By Dr. Mercola
Drinking pure water every day is a key component of optimal health. Unfortunately, many make the mistake of forgoing water for other types of fluids, most of which have added ingredients that will not do your health any favors.
Kids are particularly prone to drinking sweet drinks like soda and fruit juice instead of plain water, and many teens tend to reach for sports and energy drinks instead.
According to a recent Harvard study,1,2,3 more than half of American children are dehydrated, which can have repercussions for their health and academic performance.
About one-quarter of children in the US do not drink water on a daily basis. Overall, boys were more than 75 percent more likely to be inadequately hydrated than girls.
This dovetails with previous studies4 showing that boys drink more sugary beverages than girls. According to one 2011 analysis, about 70 percent of boys aged 2-19 drink sugary beverages daily. As noted by lead author Erica Kenney:5
"These findings are significant because they highlight a potential health issue that has not been given a whole lot of attention in the past.
Even though for most of these kids this is not an immediate, dramatic health threat, this is an issue that could really be reducing quality of life and well-being for many, many children and youth."
Your Body Needs Water for Proper Functioning
Your body is comprised of about 65 percent water, which is needed for a number of physiological processes and biochemical reactions, including but not limited to:
- Blood circulation
- Regulation of body temperature
- Waste removal and detoxification
Once your body has lost between one to two percent of its total water content, it will signal its needs by making you feel thirsty. Using thirst as a guide to how much water you need to drink is one obvious way to ensure your individual needs are met, day-by-day.
However, by the time your thirst mechanism actually kicks in, you're already in the early stages of dehydration, so you don't want to ignore the initial sensations of thirst.
Moreover, the thirst mechanism tends to be underdeveloped in children, making them more vulnerable to dehydration. The elderly are also at heightened risk.
Hunger—sugar cravings in particular—can also be a sign that your body is crying for water, so as noted in the featured video, when you feel hungry, drink a glass of water first.
So, in addition to thirst, which is an obvious signal, other signals indicating you need to drink more water include:6,7
✓ Fatigue and/or dizziness
✓ Mood swings
✓ Foggy thinking and poor concentration
✓ Muscle cramps
✓ Back or joint ache
✓ Dull, dry skin and/or pronounced wrinkles
✓ Infrequent urination; dark, concentrated urine
✓ Bad breath
✓ Sugar cravings
Severe dehydration can be life threatening, but even mild dehydration can cause problems ranging from headaches and irritability to impaired cognition. It can also affect your sports performance, as noted in a recent CNN report:8
"Even being slightly dehydrated affects your ability to put effort into your workout. 'A two percent dehydration level in your body causes a 10 percent decrease in athletic performance,' says [sports dietitian Amy] Goodson.
"'And the more dehydrated you become, the worse performance gets.' Measured by 'perceived exertion,' how hard you feel you're exercising, you might be working at a 6 but you feel like you are working at an 8, says Goodson."
The Color of Your Urine Is an Important Hydration Marker
The oft-repeated guideline is to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but considering the fact that your water needs can vary significantly from day to day depending on factors such as your activity level and weather conditions, this suggestion may be inadequate.
In reality, it's virtually impossible to determine a general guideline that will apply to everyone, all the time. As noted in the video above, the Institute of Medicine recommends a much higher average water intake, suggesting women drink 2.7 liters or 91 ounces of water per day, and men 3.7 liters, or 125 ounces.
The featured study9 used urine concentration to evaluate hydration status, and looking at the color of your urine is perhaps one of the best ways to track your individual hydration status from day to day.
Concentrated, dark-colored urine is a sign that your kidneys are retaining fluids to maintain your bodily functions, and is a good indication that you need more water. Ideally, you'll want to drink enough water to turn your urine a light-colored yellow.
Also please realize that riboflavin (vitamin B2; also found in most multi-vitamins) will turn your urine a bright, almost fluorescent yellow. So if you're taking supplements containing B2, it may be more difficult to judge your water needs by the color of your urine.
Frequency of urination can also be used to judge your water intake. A healthy person urinates on average about seven or eight times a day. If your urine is scant or if you haven't urinated in several hours, that too is an indication that you're not drinking enough.
