Just as we faithfully water our gardens, so too must we hydrate our body. Every living creature needs water to survive. Drinking enough water every day is good for overall health. Did you know that water is our body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 50% to 70% of our body weight?

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Every cell, tissue, and organ in our body needs water to work properly. Water helps rid the body of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements, and it keeps our temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, and protects sensitive tissues. For our body to function correctly, we must replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.

Feeling thirsty is the most obvious sign we are dehydrated, meaning our body does not have enough fluid to function properly. However, other symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, dizziness, headache, and muscle cramps. We may also urinate less often than we usually do or have dark urine. In addition, our skin may be drier and less elastic, and we may be prone to confusion and feeling faint.

Being dehydrated doesn’t just mean our body is losing water; it also means we are losing electrolytes, such as salt and potassium, necessary for our cardiovascular, digestive, and pulmonary systems.

Adults should consume water every day. Daily fluid intake is defined as the amount of water consumed from foods, plain drinking water, and other beverages. There are many different opinions on the amount of water we should be drinking daily. While we have probably heard that we should drink a minimum of eight glasses a day, our daily intake depends on different factors, such as our overall health, how active we are, and where we live. Daily fluid intake recommendations vary by age, sex, pregnancy, and breastfeeding status.

How do we know if we are well-hydrated? Check the color of our urine. If it is pale yellow, we most likely are well-hydrated. A darker shade that resembles apple juice could mean that we should drink more.

Although fluid intake can come from food and beverages, plain drinking water is a crucial component with zero calories. However, the good news is that we don’t have to only get hydration only from plain water. If we don’t like to drink plain water, consider drinking naturally flavored water by adding or infusing our water with fruit or herbs, like lemon, lime, peaches, cucumber, or mint for added flavor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that we can get fluids and supplement our water intake from high water content food that we eat as most foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and especially fruits and veggies contain water. For example, watermelon, lettuce, celery, and zucchini are almost 100% water by weight. Coffee or tea and water-rich foods can help maintain our fluid balance.

The CDC encourages the consumption of water to stay healthy, as getting enough water is important for many functions in the body. Drinking more water does not need to be difficult. One method to increase our water intake and stay hydrated throughout the day is to set a hydration goal. A good start is to begin and end our day with water and reap the healthy benefits of drinking water.

Nancy J. Schaaf is a retired English/literature educator and also a retired nurse.

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