Water is as essential to our bodies as oxygen. It plays a role in regulating body temperature, protecting vital organs, nutrient absorption, and maintaining adequate blood volume.
A 10% loss of water can cause severe disorders while a 20% loss of total body water could lead to death. In general, adults can only last around 10 days without drinking any water.
When we exercise vigorously, or live in the desert where it’s 110 degrees, our bodies sweat as a result releasing water, sodium, and electrolytes. If fluids are not adequately replaced, the body will again find a way of retaining water by excreting more concentrated urine (which is why your pee pee is dark yellow when you’re dehydrated).
On the other side of the spectrum, drinking too much water when you are not losing water in sweat or urine could lead to a condition called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is a condition where your blood’s water-to-sodium ratios are elevated causing water to leak into brain tissue and swelling the brain (aka no bueno).
While the odds of drinking yourself to death or not drinking enough water are slim to none, it’s best to shoot for normal levels of hydration or what’s called euhydration.
Lucky for us humans, our bodies are equipped to withstand radical changes in hydration with little or no detrimental effects so long as the changes in hydration are rectified before disaster strikes.
We are also very good at noticing when we’re thirsty and when we are not. I’m sure you’ve heard water recommendations like drink 2 cups of water at each meal or 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women. The problem with these types of recommendations is that they are too general.
Rather than trying to religiously track your water intake, just listen to your body. We have a natural thirst mechanism that will tell you when to drink and when to not. It’s very simple, if you feel thirsty, drink some water. If you don’t feel thirsty, don’t force yourself to meet some arbitrary water recommendation.
There are some exceptions to this rule. These include people who are doing a vigorous exercise/sport, are hospitalized, sick or elderly, or are an infant (hello to all my infant readers).
People who fall into these exceptions can have a diminished thirst sensation and thus require more monitoring because they’ll need more water than their body is telling them to drink.
If you’re not one of the exceptions, then let your body do its job and let thirst be your guide to euhydration.