BY DARCY DiBIASE
Your body relies on water to work properly, and it’s your responsibility to make sure it has the hydration it needs to work its best.
Up to 60% of your body is water. Your skin, organs, muscles and even your bones have water in them. Water regulates your internal body temperature, dissolves and transports nutrients in the bloodstream, assists in flushing out waste and lubricates your joints.
How much water you need in a day is determined by your activity level, the weather and your physiology. You might be at higher risk of dehydration if you exercise at a high intensity, have medical conditions (such as kidney stones or diabetes), are sick with a fever or diarrhea, are pregnant or are breastfeeding.
You may be dehydrated if you are thirsty, have a dry mouth, feel sleepy or are light-headed.
“The best way to tell if you are well hydrated is by checking your urine. It should be colorless or light yellow. If your urine is dark yellow or amber, up your fluids. If it persists more than a few days even with increased fluids, call your primary care physician,” says Susan Levinsohn, MD, of Upstate Family Medicine and Preventative Care.
Another indicator of dehydration can be a mild headache. “Before you reach for the pain reliever, drink a large glass of water and wait 20 minutes,” Levinsohn says.
Dehydration is most threatening to the young, the elderly and the sick. These are the groups of people who may not be in tune with whether they are getting enough fluids.
“Living in Upstate New York, we’re lucky to have, for the most part, excellent tap water. You can be a good steward of the environment and leave the bottled water on the store shelves and out of the landfills,” Levinsohn said. If your tap water isn’t to your liking, you can try using a filtration pitcher to improve the taste and odor of your water.
Invest in a good-quality refillable water bottle made of BPA-free plastic, glass or stainless steel. Carrying it with you throughout the day makes it even easier to get in enough water. You can also experiment with making your water more flavorful by adding fresh fruit, cucumbers or herbs to a large pitcher and letting it steep overnight.
“Water is the best source of hydration for the human body, but remember hydration can come from many places including other types of beverages, fruits, vegetables and even soup,” Levinsohn says.
While you can hydrate with many beverages, pay attention to added artificial colors, sweeteners, salt, caffeine and fat in packaged drinks. Some drinks can be filled with empty calories that can throw off your daily nutrition balance.
“Sugary sports drinks are not necessary to hydrate, even if you aren’t well,” Levinsohn says. Artificial sweeteners can also make you crave more sweets, which isn’t necessarily good for your health.
Bottom line: Staying hydrated is part of staying healthy — and adding more water to your daily routine is an easy way to achieve that.