Water Water Everywhere, How Much Do I Drink?

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Our days can be so busy that we don’t know which way is up, but taking care of your body should never be  forgotten. Especially during the hotter months, it is important to make sure you are drinking enough water because while most cases of dehydration itself are easily reversible, a consistent lack of enough water can lead to a myriad of health problems.

Dehydration on its own can make getting through the day laborious. Not drinking enough water can lead to - among other things - lethargy, headaches, confusion, and cramps. As if those aren’t unpleasant enough, dehydration can lead to more serious health issues, such as heat illness. One of significance, given the heat wave sweeping the country, is heat exhaustion. Symptoms of this include fainting and nausea, and can lead to heat stroke, which can can be fatal if not treated immediately. Although these illnesses cannot be brought on by dehydration alone, it is a major factor in them.

Water helps replenish the electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes, as explained by the U.S. Library of Medicine, “are minerals in your body that have an electric charge” that essentially allow your nerves to send signals throughout your body and direct all of your functions. When you are dehydrated, your electrolytes are thrown out of balance; this change in your nerve impulses can cause seizures. Dehydration can so easily damage your body because water is used by every cell in your body, from epidermal cells to ear hair cells. Chronic or frequent bouts of dehydration can lead to a myriad of kidney problems because dehydration stops your nutrients from being processed. Chronic or frequent bouts of dehydration can lead to permanent kidney damage. Dehydration can also lead to urinary tract infections, since water also helps carry waste out of your body.

The question remains: how much water do I need to drink? The answer varies depending on a number of factors: environment, activity level, and health. There is no direct answer on how much water you need to drink a day, but we have recommendations to work with. Approximately 20% of water intake comes from food, reports The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The other 80% is gained through beverages, whether you are drinking water or something else. This report suggests 91 ounces of water for women every day. Assuming that exactly 20% of that comes from food (18.2 ounces), 72.8 ounces of water (or just over half a gallon) should come from beverages. While some of that will come from other drinks, water is the healthiest option.

72.8 ounces is a daunting number. If only it was the 8 glasses of water suggested to us through the years. But to put it in perspective, consider a plastic water bottle available in a vending machine or corner store (or even Amazon). In America, these bottles tend to be either a half  or a full liter. To translate, a single bottle of water will probably contain around 17 or 34 ounces of water. This means the estimated recommendation of water (if you only drank water) would be approximately 4 (½ liter) bottles or 2 (full liter) bottles. Again, this is based off of average estimates. The amount of water you need to drink depends on you.

With no easy answer to arguably one of the most important health questions out there, the responsibility of staying hydrated rests even more heavily on your own shoulders. The best thing to do is watch your body for signs of dehydration and follow Kendrick Lamar’s instructions accordingly. The most obvious symptom of dehydration is, of course, thirst. Following this signal alone is usually enough to reach your required water intake. Other symptoms include less frequent and/or dark colored urination, fatigue, confusion, and dizziness, but, it is easy to ignore your nagging body when in the middle of a busy day. Hydrating is more than seeing the symptoms—it is remembering to rectify them.

72.8 ounces is a daunting number. If only it was the 8 glasses of water suggested to us through the years. But to put it in perspective, consider a plastic water bottle available in a vending machine or corner store (or even Amazon). In America, these bottles tend to be either ½ or a full liter. To translate, a single bottle of water will probably contain around 17 or 34 ounces of water. This means the estimated recommendation of water (if you only drank water) would be approximately 4 (½ liter) bottles or 2 (full liter) bottles. Again, this is based off of average estimates. The amount of water you need to drink depends on you.

With no easy answer to arguably one of the most important health questions out there, the responsibility of staying hydrated rests even more heavily on your own shoulders. The best thing to do is watch your body for signs of dehydration and follow Kendrick Lamar’s instructions accordingly. The most obvious symptom of dehydration is, of course, thirst. Following this signal alone is usually enough to reach your required water intake. Other symptoms include less frequent and/or dark colored urination, fatigue, confusion, and dizziness. However, it is easy to ignore your nagging body when in the middle of a busy day. Hydrating is more than seeing the symptoms -- it is remembering to rectify them.

Having to repeatedly stop what you are doing to get up and get a drink is bothersome, if not outright rude. By far the easiest way to remember to drink water is to always have it with you. Invest in a refillable water bottle (stainless steel keeps it looking professional and fashionable). Simply carrying water with you can increase your intake. Freeze a full bottle overnight to have chilled water at the ready by the time you arrive at your desk. Even after draining the bottle, you may find yourself reaching for it; drinking water will become habitual. Refill it as needed and those afternoon headaches may just disappear.

Depending on what city you live in and your access to a Brita filter, stopping at the sink for a refill may not be the most pleasant option. Even if it is, you can still liven up your drink and give yourself an extra boost throughout the day. While water may offer none of the glitz and glam of soft drinks on the surface, earth’s natural refreshment is surprisingly appealing with a few cosmetic touches. Adding a slice of cucumber or lemon not only adds a refreshing taste, you’ll feel practically glowing thanks to the vitamins in your add-ons.

No matter what form your hydration takes, keeping record of how much you drink can help institute and reinforce the habit. Take a step beyond just setting a reminder on your phone; the app store offers an array of different water trackers. These range from no-nonsense, like Daily Water - Drink Reminder, which can send reminders to your smartwatch and allows you to keep drinking logs, to the straight up adorable, like Plant Nanny, which gives you the responsibility of watering animated plants through logging your water intake.

As important as water is, it is important not to flood your system. While rare, drinking too much water can do more than send you to the bathroom several times a day. Drinking too much, especially if you are already sick, can lead to vomiting. In the most extreme cases, drinking water in excess can lead to hyponatremia (an unusually low concentration of sodium in blood) through the dilution of blood. Symptoms of this include seizure, fatigue, nausea, headache, and more. Sound familiar? To reiterate: you need to drink water. Just be sure to do it in moderation.