We all know the importance of drinking water; you may be familiar with the often-quoted fact that your body is 60 percent water. But do you know exactly how this vital fluid keeps your body strong and healthy? Water influences every bodily process, from the inside out. It gets nutrients to your cells, lubricates your joints, helps to regulate body temperature and keeps your skin looking fresh, among many other functions. Not drinking enough water can have mild to serious consequences for your health – so what exactly does water do and how does it help you? Here are the main health benefits of water.
At a basic level, the connection between water and health is related to fluids. This includes circulating the blood (which itself is nearly 90 percent water), digesting food, transporting nutrients at a cellular level, creating saliva, producing mucous, keeping your cartilage soft, protecting the spinal cord and regulating your temperature. Water, naturally, is essential to all of this. Maintaining hydration supports all of these processes through a balance of fluids.
Every single organ needs enough water to do its job well – and this is particularly true of the kidneys. Flushing out waste products by taking in water regularly is preventative against kidney infections and kidney stones, which are more likely in people who don’t get enough water. The color of your urine is the best indicator of kidney function – it should be pale yellow, with no odor. Another organ that benefits from regular hydration (and one you may not have considered) is the heart. Keeping hydrated lowers your blood pressure, meaning that your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump it through your body. While this alone should prove the importance of drinking water, just wait – there’s more!
Don’t forget that your skin is your body’s largest organ. It’s also often the last to receive H2O if you’re a bit dehydrated. If you have dry skin or acne, water helps at both ends of the spectrum. Specifically, it improves capillary function, bringing more moisture to the skin and clearing away waste, and helps to replenish skin tissues and replace old cells. The result is softer, more elastic skin. And while you can’t eliminate wrinkles by drinking more water, you can help create them by not drinking enough.
One of the major health benefits of water is the connection between high water intake and a healthy weight. The main reason for this is that drinking water makes you feel fuller, encouraging you to eat less and thus consume fewer calories. Drinking a big glass half an hour before a meal is a good way to keep the lid on excessive eating by suppressing your appetite. Moreover, it has been found that getting the recommended daily water intake increases your metabolism, meaning it helps you burn more energy.
Like every other part of your body, muscles need water to keep going strong. Muscle tissue is comprised of 75 percent water, so if you’re not drinking enough they get tired – especially if you’re sweating. Feeling fatigued and exhausted after exercising can be a result of dehydration, so drinking enough water both well before and during active periods helps keep your muscles strong, flexible and working to their best capacity. Electrolytes (mineral salts such as sodium and potassium) are also vital to muscle function, and given that water is our body’s transport system, drinking water with a squeeze of lemon juice, for example, is a quick way to replace electrolytes after a long workout.
Of course, the health benefits of drinking water extend to your digestive system and overall bowel function. Constipation can result when the colon draws water from the stools as a result of the body being short on water, so one of the best ways to prevent this complaint is to stay hydrated. Plenty of fluids (especially when combined with plenty of dietary fiber) keeps everything moving smoothly and promotes regular bowel movements. Water also helps your digestive system break down food in general, which can help with other problems like heartburn.
Any good discussion of water and health must involve the most vital organ of all: Your brain. It is made up of 85 percent water and needs to be hydrated if you want to keep a clear head. It is especially important to get enough water when you’re concentrating, as without it, brain tissue shrinks and our cognitive abilities along with it. Studies have shown even mild dehydration can impair brain function. Our brain also plays a big part in our energy levels and in our emotions – there’s plenty of evidence pointing to dehydration as one cause of cranky moods.
A headache can be a sign that you are dehydrated. Maintaining regular water intake throughout the day is a good way to prevent this, but if a headache does come on, before you reach for the painkillers, drink a few glasses of water and wait – you might find yourself popping fewer pills. Even fatigue or tension headaches can be eased by making sure you are hydrated. And if that headache is a result of drinking too much alcohol, remember that getting a glass of water down in between drinks, plus a few more glasses before you go to bed, can prevent alcohol-induced dehydration.
Being properly hydrated infuses your body with energy and has a significant positive effect on your health. Whether you are struggling with problems like dry skin, fatigue, headaches or more serious health issues, or even if you are in fine form, it’s important to keep these health benefits of water in mind and make getting properly hydrated an essential part of your routine. Whoever you are, drink up with good quality water--and continue to support a healthy body and mind.