You’ve Been Thinking About Hydration All Wrong

Eating And Drinking Water

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D. Founder

Donning a Statue of Liberty costume on Halloween during a live taping of her talk show, 53-year-old TV host Wendy Williams shocked and worried viewers as she fainted and fell to the ground.

Williams was able to finish hosting her show after being tended to. Fortunately, she was not hurt. But it was undoubtedly a very scary incident.

"The costume got hot. All the sudden right before passing out, I felt like I was in the middle of a campfire," Williams said in an emotional statement.

She said between the costume and hot lights on set, she got overheated.

Luckily, she did not hit her head as she fainted.

Her spokesperson released a statement shortly after the incident. “Ms. Williams fainted on-air this morning. She is dehydrated and is on her way home for a good day and nite of sleep. She has been examined by medical professionals and is well.”

Wendy Williams case is not unique. Many people underestimate the importance of being proactive about hydration. You generally drink water to stay hydrated. Water is one of the six critical nutrients you need to live. The other nutrients are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. And water is the most important of the six. It is the only nutrient where the absence will cause death within days.  

This is partly due to the fact that you need water to detoxify your body (particularly the liver and kidneys) and absorb the other five nutrients. Reportedly, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, lungs are about 83%, skin contains around 64%, muscles and kidneys are 79% and even the bones contain water, at 31%. As a result, your major organs need water to function effectively.

And while you might make the effort to drink enough water to avoid death, you may not drink enough water to be sufficiently hydrated or remain healthy.

When your body does not get as much water as you need, you become dehydrated. Inadequate water in your body may cause you to faint. It may also lead to medical problems, like fatigue, weight gain, headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure, kidney disease and more.

You can have mild, moderate, or severe dehydration, depending on how much fluid is missing from your body.

It has been reported that up to 75% of us are dehydrated and don’t even know it. In medical terms, this means that many of us “function in a chronic state of dehydration.”

Normal activities like urinating, breathing, sweating and crying cause us to lose water. You also lose more water when you are sick, sometimes from vomiting, having a fever or diarrhea. Taking certain medications, like water pills (also called diuretics), may also lead to dehydration. And just simply forgetting to drink enough water may also cause dehydration.  

So how can you be proactive about dehydration?

Some of the usual methods to avoid dehydration include drinking an adequate amount of water each day and monitoring certain symptoms, such as the color of your urine, skin dryness or thirst. If you feel thirsty or your skin is dry or urine is dark yellow, it may be an indication that you need to drink more water.

The problem is that some people may not experience these symptoms early on. And being hydrated is more than just drinking water and monitoring potential dehydration symptoms.

The importance of good hydration is too critical to leave up to chance, especially if you are older, take medications, are an athlete or otherwise have a hectic physical schedule.  Numerous studies have reported the importance of good hydration in reducing the risk of kidney stones, constipation, exercise induced asthma and hyperglycemia in diabetic ketoacidosis, urinary tract infections, hypertension, fatal coronary heart disease, venous thromboembolism and cerebral infarct.

So I usually go one step further and measure the water in my body to determine whether I have the right balance. If there is a slight imbalance, I address the imbalance even before symptoms show up.  

What is the right balance of water in your body?

To avoid dehydration, it is important to understand that the majority of your body weight should be water. Adult men should have about 60% of their weight as water, and women should have about 55%.

Babies should have the most water, being born with about 78%. By one year of age, that amount drops to about 65%.

The difference in the water content between women and men is partly due to the fact that fat makes up more of a woman’s body than men, and fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue). So if you are a 170 pound female, a healthy total body water weight will be around 94 pounds. If you are a 170 pound male, your total body water weight will be around 102 pounds. Having less total body water than required may be an early sign of dehydration.  

In addition to total body water, you have to ensure your cells are not dehydrated. Be aware of the balance of water inside and outside your cells. Water inside your cells is called intracellular water (ICW). Water outside your cells is called extracellular water (ECW). Having too little water inside your cells is not healthy.

A healthy distribution of water “has been estimated at a 3:2 ratio” for intracellular water to extracellular water. Too little water inside your cells is associated with poor kidney and cardiovascular health. It is also associated with poor muscle quality and may be a biomarker of muscle aging. Conversely, higher ICW/ECW may be an indication of good health and reflected by an increase in power and strength.

And you can measure the water in your body and cells. One effective way to measure total body water and the water inside and outside your cells is by using the InBody machine. It is used in research facilities all over the world to measure body water as well as fat and lean body mass.    

So how much water should you be drinking?

The Institute of Medicine determined that the adequate intake for a man is about 3,000 ml (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. For women, it is about 2,200 ml (about 9 cups). Your mother’s advice to drink “eight glasses of water daily” is close to that recommendation. However, this includes all fluids and not just water.

If you have kidney stones or polycystic kidney disease, you may need to drink more water to increase urine output. If you have diarrhea, you will be dehydrated and should increase your fluid intake. Fever and hot or humid conditions may also increase your daily hydration requirements.

Then there are people who may need to drink less water than recommended. If you have  congestive heart failure, too much water may result in fluid overload and difficulty breathing. And people with kidney disease who are not producing urine may not need to drink too much water either.

Also keep in mind you can get part of your daily water needs from some of the foods you eat.

In the United States it is estimated that about 22% of water comes from your food intake.

Eat water rich foods, like cucumbers (which are about 95% water) and watermelon (which is about 90% water. Not only will you be helping yourself get your daily water needs, but you will also be getting critical vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. As a general rule of thumb, fresh fruits and vegetables have a higher water content than most foods. Eating soups, preferably homemade (canned soups have a lot of added sodium), is also a great option for “eating” your water.

If you find yourself struggling to get your daily water needs, or maybe you just get sick of drinking plain old water, be proactive by making water a priority. As soon as you wake up in the morning, drink 16 ounces of water before breakfast. This will help wake you up and get your organs going. It may also help jump-start your digestive system in the morning.

I like to freeze grapes or make ice cubes with blueberries, strawberries and other fruits and then add them to my water bottle. This makes me forget I am even drinking water. Adding sliced cucumber and lemon are also great ways to make plain water taste delicious.

Finally, remember even if you drink what you consider is enough water, it is good to periodically test your water levels to determine whether your total body water or the balance of water inside and outside your cells is optimal. Determining water imbalances early may prevent many diseases.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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