During the long days of summer, it's natural to think about watering your lawn and garden, the houseplants, and the pets. But what about your need for water?
Getting plenty of fluids every day is essential for good health. Water is in every cell in the body. It helps regulate body temperature, cushions and lubricates joints, protects sensitive tissues, and assists the digestive system.
Most people can meet their need for water by drinking when they are thirsty and consuming fluids with meals. But with hot weather, vigorous physical activity or an illness, your body needs even more water. “Drinking water is critical to health in the summer months as there can be significant losses of body fluids associated with higher environmental temperatures,” says Nancy Pook, MD, medical director of Kettering Medical Center’s Emergency Department.
The need for hydration
You need water to replace what your body loses through everyday functions—such as sweating, going to the bathroom and exhaling. It's essential to replace lost fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Among the symptoms of dehydration are dry mouth, weakness and dizziness. In athletes, dehydration may also lead to muscle cramps.
Being thirsty is a signal that your body is already on the way to being dehydrated. It is important to drink fluids even before signs of thirst appear and to drink more than your thirst demands.
Getting plenty of fluids the healthy way
When quenching your thirst, take care in choosing what you drink. While beverages such as soda and sports drinks do contain water, they are also high in sugar and calories.
Along with water, other healthy choices for keeping well-hydrated include:
• Fat-free or low-fat milk
• Unsweetened, 100 percent fruit juices
• Unsweetened iced tea or coffee
• Fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as watermelons, grapefruits, apples, lettuce, broccoli and carrots
“Carefully choosing other types of fluids is also important,” advises Dr. Pook. “Too much caffeine may be harmful because it can drain the body of further fluid volume. Athletes should be attentive to carbohydrate and electrolyte needs as well, using fresh fruit and the occasional sports drink as a supplement. Athletes should hydrate before, during, and after their workouts for maximal health and performance.”
When you do choose water, you can give it a kick by adding a wedge of lemon or lime.
Individual water needs vary widely, depending on factors such as physical activity, exposure to heat and age. Some people need to restrict fluids because of health conditions. Be sure to talk with your doctor about the amount of water you need each day.