It may not be particularly warm outside, but you know when you need a drink of water – and fast. You’re excessively thirsty, perhaps even feeling a bit dizzy or lightheaded. Even if you haven’t been exercising vigorously, your muscles may feel weak, your back may hurt and your joints and muscles may feel stiff. You’re not imagining things; your body is simply signaling how dependent it is on water.
Water Is Your Body’s Fuel
About 60 percent of your body consists of water, which may sound like a lot until you realize how far that water must travel and the functions it must perform – every single day. All of the organs, tissues and cells in your body require water for proper functioning. There are 11 organ systems in your body that function interdependently. They are:
- Cardiovascular system – heart and blood vessels.
- Digestive system – esophagus, stomach, liver, large intestine, small intestine, anus and rectum.
- Endocrine system – glands that regulate growth and metabolism. Integumentary system – hair, skin and nails. Lymphatic system – houses white blood cells vital to immunity to illness.* Muscular system – for movement and good posture.
- Nervous system – brain, spinal cord and nerves.* Reproductive system
- Respiratory system – supplies blood with oxygen. Skeletal system – all bones and joints. Bones store minerals, which water helps replenish. Urinary system – removes waste from the body (also known as the excretory system).
The “Big Three” Reasons
On a day-to-day basis, most people are unlikely to complain that their “skeletal system” or their “urinary system” is giving them problems. A lack of water is likely to show up in three ways that can be cast in more relatable terms (that once again underscore how the 11 organ systems work together). Water is vital to good health because it:
Keeps You Hydrated
Your body needs water to maintain a healthy internal temperature of 98.6 degrees. You’re likely to need more water to maintain this temperature, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, if you:
- Live in a warm climate* Are very active
- Are sick with a fever* Suffer from a bout of diarrhea or vomiting
When your body is running low on water and the brain signals that you’re thirsty, by all means drink. Failing to do so can lead to dehydration, which in mild forms can lead to temporary disorientation and dizziness and in severe cases – kidney failure.
Keeps You Regular
Water is a simple remedy for people who suffer from constipation, and another look at the body’s interrelated parts helps explain why. Every day, the kidneys rely on water to filter between 120 and 150 quarts of blood and 1 to 2 quarts of urine. But if the kidneys malfunction, excess fluid and waste can accumulate in the body. Water is the key to ensuring that the kidneys function as they should and wastes are flushed from the body.
Keeps You Limber
Cartilage in the body – the cushioning agent of joints and discs of the spine – consists of about 80 percent water. So when cartilage becomes dried out, it follows that the joints are less able to shrug off bumps and knocks. Instead, they can feel stiff or bristle with pain. The solution? As the Arthritis Foundation states, “If there’s a magical elixir to drink, it’s water.”
How Much Water?
Just as your appetite for food fluctuates, so does your thirst for water, and staying tuned to your body’s signal for water is the best way to ensure you drink enough, especially since the amount of water you lose every day pivots on how much you perspire and excrete through urine and bowel movements.
The Mayo Clinic and Medical News Today recommend a daily intake of:
- 91 ounces (or 2.7 liters) of water for women* 125 ounces (or 3.7 liters) of water for men
These recommendations can seem high, but remember that some of the water we get comes from our food. For example, certain vegetables (like zucchini) and fruit (like watermelon) teem with water, which can help you meet your recommended daily intake.
When you find yourself craving sugary drinks, remember the empty calories they contain. Water may be bland, but its attributes can’t be denied. As the Mayo Clinic says: “Water is your best bet because it’s calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.”