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Water and Wellness: Eight Glasses a Day Does Not Apply

Water and wellness go together, but how much water we need is a frequent question. If you have long heard that we should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, you are not alone. Even though many have listened to this, there is not any documentation that supports the statement. If this were correct, this would mean that the same amount is recommended for everyone, regardless of gender, age, or body weight.

Our bodies are more than 50% water for adult men and women. Our organs contain 70-85% water, while our brains have 80-85% and our muscles, 70-75%.

Our needs increase if we exercise, have a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, and if we are in hot temperatures. We lose water through urine, feces, sweat and breathing, daily.

Adequate Intake for water and wellness

The Adequate Intake level from the Institute of Medicine for water is 2.7 liters for women and 3.7 liters for men. Going from liters to ounces, this translates to roughly 91 ounces or 11 eight-ounce glasses for women and 125 ounces or 16 eight-ounce glasses for men.

Sources of water

We can get water into our diets from the foods we eat and all beverages, whether caffeinated or not. It does not have to be plain water. The water content in foods varies. Fruits and veggies range from 79-96% (dried fruit 31%), with protein sources ranging from 60-73% (beef jerky is lower at 23%).

Ways to include beverages with water  

Make flavored water with unsweetened liquid drops or unsweetened powdered drink mixes

Soda stream machines will carbonate your water for you

Ready to drink carbonated beverages (non-caloric recommended for weight management)

Water infused with fruit or veggies

Coffee or tea (plain, unsweetened recommended for weight management).

What does water do for us?

Other than being soothing as we drink it and quenching our thirst, water can:

Cushion or joints

Regulate our body temperature

Help with digestion

Keep our mouth, ears, nose, and throat moist.

Signs and symptoms of not drinking enough water

You may feel a dry, thirsty feel in the back of your throat, which is a symptom of about 2% dehydration. In one study, the lack of adequate water showed signs of cognitive impairment. Even as little as 2% dehydration can decrease the performance level of someone who is exercising.

Always have water on hand. Signs and symptoms of dehydration vary with the degree. Some symptoms can be thirst, tiredness, lightheadedness, muscle cramping, headaches, and an increase in heart rate.

As the degree of dehydration becomes more severe, there could be a small amount, or a lack of urine or urine could be extremely dark yellow.

Tips to help you drink more water

Always have drinking water on hand, especially in hot climates, whether indoors or out. Reusable containers can be helpful for you as you stay hydrated and help protect our environment.

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