When you feel thirsty what is the first thing you reach for? For most people the answer will be water. Water makes up about 75% of our bodies and is present in all living things, therefore it stands to reason that we need to drink water in order to maintain a healthy balance of fluids in our bodies. Pure drinking water has come a long way, from first being available only in springs and wells, then being stored in reservoirs and cisterns.
However, pure drinking water is still not available to people all over the world. There are many developing countries where people suffer from diseases as a result of not drinking pure water or water that is unsuitable for human consumption. Plain drinking water is a tasteless and odorless liquid that benefits the body in many ways. Water is lost from our bodies through sweat, urine and feces, therefore we need to drink adequate amounts of water to maintain hydration.
The benefits of drinking water are:
To keep the body hydrated
Transport food and nutrients to all parts of the body
Rid the body of toxins and
Keep air passages moist.
We are told to drink an average of 8 glasses of water a day, however this may vary depending on the environment and on the person’s lifestyle. For example, someone living in a hot climate loses more fluids through sweat, and therefore needs to drink more water. Similarly, a person engaged in rigorous activities, such as an athlete, needs to increase his water intake.
Some illnesses such as fever, vomiting and diarrhea require the person to drink more fluids. In the case of vomiting and diarrhea, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade which contain electrolytes may prove helpful. Pregnant women and those who are breast feeding need to drink more water in order to maintain fluid levels in the body. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups of water daily, and nursing mothers drink about 12.5 cups.
Water consumption does not have to come from water alone. Some fruits like watermelon and cucumbers are almost 100% water. Fruit juices, tea, coffee and other beverages are made almost entirely of water, however one should limit the usage of these beverages because they can add calories if sweetened and in the case of tea and coffee, they are diuretics.
Feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth may be signs of dehydration, therefore it is not a good practice to wait until one feels thirsty before drinking water. To prevent dehydration one should drink water before and during every meal. Drink water before, during and after exercise, and substitute water for alcoholic beverages at social gatherings. By forming a habit of drinking water, a person develops a taste for water and soon the practice becomes natural.