In a market saturated with specialty coffees, soft drinks, sports drinks and energy boosters, plain water often loses its luster. As crucial as water is, it seems the majority of the population is in a dehydrated rut.
The need for water can hardly be overstated. As humans, we are composed of approximately 70 percent of the stuff and nearly every aspect of our body's function calls for the fluid. Water makes up much of the medium that helps our cells communicate with each other. While it's a fact we can only survive a few days at best without water, is eight glasses a day really necessary? The answer depends on many factors, including:
- What is the person's general health status? Patients with chronic pain need to seriously evaluate their water intake. Clinically, patients have noticed improvements in treatments they were already pursuing, such as chiropractic work, acupuncture or massage, just by being better hydrated.
- Is the person doing activities that increase water loss (sweating)? Is the person working out extensively, or do they have a job that frequently puts them outside in the heat?
- Does the person drink a lot of coffee or soft drinks? Coffee can act as a diuretic, which means it may increase urination. “A lot” of coffee in this case would be defined as 3 or more 6-ounce cups a day. Regular or diet soft drinks pose many health issues. Those drinking multiple cans of pop a day may not be getting enough water.
One of the biggest problems those who drink high volumes of coffee or soft drinks run into, is that those beverages eventually replace water as the daily form of hydration. Again, coffee is a diuretic. So excessive amounts of coffee can actually worsen the water balance in the body. If this situation goes on long enough, patients could encounter nagging pains that don’t respond to conventional therapy.
The need for water is so great in the body that a physician wrote an entire book on how those with chronic neck and back pain need to consider the amount they are getting . High coffee intake could also cause losses of minerals and calcium. Everyone should realize that hydration can not come from any other source but water.
There is very little data on exactly how much water a person should drink, however, the old suggestion of eight glasses a day may still be a realistic goal. Athletes in training should target 80-90 ounces or more, depending on how much they are sweating. If urine appears dark yellow, water intake needs to be increased. The color of urine should typically be a pale yellow. One study documented that even experienced long distance runners did not always gauge how dehydrated they were . Folks receiving bodywork therapies like massage or chiropractic treatments should also be drinking higher amounts of water to best utilize those therapies. Coffee drinkers need to limit their daily intake to 1-2 cups while meeting their water goals for the day.
What type of water is best? These days, there is bottled water, flavored water, vitamin water and of course, tap water. The best source for drinking and cooking, is water filtered through a reverse osmosis system. This is a very high grade filter that can be installed under your kitchen sink by a local water company. Any other form of regular water, tap or bottled, is still better than a soda. Vitamin and specialty waters can become a problem due to added sugars. Others promise extra vitamins when in fact they contain very few. In truth, water doesn't need to provide anything other than water. It's important enough.
The boom of bottled water, while it popularized hydration, also triggered a huge influx of plastic bottles being dumped into our environment, which allows certain chemicals, like phthalates, to leech into the ground, water and our bodies. These pose various risks including cancer. Try to transport water in stainless steel or glass bottles. If you have plastic bottles, don't allow them to sit in the sun. Also, don't use plastic to carry or heat water, as this might increase chemical leeching. Grab a glass, grab a pitcher; just be sure to drink in the natural gifts of water.
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- Batmanghelidj, F., M.D. Your Body’s Many Cries for Water.
- Passe, D., Horn, M., Stofan, J., Horswill, C., Murray, R. (2007). Voluntary dehydration in runners despite favorable conditions for fluid intake. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, (3):284-95.