Water is by far the beverage of choice, and the most beautiful thing is that it is virtually free. Having such a valuable resource at our fingertips is something we truly should not take for granted.
Up to 60 percent of an adult’s body weight and 74 percent of a newborn’s weight is comprised of water – this makes water the most abundant single substance in the human body. Muscle cells contain about 70-75 percent water and fat cells contain 10 – 15 percent water.
Water is huge player in our health and has a number of complex jobs, including:
- Transporting nutrients to the cells
- Eliminating waste from the cells
- Regulating body temperature
- Assisting in digestion
- Removing body heat
- Lubricating joints
- Assisting in a number of vital reactions
While the human body can go about three weeks without food, it cannot survive for more than three days without water. Water is essential to every bodily function. No other liquid can sustain us like water, and we all need a certain amount of water to function well.
How we lose water
Our bodies are constantly leaking water. Sometimes it may be a slow drip, while other times it may be full out like a busted pipe. Either way, it is important to understand that the body does not make water, nor does it contain water for very long. Water is lost through many different avenues – in fact, there is no other essential nutrient that escapes from the body via such varied routes. We will consider four of these, including:
Kidneys process about 47.5 gallons of blood-derived fluid in order to regulate body composition. More than 99 percent is returned to the blood while the remainder becomes urine. The urine is comprised of waste products and other substances. Between four and eight cups of water are lost daily through urine. People who drink a lot of water will lose more.
Water helps keep feces moist so that they can move out of the colon. Between 100 and 200 milliliters of water is lost daily through excretion.
You may not know it, but you lose water when you breathe. As we inhale, air that moves through our trachea and bronchi becomes humidified. When we exhale, the humidified air is lost. This is why you can see your breath on a cold day.
About 300 to 500 milliliters is lost daily through breathing. If you live in higher altitudes or a dry climate, more water is needed to keep the air you breathe moist. This mean more water is lost.
Sweating is controlled by the autonomic nervous system; we have no control over when and how much we sweat. This process keeps our body temperature regulated and facilitates optimal cellular operations.
Even though you may not notice it, you sweat all day long. This means that any average adult sweats about two cups of water each day – more if we are in a hot and humid environment, nervous, angry, afraid or exercising.
The amount of sweat you produce is dependent on how many sweat glands you have. When we are born, we have about two to four million sweat glands that become active during puberty. Women have more sweat glands than men, but men’s glands are more active.
According to Hratch Karamanoukian, MD, director of the Center for Excessive Sweating, there are two types of sweat. Eccrine sweat glands produce sweat that is composed of mostly water and salt.These sweat glands are found all over the body but are mostly in the hands, feet and face. They work when we exercise or are in hot temperatures.
You may not know it but you have more than 250,000 sweat glands in each foot, making them the most perspiring parts of your body. Your body can produce as much as a pint of sweat per day per foot! If you suffer from “stinky feet syndrome,” you may think that it is because of all of this water loss through your feet.
However, this sweat does not actually have an odor of its own, but when the bacteria on our feet begin to eat the sweat, they excrete waste with a very foul odor. Although bacteria on your feet is normal, sweating attracts them and gives them lots to munch on. Keeping your feet dry and clean will help reduce the bacteria party.
Apocrine sweat glands are located in the armpits and other hair follicles, and are responsible for sweat that stinks. Although researchers are not clear as to why we have these sweat glands, the American College of Dermatology identifies them as “scent” glands.
The sad truth is that most people just don’t drink enough water. Dehydration is responsible for any number of uncomfortable to downright deadly symptoms such as fatigue, muscle pain, irritability, weight gain, headaches, dry skin, constipation, vertigo, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fever, rapid breathing and unconsciousness. Chronic dehydration may also cause such things as arthritis, depression, accelerated aging and mood swings.
Fever, diarrhea, vomiting or long periods of exercise with excessive sweating may all promote dehydration. Once fluid levels become low, the body goes into alert stage. Here are just a few ways that your body may tell you that you are in trouble:
- Dry mouth
- Lowered blood pressure
- Muscle fatigue
- Dry and cool skin
- Lack of urine
- Dark yellow/brown urine with strong odor
How much water should I drink?
If your urine has low odor and is pale colored, you are most likely on track. Some health practitioners say to aim for at least ten glasses a day, while others recommend half of your body weight in ounces.
Of course, if you are working out or spending time outdoors in the heat, it is essential that you replace water lost due to perspiration. You can also pull the skin on the top of your hand to see if it bounces back. If it stays up for a while, grab a glass or two of water, your tank is probably low.