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August 2022

The Benefits of Drinking Water: What Science Tells Us

The benefits of drinking water are many, but the most essential reason to drink it is that water is vital to our very survival.  

Humans, animals, and plants all have one thing in common: our need for water. Without water, life can't exist. In fact, when scientists search for signs of life throughout our solar system, they consider whether surface water or underground water is present.  

But why exactly does the human body need water? And what happens when we don't drink enough? Learn more about the benefits of drinking water and ways to increase your H2O intake. 

What’s the Science Behind Water and the Human Body?

Humans need water because we're made of water. Water makes up about 78% of a newborn baby's body. As we grow, that percentage slowly decreases. Adult males are made of 60% water, while females are about 55% water. Your organs, muscles, and even your bones all contain water.  

Your body continually loses water throughout the day. Every time you use the bathroom, sweat, or even breathe, your body experiences water loss.  

The human brain consists of about 73% water. It's no wonder that not drinking enough water can cause "brain fog.” Even a 2% loss of water in the body can bring on symptoms like impaired cognitive performance and short-term memory problems, so it’s important to replenish throughout the day.  

What Are the Benefits of Drinking Water?

A glass of water does more than quench your thirst. Drinking water helps your body function in the ways that it should and can help prevent many health issues. There are countless ways that drinking water benefits you.

Water Flushes Waste Out of Your Body 

You use water to wash your body in the shower or bath. Water has the same cleansing power inside of the body, too. A lack of water can lead to these uncomfortable health conditions: 

  • Constipation: If you don't drink enough water, your large intestine will soak up water from your food. The result is infrequent, dry, and hard bowel movements. 
  • Urinary tract infections: These occur when harmful bacteria build up in the urinary tract system. When you drink enough water you are more likely to urinate frequently, thereby flushing this bacteria out of your body. 
  • Kidney stones: A high concentration of certain chemicals causes kidney stones to form. Increased water intake dilutes your urine and helps prevent this painful condition. 
  • Gout: Elevated uric acid levels throughout the body can trigger a gout attack (gout is a common form of inflammatory arthritis). An adequate water intake flushes uric acid out of the body. 
Water Lubricates Your Joints 

The joints throughout your body contain synovial fluid. Your body needs water to produce synovial fluid. This thick liquid cushions, lubricates, and protects the joints. A lack of synovial fluid can ultimately damage joints because loss of cartilage (which itself is made up of approximately 80% water) eventually damages the joint surface, leading to stiffness and pain.  

Drinking Water Can Help Prevent Obesity 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sports drinks, sweetened teas, colas, and sodas are the leading source of added sugar in our diets. One teaspoon of granulated sugar has about 15 calories. That may not sound like many calories, but it can add up quickly.  

For example, one can of soda (12 ounces) has approximately ten teaspoons of added sugar. This added sugar accounts for 150 calories in each can. Plain water, by comparison, has precisely zero calories. 

Replacing soda or other sugary drinks with a glass of water can reduce your daily calorie intake. Over time, drinking water helps you consume fewer calories. 

Water Helps Form Saliva 

Saliva is mainly water. This clear fluid does more than make your mouth feel comfortable. Saliva enables you to swallow and protects your tooth enamel by washing away food particles after you’ve eaten. Oral bacteria produce acids that destroy tooth enamel as they feed on any food particles left behind, leading to tooth decay. 

Saliva also prevents bad breath by fighting bacteria. 

Water Regulates Your Internal Body Temperature 

Water helps you maintain a consistent body temperature and prevent you from overheating. When you get hot — whether through physical activity, the climate around you, or because of a fever — you sweat. Your body then cools down as your perspiration evaporates. Drinking plenty of water helps to replenish the liquid your body loses through sweat. 

Water Balances Your Electrolytes 

Electrolytes are certain minerals found in the body, including potassium, sodium, and calcium. Cells throughout your body need these minerals to work properly. Drinking enough to meet your body's water needs keeps these electrolytes balanced. 

It's essential to maintain an electrolyte balance for your body to function correctly. Electrolyte imbalances can lead to serious health issues such as seizures, cardiac arrest, or even coma.  

So, How Much Water Is Enough for Good Health?

Now that you know the science behind the benefits of drinking water, you might wonder, "How many glasses of water each day are enough?" Everyone's water needs are different, so there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer. Furthermore, a quick internet search shows that medical advice about water intake varies. 

Unless your doctor tells you to limit your water or fluid intake, you can drink as much water as you're comfortable drinking. The goal is to prevent dehydration, which occurs when your body's fluid loss exceeds your fluid intake. 

