How Important is Hydration?
By: Dee Kelly, PTA
A human can’t live beyond six days without water. And after only three days without water, your body starts the process of shutting down. Water plays a critical role in how your body functions.
Your body is 60% water. Think about all of the muscles, bones, organs, fat and blood that fills your body: you have more water in your body than all of that stuff, combined. Let’s break that down further: your brain is 75% water, your heart is 79% water and your lungs are 80% water. If you aren’t drinking enough water, then your brain, heart and lungs are all functioning at a deficit and they are all struggling on a daily basis.
Now think about all the tasks that you depend on your body to accomplish all day, every day. You are a busy person! The fuel you put into your body makes a huge difference in the quality of your living. This starts with the basics of a simple glass of water. So maybe you get a few glasses of water each day and you maintain life, but consider what kind of difference you can make in your body’s ability to function, perform and heal if you are fully hydrated.
Water cushions your brain tissue; it provides electrical energy to fire your nerves and it delivers nutrients to your brain for clear, creative, and focused thought. A dehydrated brain results in confusion, brain fog and a decline in brain function on a whole. Prolonged dehydration over time actually causes brain cells to shrink in size and mass, leading to brain decay. Dehydrated people over the age of 65 are at a higher risk for cognitive conditions such as Dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Signs of a dehydrated brain are headaches, dizziness, impaired mood, poor memory, and confusion.
The heart is your hardest working muscle. It continually contracts and pumps all day, every day. When the heart is well hydrated, it pumps more easily. A dehydrated heart strains more, which fatigues your heart muscle and makes your whole body feel tired. A dehydrated heart also pumps less blood; blood carries the nutrients and oxygen that your body needs to function, to heal and to decrease pain. You need your blood to circulate freely and easily.
Signs of a heart that isn’t functioning sufficiently include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and swelling in the ankles and feet.
You take more than 16 thousand breaths a day and your lungs manage each one of them. They exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide in your blood with each inhale and exhale. Your lungs have a thin, moist lining of mucus that keeps your system running smoothly and protects you from infection. Drinking water maintains the moisture in this lining. Dehydrated lungs cause this mucus lining to thicken and to get sticky, which impairs your lungs’ function and makes your breathing difficult. Over time, dehydration can make you more susceptible to illness, allergies and other respiratory problems like asthma and COPD. Signs of dehydrated lungs are coughing, labored breathing and shortness of breath. If your mouth feels dry, your airways are dry.
Hydration, Healing and Pain
Now let’s talk about healing and pain. Your body is actually designed to heal itself (isn’t that amazing?), but it can’t do that if you don’t give it the tools it needs and if you don’t provide it with an environment for healing. The first and most basic form of this successful plan is hydration. Proper hydration helps to keep your cartilage soft and pliable, your joints cushioned and flexible, and your muscles and bones well-supplied with oxygen for strength. When you aren’t providing your body with enough water, it pulls fluid out of your tissues, joints and muscles. This increases joint aches, headaches, back pain and arthritis pain.
Hydrating your body is so simple to do. Set your body up with a slow drip of water throughout the day. Find a 20-ounce water bottle and commit to carrying it with you all day long. Try to drink five of them a day. If this sounds unattainable, start with the goal of finishing just one today, and then gradually build up your water intake over the coming weeks. The more water you drink, the more you will urinate; this is your body expelling liquid waste products that it creates (isn’t it smart?). To decrease any interference with sleep, aim to finish the bulk of your water intake roughly three hours before bedtime.
There are many equations to determine the amount of water your body needs but a general guide is simply to monitor the color of your urine. The darker your urine is, the more dehydrated your body is; aim to maintain a pale-yellow color. The simple, but powerful, act of hydration changes how your body functions, which changes how you heal, how you think and how you feel. Let’s drink to that!
The information contained in cfaortho.com, somdortho.com, or caoperformanceandtherapy.com is neither intended as rendering medical advice nor as a substitute for seeking professional medical assistance.