Being Dehydrated May Be as Dangerous as Being Drunk When Driving
When you're dehydrated, you're more prone to irritability and fatigue. Your cognitive functions, including your ability to concentrate also take a hit, and this can have serious ramifications if you're behind the wheel. According to a recent study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior,10 dehydrated drivers made twice the amount of errors during a two-hour drive compared to hydrated drivers. Remarkably, this is similar to driving drunk!
As reported by CNN:11 "Since often people purposely avoid drinking prior to a long road trip to prevent bathroom stops, dehydration could increase the risk of traffic accidents." For these tests, hydrated drivers drank 200ml every hour, compared to dehydrated drivers who received only 25ml of water an hour. As reported by The Daily Mail:12
"During the normal hydration test, there were 47 driving errors. That number rose to 101 when the men were dehydrated - the same mistake rate as that when drivers were either sleep deprived or at the drink-drive limit. The researchers...think dehydration leads to reduced brain activity as well as a drop in alertness and short-term memory...The researchers wrote...'Body water losses have been shown to impair performance in a variety of tests of both physical and mental performance... 'The level of dehydration induced in the present study was mild and could easily be reproduced by individuals with limited access to fluid over the course of a busy working day.'"
Replacing All Other Beverages with Pure Water Is a Major Step Toward Health
It's important to recognize that your body loses water throughout each day, even when you're not sweating, and that you need to constantly replenish this fluid loss. While soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks, and other beverages typically contain a fair amount of water, they are poor substitutes for pure water, and generally do not count toward this requirement.
Soda and energy drinks, for example, are high in caffeine, which acts as a diuretic that will actually dehydrate you, so they're a terrible choice for quenching your thirst. In fact, have you noticed that you tend to get thirstier the more soda you drink? The sugar is addictive, which contributes to this phenomenon, but dehydration also plays a role.
Worse yet, sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks, and other sweetened beverages typically contain processed fructose, which is a primary driver of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Just one can of soda per day can add as much as 15 pounds to your weight over the course of a single year.
One soda per day also increases your risk of diabetes by 85 percent, and frequent soda drinkers have higher cancer risk. So to stay hydrated, drinking pure water is key. This is true when exercising as well. Many still believe that sports drinks are the best alternative to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes when working up a sweat, but that's simply not true.
Why Sports Drinks Are Best Avoided
The majority of people believe that sports drinks like Gatorade are far better to drink than water when you're dehydrated because of electrolyte replacement. Avoid this common mistake, as nothing could be further from the truth. More important than the electrolytes are sugar, and most sports drinks contain two-thirds or even more sugar than sodas, typically in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Many also contain artificial flavors and food coloring, none of which contribute to optimal health. Fructose is primarily metabolized by your liver, because that is the only organ that has the transporter for it and is the main cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In your liver, fructose is metabolized much like alcohol, causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins. And just like alcohol, your body turns fructose directly into fat—hardly what you need after a good workout.
If your sports drink is low-calorie and sugar-free, it likely contains artificial sweeteners, which may be even worse for you than fructose. In addition to that, consuming sugar after exercise will negatively affect your insulin sensitivity—and your human growth hormone (HGH) production if you're doing high intensity exercise. Most sports drinks also contain high amounts of sodium (processed salt), which is meant to replenish the electrolytes you lose while sweating.
It is very easy and inexpensive to address the electrolyte replacement issue simply by adding a small amount of natural, unprocessed salt, such as Himalayan salt, to your water. Contrary to processed salt, this natural salt contains 84 different minerals and trace minerals that your body needs for optimal function. Another excellent option when you're sweating profusely is coconut water.
It's one of the highest sources of electrolytes known to man. Some remote areas of the world even use coconut juice intravenously, short-term, to help hydrate critically ill patients and in emergency situations. Also, fresh fruits are full of potassium and other important minerals that help address the missing electrolytes one looses in sweat. Just remember to eat the whole fruit, not fruit juices.
Both Soda and Fruit Juice Promote Poor Health
While many have become savvy about the health hazards of soda, many are still under the mistaken belief that fruit juice is a healthy beverage. This is a dangerous misconception fueling rising rates of weight gain, obesity, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes in the United States and other developed nations—especially among children. In fact, you are doing your body no favor whatsoever by swapping soda for fruit juice, and as a concise infographic posted by Discovery pointed out, fruit drinks can sometimes be worse for your health than soda.
