Five Important Ways Water Works Magic in Our Body

May 18, 2022

You don’t like drinking water because you get tired of having to go to the bathroom. I get it.

You also don’t really know why you’re supposed to drink more water, so that makes it an even lower priority for you. 

Whenever I give a course on nutrition and wellness, I always talk about water. I tell people to drink about half of their body weight in ounces of water daily, whether plain or infused with fresh fruit or veggies for flavor. However, you may need to drink more water as well as electrolytes if you’re physically active or it’s hot out.

But I’m not perfect either when it comes to water. My dear friend Katharina will attest to this.

One weekend, Katharina and I did a 14.2-mile hike with 3,000 feet of climbing and another 3,000 of descent and I only drank about 8 ounces of water on that journey of more than 6 hours. Ridiculous, right?

I knew I would not want to drink because it was cold and rainy. So before we set out I chugged about 40 ounces of water.

Regardless of the rain and cold temperature, I know better—I should have forced myself to drink throughout the hike.  After all, I’m not a camel.  

Below are five important ways water works magic in our bodies and why it’s important to drink it throughout the day:

  1. Blood viscosity: Blood cells contain water, so when our bodies don’t get enough water they draw it out of our blood cells, making our blood more viscous—thick and sticky like molasses. This thicker blood puts a strain on your heart because it has to work harder to pump blood. Drinking enough water to maintain fluid balance will help keep blood flowing as it should.
  2. Blood vessels: Not drinking enough water contributes to high blood pressure because when you are chronically dehydrated your body secretes a hormone called vasopressin that causes blood vessels to narrow. Sufficient water intake will maintain fluid balance, keeping blood vessels open for easy blood flow.
  3. Digestion: Constipation can happen when you are dehydrated over a few days. To hydrate itself, the body will extract fluid from food waste. Then that dry waste will build up in the intestines and not pass as stool. This is not a comfortable situation. Drinking enough water, coupled with consuming fiber-rich whole plant foods, promotes a healthy gut and digestion.
  4. Kidney function: Kidney stones develop over several weeks of chronic dehydration from a buildup of minerals that have crystalized. Ouch! Regular consumption of water reduces the risk of kidney stones by removing excessive minerals away promptly.
  5. Mood and concentration: Dehydration can degrade your mood, make tasks seem more difficult than they are, lower concentration, and possibly result in headaches. Think about how this can affect school and work performance, as well as relationships.

Beyond these five direct consequences of dehydration, regular water consumption has also been associated with joint repair and improved mobility, alleviating cravings for foods like sugary snacks, increased energy levels, clearer skin, and improved weight loss.

Here is a tip I got from a colleague, Lynn Ward, to keep track of water consumption.

Put rubber bands around a refillable water bottle or cup to represent the total number of ounces to be consumed in a day.

For example, I weigh 150 pounds, so my daily target is 75 ounces. This refillable cup holds 20 ounces, so drinking four of these would give me about 80 ounces. I remove a rubber band after I drink one full container. When all rubber bands are removed, I’m confident I hit my daily target.

In a perfect world, it’s better to sip than chug. But if you realize you’re getting dehydrated, go ahead and drink quickly like a camel to get back on track. And then sip to stay hydrated… 

Additional info:
Dangers of Dehydration
Effects of hydration on blood rheology, G.A. Vlastos et al. (2003)
Mild dehydration, vasopressin and the kidney: animal and human studies, N. Bouby & S. Fernandes (2003)
Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women

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