Last week we began a journey from the top of our heads to the tip of our toes. We are exploring the role of water in our bodies and what happens when we don’t have enough. Thirst is not the only symptom of mild dehydration.
- Water as key: Your liver stores glycogen (glucose) that your other organs can use for energy, but the liver needs water to make the glucose available. Less glucose means less energy and one of the first signs of mild dehydration is fatigue. This lack of energy can also cause food cravings, especially for sweets. Your body asks for sugar not because it doesn’t have it, but because it can’t unlock it.
- Water as bulldozer: Your colon is (literally) at the bottom of the pecking order: when you’re short on water, the body steals H₂O from the colon first. Stool has water in it to keep it soft and moving along toward the exit. When your body sucks that water out of the stool to give it to the brain, your stool becomes harder and more difficult to move along so it stays put, wreaking havoc on your lower torso’s comfort. Think of a river at low tide.
- Water as a mighty flush: Your skin is the largest organ in your body so it stands to reason that it’s also the largest eliminator of toxins in your body. Sweat carries the toxins out, but you need water to sweat. Lack of water leads to skin prone to irritations and dryness. Lotions can help keep moisture from leaking out of your skin, but if there’s no moisture in your skin to begin with, lotion’s not going to help for long. Chronic mild dehydration also leads to premature aging: your skin and your internal organs wrinkle like prunes.
It’s easy to determine your level of hydration. Just check your pee! The urine of a fully hydrated person will be somewhere between clear and slightly yellow. Noticeably very yellow urine means you’re 3% dehydrated. That might not sound like a lot, but more than 5% dehydrated is considered severe dehydration and turns your pee orange. Orange pee is a bad sign, like call your doctor bad. One note: when you first wake up in the morning, your pee should be bright yellow. This is normal because your bladder has been concentrating waste all night long. If your pee is still lemon yellow a few hours later, you need to drink more water.
“The average adult loses about 10 cups water every day, simply by breathing, sweating, urinating and eliminating waste, according to the Mayo Clinic.” What about the recommended eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day? The math-inclined are flipping out right now: 64 ounces equals 8 cups and we output 10 each day! It doesn’t add up! You’re right, but 20% of your water comes from the food you eat. Mystery solved. The 8 cup (64 ounces) recommendation is a minimum to maintain hydration and studies show most of us don’t drink that much. One estimate says that 50-75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. We have symptoms that don’t include thirst, so we don’t look to water for a cure.
Is it possible to drink too much water? Yes, it is, but you’d have to try really hard to get it all down. Too much water can drown your body from the inside out, but “too much” is 1.3 gallons (or 169 ounces or 5 liters) of water in just a few hours. If you drink 1.3 gallons over ten hours—that’s 2 cups (16 ounces) per hour—you’ll be fine.
When your body isn’t feeling right, turn first to the cheapest medicine in the world: water. Drink up, drink again, and see what water can do!
He (Jesus) said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” Revelation 21:6 (NIV)