Checking Your Fluids
Eight glasses of water a day isn’t a hard rule, but hydration is an every day concern
Though there is no set percentage of how much of the human body is made up of water, we know we’ve got a lot in us. Water can average anywhere from 55 to 75 percent of our body weight. But it doesn’t just sit there.
“Water is in every cell and is essential for cellular and organ function,” explains Joenie T. Almeida, MD, of St. Joseph's/Candler Primary Care located on Eisenhower. If we don’t get enough water and become dehydrated, we become ill. Severe dehydration can even be life-threatening.
This is why people are encouraged to get 8x8 every day: eight glasses with eight ounces of water each. But is that truly the best way to stay hydrated?
“Eight glasses a day is a good gauge, but it is also a rough gauge,” Almeida says. “The body has a thirst mechanism that can tell you if you need water or not. If you’re thirsty, your body needs more fluids. If you’re not, drinking more than you need may not be helpful.”
Dr. Almeida also notes that there are a variety of factors involved in how much water a person needs to stay hydrated. High heat and humidity can cause a person to become dehydrated more quickly. Strenuous activity and exercise will also cause the body to lose water faster. Put these two factors together and eight glasses of water may not seem like much at all.
“Age is also a factor,” Almeida says. “The elderly and the very young tend to get dehydrated more quickly. The thirst mechanism is not as well developed in younger children, and older people may have other health conditions that require more fluids throughout the day.”
Water is obviously the best source for hydration, but Dr. Almeida says that decaffeinated teas, fruit juices, and flavored water such as Crystal Light are also viable sources. He discourages the use of drinks with a large amount of sugar or caffeine.
A parched mouth is one of the first warning signs of dehydration. Weakness and dizziness will result as the dehydration becomes more severe. Almeida suggests that people listen to their body’s thirst mechanism to avoid even approaching those later symptoms.
“If you feel thirsty,” Almeida says matter-of-factly,”you need to drink something.”