you’re chronically dehydrated, that’s essentially what is happening in your body.
You probably know you can’t live more than a few days without water, while you can go much longer without food. That’s because water makes up 60-70% of your body. But even slight dehydration can take a toll beyond giving you dark and smelly pee. Inadequate hydration is at the root of so many health (and skin!) issues – even ones that seem totally insignificant.
Ever get random headaches, muscle cramps, or days where you feel cloudy headed/less sharp? Or maybe you deal with constipation even though you’ve increased your fiber intake, have super dry skin or chapped lips even when it’s not winter, or always feel hungry or lethargic. Occasional light-headedness with standing can be (but not always) dehydration related.
Water is vital to every cell in your body. It makes up 80% of your blood and sweeps out toxins in urine. Even a slight 2% drop in hydration thickens your blood and makes your heart work harder to pump it. Short term this can lead to that cloudy-headedness or headaches. Long term, it can cause chronic constipation (water acts as lubrication to moving food/fiber through your system) – and can even effect your metabolism. Hydration also has a direct effect on your skin’s moisture – which means the best anti-aging system is free in your kitchen, not on the shelves at the store.
The Institute of Medicine released revised standards for hydration a few years ago. After factoring in water intake from fruit and vegetables, they recommend men drink ~13 glasses/day (100 oz) and women ~9 glasses (72 oz). Other things to consider: exercise and your weight/height.
That sounds like a lot – but start small and begin by having a goal. At Foodtrainers we tell clients to drink “a liter by lunch” (~32 oz). Many find that thirst does often disguise itself as hunger. If you need flavor, drink (unsweetened) tea. Try herbal infusions like mint or ginger. Seltzer counts too. It’s time to start including hydration as one of the keys to your best health. No more wilted flowers around here!