Several variables come into play when determining your optimal water consumption, such as your body weight and any medications you may be taking – check with your doctor or read the information pamphlet that comes with your meds.  

One standard, old-school recommendation is eight 8-ounce cups of water each day, for a total of 64 ounces. This simple recommendation is easy to remember. It's also a great starting point for most people, especially if they haven't been drinking much water. 

However, you should consider increasing your fluid intake if: 

  • Your activity level is high (for example, if you’ve had a hard workout). The human body loses water when it sweats. 
  • You’re sick. You can quickly become dehydrated if you have a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.  
  • You have diabetes. Water is especially beneficial for people with diabetes, as it's a drink that won't raise blood sugar levels. Drinking plenty of water also flushes out excess glucose
  • You’re pregnant. Water helps form the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby. Dehydration can cause lower amniotic fluid levels, which can negatively impact your baby's development or lead to preterm labor.  
  • You’re breastfeeding. Women who are nursing need to drink enough fluid to stay hydrated and produce milk for their babies. Anyone who is breastfeeding should aim to consume 16 cups of water each day.  

Don't be overwhelmed if you wonder how you can consume enough drinking water each day. A tall glass of water isn't the only way to meet your body's hydration needs. 

Food Is a Source of Water, Too

Plain water isn't the only way to get the hydration that your body needs to stay healthy. Many fruits and vegetables are high water content foods. If you want to increase your water intake, incorporate some of these foods into your diet: 

  • Cantaloupe 
  • Celery 
  • Lettuce 
  • Strawberries 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Zucchini 

Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, which itself has many health benefits. Fiber can aid in weight loss, as fiber-rich foods make you feel fuller longer. Having enough fiber in your diet is also key to preventing constipation. 

Other water-rich foods include soups, broths, and skim milk.

Is It Possible for a Person to Drink Too Much Water?

When it comes to water intake, you might wonder how much is too much. The vast majority of healthy people are not at risk of drinking too much water. As many as 75% of the U.S. population experiences chronic mild dehydration. Signs that you need to increase the amount of water you drink each day include: 

  • Feeling thirsty 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Headaches 
  • Dark urine 

A cup of water is a natural pick-me-up. Drinking enough fluids throughout the day will help you feel and perform your best. 

Overhydration is a rare condition that mainly affects endurance athletes like marathon runners. And people with certain health conditions may have to limit their water intake, including those with congestive heart failure and patients on dialysis. If your doctor places you on a fluid-restricted diet, you can find ways to curb your cravings for water. Talk with a dietitian to learn how to hydrate your body while limiting your fluid intake. 

Which Type of Water Has the Most Health Benefits?

Any water that tastes good to you and that you drink regularly will offer you health benefits. Some people enjoy the fizz of sparkling water or the taste of mineral water. Others prefer plain water, including from a clean filtered tap.  

If you want to drink plenty of water throughout the day, there are a few tricks to help you meet your goal. Start by keeping a large water bottle filled with filtered water with you throughout the day. Fill it up first thing in the morning and aim to drink it all by lunchtime. Then repeat the process in the afternoon.  

Not everyone likes plain water. Flavored water that you buy can have added sugar, so read the nutrition label carefully. You can flavor tap water yourself with a slice of cucumber, lemon or lime, or a mint leaf. You can also experiment with water temperature. Some people prefer cold water with ice cubes, while others like their water close to room temperature. Your body reaps the benefits of water no matter how you drink it.  

What Are the Benefits of Filtered Water?

Unlike other parts of the world, most homes in the U.S. have access to safe water. The Safe Drinking Water Act regulates tap water in the United States. Municipalities routinely test public water sources for contaminants like lead, mercury, and nitrite. Because of these protections, most of us need to look no further than our kitchen or bathroom tap for healthy hydration.  

Yet, tap water that meets government regulations can still have an unpleasant taste or odor. The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate a handful of substances that may cause certain “aesthetic effects” in tap water. These substances can affect water's taste, color, and odor.  

If tap water doesn't taste good or is otherwise unappealing, you might reach for other beverages instead to quench your thirst — and you may miss out on the many benefits of drinking water. However, a water filtration system is a budget-friendly solution that allows you to have delicious drinking water any time you like. 

In addition to potentially enhancing the taste of tap water, a whole home water filtration or under the sink system can also filter out added fluoride. While fluoride can reduce cavities, not everyone wants this mineral added to their drinking water. A water filter allows you to regulate the amount of fluoride you consume and is one way you can naturally detox your home. Learn more about Home Water’s filtration systems

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