Water Does a Body Good

Health, Home & Family
on February 18, 2001

Think for a moment about a houseplant that droops when it hasnt been watered. Water is essential for it to thriveand the human body is no different.

The human body is about 70 to 80 percent water, says Louise Merriman, associate director of nutrition at New York Presbyterian Hospital. When we dont drink eight to 10 cups of water each day, our muscles dont work as well, our digestive process is affected, and our mental capacity is diminished.

And most of us dont drink enough, Merriman says. Only about one-third of Americans drink the recommended daily amount of water, 28 percent drink two or fewer cups per day, and almost 10 percent drink no water at all.

Most people realize they arent drinking enough water, says Barbara Levine, director of human nutrition at Rockefeller University in New York City. But they may not realize the effects of dehydration.

Water has an important function in regulating body temperature, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, removing waste, cushioning joints, and protecting organs and tissues, she says.

Without proper hydration, the body is exposed to a variety of health risks affecting blood pressure, circulation, digestion, kidney function, and nearly all body functions, Levine says. Dehydration can lead to headaches, indigestion, dry skin, poor muscle tone, joint pain, and general toxicity.

The body loses about 10 to 12 cups of water each day, even during sleep, so its essential to replace the lost fluid. Water leaves the body during normal respiration, in sweat, and body wastes. By the time we recognize thirst signals, were already becoming dehydrated.

The best way to stay hydrated is to simply drink water. If thats unappealing, try jazzing it up with lemon, lime, or a dash of fruit juice.

Foods high in water content can help, such as fresh fruits and vegetableslettuce, radishes, celery, cabbage, watermelon, broccoli, beets, collards, and string beans.

Avoid beverages such as tea, coffee, and soft drinks. Caffeine, a diuretic, depletes the body of water.