Water is an essential element of our body. We need it for the maintenance of all the organ systems in the body. While we are all aware that around 60 percent of our body comprises of water, most of us do not realize that we lose quite a bit of water through sweat, urine and even breathing every day. Health benefits of drinking water include increased brain power, weight loss, better immune system and better digestive health.
So, it is imperative that we stay hydrated through the day to keep ourselves healthy. Let us learn some more about the various health benefits of drinking water and how to know if you are dehydrated.
Benefits of drinking water
1. Increases brain power
Almost 73 percent of our brain is made up of water. Drinking plenty of water helps us to stay alert and aware. Dehydration, on the other hand, can severely affect brain function.
According to a 2012 study on 25 young women, 1.36 percent of fluid loss after exercise degraded their mood, lowered concentration and lead to headaches (1).
After a similar study on men, researchers observed that fluid loss of 1.59 percent in men after exercise lead to adverse changes in working memory, and increase tension and fatigue (2).
There have been many other studies on the effects of dehydration on children and the elderly. According to these studies, dehydration can have adverse effects on mood, memory and brain performance.
2. Improves physical performance
Dehydration can cause fatigue, mood swings, and lower motivation. If you do not stay hydrated, your physical performance can also suffer. Consumption of water helps improve energy levels and physical performance.
Athletes are known to lose almost 6 to 10 percent of their water weight through sweat when they exercise (3). This loss of water can cause altered body temperature control, reduced motivation and can also make exercise difficult.
So, stay hydrated to help you perform at your best.
3. Regulates body temperature
Water also helps to control the temperature of our body. It helps to limit changes in the body temperature when the weather outside is too warm or too cold.
For example, when the weather is hot, we undergo perspiration to dissipate heat and lower the temperature of our body. So, we must keep our body hydrated to reduce heat stress during hot summer months (4).
4. Prevents headaches
A 2005 study on 18 patients with migraines found that increased hydration helps to reduce the intensity and the length of the headache episodes in patients (6).
5. Relieves constipation
One of the many benefits of drinking water is getting rid of constipation. Water plays a critical role in the smooth functioning of the digestive tract. Low water intake can lead to constipation (7).
When we don’t have enough water, the colon pulls water from the stool to remain hydrated, and this causes constipation.
However, when you increase your intake of water, it can help you provide relief as water helps in maintaining regular bowel movements. Carbonated water is also helpful in providing relief from constipation.
6. Improves kidney function
Drinking too little water can put you at a higher risk of developing kidney stones. When you don’t drink enough water, the minerals and salts accumulate in the kidneys to form kidney stones.
Higher water intake increases the amount of urine passing through the kidneys, which dilutes the minerals and prevents stones. Experts recommend increasing fluid intake to avoid the reoccurrence of kidney stones (8).
7. Treats cramps and sprains
Water is essential for keeping our muscle cells hydrated. If there is dehydration, muscles will not work well and thus cause strain and cramps.
Hydration helps to keep the joints lubricated and muscles more elastic. Ensure you are well hydrated to prevent muscle cramps and sprains.
8. Prevents hangovers
Too much alcohol can cause unpleasant symptoms of hangovers, like thirst, fatigue, dry mouth and headaches. Alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you lose more water than you take in, thus causing dehydration (9).
Drinking plenty of water between drinks or before going to bed can help reduce the symptoms of hangovers.
9. Helps to lose weight
Drinking more water helps you feel full and also improves your metabolism, and this helps in weight loss. Research has shown that drinking around 500 ml of water can increase metabolism by up to 30 percent (10, 11). Improved metabolism helps you burn more calories.
Having water before meals can make you feel full, thus you end up consuming fewer calories. According to another study, people who drank water before during their 12-week diet lost 44 percent more weight than those who didn’t (12).
Weight loss experts recommend drinking cold water. Our body burns extra calories to warm up the water to the body temperature, and this can also aid weight loss.
10. Prevents osteoporosis
Drinking water helps to keep you hydrated, which helps prevent bone loss. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, dehydration by 2.5 percent to 5 percent of body mass can increase cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, the primary stress hormones. This accelerates bone loss.
11. Boosts immune system
Water helps to oxygenate your blood and helps your organs to work properly. Water also helps in flushing out the toxins from the body, which gives a boost to the immune system (13).
Drinking water also helps to keep your mouth and eyes clean. This helps in preventing dust and parasites that may cause infection.
12. Prevents bad breath
Drinking enough water helps wash away any leftover food particles and bacteria from the mouth. This helps prevent bad breath.
13. Improves heart health
Proper hydration is essential for the heart (14). According to research, low water consumption is directly related to coronary heart disease. Water is needed to maintain the proper viscosity of blood and plasma and fibrinogen distribution.
In other words, a hydrated heart can pump blood more efficiently, and this allows the muscles in your body to work better. Dehydration causes a strain on the heart, making it beat faster which can lead to palpitations.
14. Keeps skin healthy
Lack of water can make your skin look wrinkled and dry. By drinking enough water, you can avoid that and keeps your skin looking healthy.
According to the University of Minnesota, drinking water helps maintain turgidity of the skin, which helps prevent numerous skin ailments.
15. Prevents backaches
When we are dehydrated, our spinal disks also lose water. This puts additional strain on the outer layer of the disks instead of the jelly inside.
This additional stress causes swelling, pain and can even lead to a rupture in the disk. So drink plenty of water when you are out in the sun or exercising to prevent dehydration.
16. Lowers the risk of UTI
Drinking water can lower the risk of UTI. According to a study, women who regularly get UTI can reduce their risk by drinking six eight-ounce glasses of water every day (15).
Eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day was what experts used to recommend earlier, but this is not so anymore. The amount of water a person needs depends on their weight, age, where they live and their activity level.
You should drink half-an-ounce to one ounce of water for each pound of your weight. Men should generally drink 14 to 16 cups a day, whereas women should drink around 9 to 11 cups of water a day.
For children, the consumption of water depends on the age and the gender, but it should generally be around 6 to 8 cups.
Ways to tell if you are dehydrated
- Thirst is often the body’s first indicator that you are dehydrated.
- To find out if you are dehydrated look into the bowl after you have gone to the bathroom. If the urine appears extra dark and is smelly, it’s a sign that you’re dehydrated
- Fatigue and tiredness can also be an indication of dehydration.
- Lack of water can cause headaches.
- Dehydrated skin loses its elasticity. Pinch the skin between your forefinger and thumb. If it snaps back immediately, you are fine, but if it takes longer, you may be dehydrated.
Tips for increasing your water intake
If you feel dehydrated, here are some tips to improve your water intake –
- Start your day by drinking a glass of water.
- Drink a glass of water before every meal and snack.
- If you don’t like plain water, you can opt for flavored water.
- Tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, celery, green peppers, and spinach are all foods that are high in water content. Having them can increase your water intake.
- Keep a bottle of water in your car or your bag. Sip water through the day.
Final words on the benefits of drinking water
By now, you must have seen myriads benefits of drinking water. Also, water is essential for our survival as all our organ systems need water for their proper functioning.
Drinking water helps regulate body temperature, prevents kidney stones and also lowers the risk of UTIs. Headaches, fatigue, thirst and darker urine are indicators of a dehydrated body. Increase your daily intake of water to stay healthy, active and fit.