Water is important for everyone but is significantly more so for someone with a chronic condition.
With about 60% of the adult human body being made of water (less for women and those with more body fat), it’s a key component to keep you going. It’s needed by the brain to make hormones and neurotransmitters. It regulates the body temperature and acts as shock absorber for the brain and spinal column. Water aids in digestion by forming saliva and converting food. A joint lubricator, it allows body’s cells to grow, reproduce and survive, while delivering oxygen throughout the body.
We loose water every day when we go to the bathroom, sweat and breathe. A hot day, exercise or an illness can increase water loss. Therefore, a balance of intake that matches output is essential.
How Much Should I Drink a Day? This is really about fluids. Coffee, tea, soda, soup and various foods-lettuce is 95% water, watermelon 92%, yogurt 85%, apple 84%-all count towards the total amount needed. According to the Institute of Medicine, women 19 and up should consumer 2.7 liters (about 11 1/2 cups) while men of the same age should drink 3.7 liters (a little more than 15 ½ cups). Keep in mind that this is fluids not just water and in fact food provides about 20% of total water intake. While sodas, coffee and juice all contribute towards the count, water is your best bet since it’s calorie free, inexpensive and readily available.
There are any number of reasons that require fluid intact to go up or down.
- Illnesses: Fever, diarrhea and/or vomiting can cause fluid loss and the best way to replace them maybe oral rehydration solutions, e.g. Gatorade, Powerade or CeraLyte. Your medical provider may have a specific recommendation. Conditions such as urinary tract stones, sinus infections, bladder infections may also require an increase in fluids (water is best), while certain conditions (e.g. kidney, liver and adrenal diseases) may make it necessary to restrict fluids.
- Exercise: Depending on the intensity of the workout you will require anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 cups of water. However, if you are engaging in intense activities, such as hiking, cycling, playing tennis, soccer or another sport that lasts more than an hour, a sports drink that contains sodium may be a better bet. Note that sports drink and energy drinks are very different. Energy drinks usually contain large amounts of caffeine and other stimulants that your body doesn’t need. These are generally not recommended.
- Weather: Anytime heat and humidity make you sweat, additional fluids are needed to replace what you are loosing. Be aware that during the winter, indoor air can cause your skin to loose moisture.
- Altitude: If you are at or above 8,200 feet you may experience more frequent urination and more rapid breath, so you need to compensate with more fluids.
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding: Women is these situations need more fluids, particularly when breastfeeding.
Signs of Too Little or Too Much: As long as you aren’t thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow your fluid intake is probably fine. Dark yellow or amber-colored urine is a sign of dehydration. Signs of dehydration can include dry mouth, dizziness, headache, and sleepiness.
While it’s not common for most people to drink too much water, it does happen. My son’s friend decided to get rid of his cold by drinking lots of water in the space of an hour. He ended up in the hospital. When the kidneys can’t excrete the excess water, the electrolyte (mineral) content of the blood is diluted, resulting in low sodium levels (hyponatremia). Marathon runners, who drink lots of water, can end up with this condition. Keep in mind when your provider tells you to increase your fluids, ask them about types of liquid and don’t try to do it all at once.
Stay Hydrated: Make water your beverage of choice and drink a glass with each meal and between each meal, as well as before, during and after exercising. Water bottles are a good investment and most tap water is fine (see below). If plain water is not to your liking, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.
Check with your medical provider if you are concerned about your fluid intake.
Bottled Water Versus Tap Water: Tap water is fine and much cheaper. When it’s all said and done, bottled water is 3,785 times more expensive than tap water. Further, bottled water can be municipal water sold for a much higher price. Both Dasani, bottled by Coca-Cola, and Aquafina, bottled by PepsiCo, start out with public water sources. If you want filtered water, there are plenty of faucet-mounted filters on the market.
In view of the situation in Flint, MI, many people have grown even more concerned about their tap water. The easiest way to judge the safety of your water, regardless of its source, is have it tested. Look in your local phone book for a water testing company.
Municipal water’s safety is under the Environmental Protection Agency, while bottled water is under the FDA’s jurisdiction. The standards for both are exactly the same. By law, municipal water systems must send users a consumer confidence report once per year telling them where their water comes from and whether it meets federal standards. Under FDA rules, bottled water doesn’t usually have to state what source it comes from or what methods were used to treat it.
Most bottled water comes in plastic, which can leach into the water, particularly if the bottle is reused. Manufacturing these bottles is also an environmental hazard.
That noted, certain conditions, such as HIV, transplant patients and those on chemotherapy can get sick from contaminants in drinking water. Talk to your provider about any precautions you need to take. A filter at the tap or distilling your water may be required.
A good article on this debate is Bottled Water vs. Tap Water-Facts & 4 Reasons to Drink Tap.
Water Bottles: Ditch the plastic and use glass or stainless steel. Living in Vermont, where fruits and vegetables are canned in the fall, many people use Mason or Ball jars. They work great and have the added feature of measurements on the side. It’s a good way to know how much you are drinking. There are now a variety of glass water bottles with silicone wrappers that prevent breakage. However, glass water bottles are definitely heavier than stainless steel.
Stainless steel is a great option because of its durability, strength, weight and insulation. Like glass, it doesn’t impact taste. Check the bottles to make sure they aren’t aluminum, since color and weight can be similar.
Filtered Water Bottles: These come in all shapes and sizes and at different price points. How much you need to spend depends on what you want to filter out. If you want to just use it for local tap water it’s going to be cheaper than filtering stream water. Check out Filtered Water Bottle BuyersGuide