Your body requires water to work well. In fact, up to 60 percent of your entire body is made of water, 83 percent of your lungs is water and 73 percent of your brain and heart are composed of water. Water is very important to your ability to function, think, breathe and live.1
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering out toxins and waste products from your blood and excreting them from your body. Water carries those toxins out through your urine. Another function of your kidneys is to maintain the appropriate balance of water in your body for optimal functioning.
How Much Is Enough?
How much water your body requires will depend on several factors. The types of food you’ve eaten, how much you’ve perspired, how much dehydrating fluid you’ve drunk, how tall you are and how much you weigh are examples of the factors that determine how much fluid your body needs.
Your kidneys balance your body’s requirement for water against the amount of water already in your body and any excess that may be present. You’ll need more water on warm days when you perspire and less on days when you don’t drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks.
Although you may be tempted to count the amount of coffee and soda you drink in your fluid requirements for the day, these drinks actually have a mild diuretic effect in your body. This means they may cause your body to release more urine. They are not usually strong contributors to dehydration, however.
That being said, soda is high in sugar, triggering a release of insulin and contributing to type 2 diabetes and obesity. In moderate amounts, coffee is not considered harmful to your health and may have some significant health benefits. The best fluid to use for hydration, though, is water.Your body is your best source of information. The typical six to eight glasses of water a day may work for some people, but will not be enough for others. Instead, it’s important that you learn to read the signals your body is giving you.
What You Experience
Interestingly, the first sensation you’ll experience as your body needs more fluid is hunger.2,3 This is why many weight loss experts counsel their clients to drink a glass of water when they think they want to eat, and then wait 20 minutes to see if they still feel hungry.
This helps train you to recognize the differences between feeling “real” hunger and beginning to need more water. The older you get, the more likely it is that you’ll start to confuse hunger with thirst. The thirst mechanism in adults becomes weaker and often is confused with feelings of hunger.
Combine that with symptoms of dehydration that can mimic feelings of being hungry, such as dizziness or feeling weak, and it’s easy to see how you can get confused.
Even mild dehydration can produce an imbalance in your body’s equilibrium. Dehydration is rated as mild, moderate or severe depending upon the percentage of water loss your body experiences. After losing 1 percent to 2 percent of fluid your thirst mechanism will be triggered, prompting you to drink.
At this point dehydration is already affecting your function. During mild dehydration you may have lost up to 5 percent of your body fluid. You may still be active and alert and sometimes appear to have normal body functions.4
Up to 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Being chronically dehydrated can contribute to a long list of symptoms and medical problems that may send you to your doctor.5
Too Much of a Good Thing
You might think that you couldn’t ever drink too much water, but you would be wrong. Over-hydration is an excess of water in the body, which can create an imbalance in your electrolytes. Normally your kidneys can excrete water fairly quickly.
However, when you drink a lot of water in a short period of time, you may experience some of the symptoms of too much, too soon. If you have kidney disease, you may not be able to excrete excess water as efficiently and can suffer from over-hydration.
The imbalance in sodium and potassium can result in confusion, loss of consciousness or seizures. In the early stages, you may appear to be drunk from the lack of electrolyte balance in your brain.6