One eight-ounce glass of orange juice has about eight full teaspoons of sugar, and at least 50 percent of that sugar is fructose. That's almost as much as a can of soda, which contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar. Fruit drinks, on the other hand, will likely contain high-fructose corn syrup, just as soda does. In fact, soda giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper are actually the parent companies to most sugary drinks on the market, and that includes fruit juices.
If you and your family drink soft drinks and/or fruit juice regularly, one of the best things you can do for your overall health is to switch to clean fresh water. Fortunately, stopping soda is one of the easiest health habits to make for most people. But, if for any reason you are having difficulty stopping, please consider using Turbo Tapping to stop your sugar addiction and improve your health.
Opt for Structured Spring Water or Filtered Tap Water Over Bottled Water
While drinking water will help to optimally hydrate you, it is wise to drink toxin-free water, and the more unfiltered water you drink, the more pollutants you're adding back in. Most tap water contains an array of harmful contaminants, including not only chlorine, but also disinfection byproducts, heavy metals, and pharmaceutical drugs. Federal scientists have reported13 finding traces of 18 unregulated contaminants in one-third of the water samples collected from 25 municipal utilities across the US, including perfluorinated compounds like PFOA. So besides making sure you're drinking enough, another very important consideration is the type of water you drink.
Bottled water may be convenient, but has a number of significant drawbacks. First of all, drinking from plastic water bottles can pose health risks from industrial chemicals like bisphenol-A, bisphenol-S (BPA/BPS) and phthalates, which leach from the plastic. Bottled water also costs about 1,900 times the price of regular tap water, and 40 percent of bottled water is simply tap water that may not have received any additional filtering treatment whatsoever...
Moreover, the likelihood of bottled water being contaminated is far higher than with your tap water. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires large public water supplies to test for contaminants several times a day, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires private bottlers to test for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years, depending on the contaminant.
One independent test14 performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2011 revealed 38 low-level contaminants in bottled water. Each of the 10 tested brands contained an average of eight chemicals. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), caffeine, Tylenol, nitrate, industrial chemicals, arsenic, and bacteria were all detected. Last but not least, plastic bottles also cause enormous environmental problems because of the sheer volume of plastic waste they create.
The answer to all these health and environmental issues is to minimize or eliminate your use of plastic water bottles. The most economical and environmentally sound choice you can make is to purchase and install a water filter for your home. And, in lieu of plastic bottles, use reusable glass water bottles instead, which have a much smaller ecological footprint.
The very best water, however, comes from a natural gravity-fed spring. FindaSpring.com15 is an excellent resource for finding one nearby your home. Not only does it tend to be naturally filtered and pH balanced, it's also "alive" or "structured," which is believed to have certain health benefits beyond mere hydration. I've previously interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack on this subject. His book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor, clearly explains the theory of the fourth phase of water, which is truly ground-breaking.
The fourth phase of water is living water. It's referred to as EZ water—EZ standing for "exclusion zone"—which has a negative charge. This water can hold energy, much like a battery, and can deliver energy too. This is the kind of water your cells contain; even your extracellular tissues are filled with EZ water, which is why he believes it's so important to drink structured water for optimal health. I drink vortexed water nearly exclusively as I became a big fan of Viktor Schauberger, who did much pioneering work on vortexing about a century ago. Dr. Pollack confirms that by creating a vortex in a glass of water, you're putting more energy into it, thereby increasing EZ.
For Optimal Health, You Need to Drink Pure Water Every Day
There's no doubt that you need pure water for optimal health. Simply swapping out all the sweetened, bottled beverages for pure water can go a long way toward improving your health, as virtually all of the biochemical processes in your body need water. The amount, however, is something you need to fine tune based on your individual circumstances.
Remember to listen to your body. Thirst is an obvious signal that it's time to replenish your fluids. Fatigue and moodiness can also indicate you need to drink more water. Probably the best way to gauge your water needs however, is to observe the color of your urine, and how frequently you urinate. On average, a healthy number of bathroom visits is around seven or eight per day, and you want the color of your urine to be a light, pale yellow.