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It’s shaping up to be another summer of record-breaking high temperatures and the news media is beginning to sound like a broken record, too – over and over again we’re reminded to keep ourselves well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. But it’s an important message – not just during a heat wave, but also throughout the year because water serves so many critical functions in the body.
I’m sure you will agree that there’s nothing more refreshing than a nice ice-cold glass of water. Despite this, most of us don’t drink enough water on a daily basis. By depriving ourselves of the world’s most natural resource, we are continuously damaging our bodies. If you experience any of the following, you can improve your situation with a refreshing glass of water.
1. Your Mouth is Dry
This seems pretty obvious, but the ramifications might not be so. Of course, any time you feel that sticky, nasty feeling in your mouth, you’d obviously reach for some sort of liquid. But sugary drinks are only a temporary solution to a larger problem. Drinking water lubricates the mucus membranes in your mouth and throat, which will continue to keep your mouth moist with saliva long after that first sip.
2. Your Skin is Dry
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so of course it needs to stay hydrated. In fact, dry skin is one of the earliest signs of full-on dehydration, which can lead to much larger problems. A lack of water means a lack of sweat, which leads to a body’s inability to wash away excess dirt and oil accumulated throughout the day. If you want to stave off breakouts, your first recourse should be to drink more water.
3. You’re Overly Thirsty
We went over dry mouth already, but thirst goes beyond a desert-like tongue. Anyone who’s ever had a hangover can tell you that, upon waking up, your body just can’t get enough water. Alcohol dehydrates the entire body, and drinking water sends “YES PLEASE!” signals to the brain until your fluid levels get back to baseline. Listen to what your body is telling you; it knows what it’s talking about!
4. Your Eyes Are Dry
By now it should be clear that drinking water affects more than just your mouth and throat. A lack of water intake leads to dry, bloodshot eyes (again, think of that last pounding hangover). Without water in the body, your tear ducts dry up. If you’re thinking “So what if I can’t cry?” realize that this could cause much more harm to your eyes, especially if you wear contacts on a daily basis.
5. You Experience Joint Pain
Our cartilage and spinal discs are made up of about 80% water. This is an absolute necessity to keep our bones from grinding against each other with every step we take. By keeping your body hydrated, you ensure that your joints can absorb the shock of sudden movements, such as running, jumping, or falling awkwardly.
6. Your Muscle Mass Decreases
Your muscles, also, are comprised mostly of water. Obviously, less water in the body means less muscle mass. Drinking water before, during, and after a workout not only keeps you hydrated and comfortable, it also brings water to the right places in your body, and decreases the chance of developing inflammation and soreness related to exercise and weightlifting.
7. You Stay Sick Longer
Drinking water allows your body to continuously flush out toxins. Your organs work to filter our certain waste products like a machine, but if you don’t fuel the machine with water, it cannot work properly. What ends up happening in a dehydrated body is organs start to pull water from stored areas like your blood, which leads to a whole new set of problems.
8. You Feel Fatigued and Lethargic
As we just mentioned, when a body is dehydrated it “borrows” water from your blood. A lack of properly hydrated blood leads to a lack of oxygen being brought throughout the body. Of course, a lack of oxygen leads to sleepiness and outright fatigue. A lack of stamina means you’ll start to experience that 2PM crash earlier and earlier in your day (and remember, coffee won’t help in the long run).
9. You Experience Hunger Pangs
When you’re dehydrated, your body might start to think it needs some food. This happens throughout the day, and overnight when you wake up craving that midnight snack. However, eating food creates more work for your body, whereas drinking water purifies and your organs and supplies it with the fuel it needs to go through the other processes a body goes through.
10. You Experience Digestive Problems
We spoke before about the mucus in our mouth and throat, and how keeping hydrated allows the membrane to function correctly. This also applies to the entire digestive system. Without proper hydration, the amount and strength of mucus in the stomach lessens, allowing stomach acid to do some major damage to your insides. This leads to what we commonly refer to as heartburn and indigestion.
11. You Experience Constipation
Staying hydrated helps lubricate the digestive system. During the process of dehydration, the colon uses up the water that would have been used by the intestines in the next step of the digestive process. Without going into too much detail, I’ll let you figure out what a lack of lubricant in the intestines leads to.
12. You Experience Reduced Urination
Believe it or not, if you’re not taking a trip to the restroom 4-7 times a day, you’re probably not drinking enough water. And when you do go #1, it should be a light yellow or clear color. If it’s a darker yellow, your body is telling you it’s lacking proper hydration. In extreme cases, dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections, in which case you should consult a doctor right away.
13. You Experience Premature Aging
The amount of water our bodies retain naturally decreases as we age. Obviously, what this means is that, as we get older, we should consciously increase our water intake. While premature aging is more evident on the outside, the damage it does to our insides will ultimately be felt over time. To decrease the risk of running your body raw, it’s important to continue to drink water throughout your lifetime.
14. You’re reading this and have got this far
If you clicked on this article, chances are you thought to yourself “I don’t think I drink enough water.” The European Food Safety Authority and many others recommend that women should drink about 1.6 litres of fluid and men should drink about 2.0 litres of fluid per day. That's about eight glasses of 200ml each for a woman, and 10 glasses of 200ml each for a man. However, the amount a person needs to drink to avoid getting dehydrated will vary depending on a range of factors, including their size, the temperature and how active they are. So, for example, if you're exercising hard in hot weather you'll need to drink more.
All drinks count, including hot drinks such as tea and coffee, but water, milk and fruit juices are the healthiest. It is best to avoid alcoholic drinks.
Also, try to avoid sugary, soft and fizzy drinks that can be high in added sugars. These can be high in calories and bad for teeth.
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