Friday, December 5, 2014

Why Water is So Important to Your Health.

December 2, 2014

Lori Nickel

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services 

Hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, yes. Warm apple cider with a cinnamon stick, yes.I don't know if it's just me, but when the snow is falling and the wind is howling, the last thing I want is another tall glass of water.

And yet I can't stop reading and hearing how much water plays a role in good health.

If I'm fatigued, the nutritionist says I need more water.

If I'm sore from a workout, the trainer says I need more water.

If my skin is dry, the woman behind the cosmetic counter asks me if I'm getting enough water.

If I have a migraine, the doctor says I should make sure I am drinking enough water. 

I've got so much water on the brain I can barely make it through my morning boot camp jumping jacks.

My routine the last six months has been to drink a quart of hot lemon water first thing in the morning, a couple of cups during my exercise class and a couple of more cups on the ride home. If I pull it off, that's about eight cups to start the day.

Anything else I get in after that is frosting on the cake — only of course, it isn't.

Now I'm so sick of plain, boring, tasteless water I could cry — but then that just seems counterproductive.

The best thing I have come up with is buying one of those infusion pitchers, where fruit or vegetables are sliced up and submerged in the water, flavoring it somewhat.

My favorite combination is lemon, orange and cucumber, but if our local Wisconsin's Sprecher could come up with root beer flavored water, I'd be all over that.

Physician Nick Yphantides, medical editor for the national weight loss organization TOPS — Take Off Pounds Sensibly — explains why the water is so important:


—Q. How would I determine how much water — just water — I should be drinking every day?

—A. Such a simple question, yet not an easy or simple answer. There are some varying opinions, and in reality, the ideal daily water consumption is based on a variety of factors including your age, health status, the weather, where you live and how physically active you are.

I have always told my patients that an ideal target for men is 3 liters (approximately 13 cups) and for women 2.2 liters (9 cups).

—Q. What if I exercise?

—A. Physical exertion and sweating certainly increase fluid needs and varies on the intensity and duration of physical activity.

I typically suggest 3 extra cups of water for men and 2 extra cups of water a day for women who are physically active.

—Q. What if I am tired of drinking so much water? It can get boring. Can anything be subbed out for water?

—A. This can be a real challenge for folks, especially when living in cold-weather climates.

There are a host of flavored waters available, sparkling waters, dilute juices, waters with various fruits added to them, and other non-caffeinated fluid alternatives.

Personally my favorites are sparkling waters or water in which I have added some fruit for subtle flavoring.

—Q. I personally don't care for the chemicals in things like Crystal Light, but are they OK for people? The water flavor enhancers out there? Maybe for someone who won't drink enough otherwise, the benefits of drinking enough water even with artificial sweeteners outweigh the chemicals and food colorings in those drinks.

—A. This is a complex issue and somewhat controversial to some.

The concentration of flavoring in these waters is so low that I personally believe the benefits of adequate hydration outweigh any theoretical risks from the additives.

—Q. What happens to a person if they don't get the proper hydration? I have heard of fatigue and even depression.

—A. Fortunately, most healthy people have the sensation of thirst that typically prevents them from having serious dehydration.

Thankfully, our bodies are amazing in their design and capacity for adaptation to what we put and don't put into them. There is also water content in most food that our bodies can efficiently utilize if we do not drink enough fluids.

On the other hand, many folks are chronically dehydrated and there are many associated potential consequences.

These can include constipation, dry skin, bloody noses, dizziness and risk of falling, headaches and, if serious enough, mood changes, heart rate changes, blood pressure changes, kidney stones and other associated chronic health problems.

Depending on an individual's age and baseline health status the impact and consequences of inadequate fluid intake will be variable.

—Q. What happens when a person is properly hydrated? I seem to manage my sugar and soda cravings much better when I am getting in eight to 11 glasses of water a day. Is there any connection there?

—A. Being hydrated helps in a variety of ways.

Often times hunger and thirst sensations can be confused and so being adequately hydrated can lead to better and healthier eating choices.

Folks who are hydrated are optimizing their potential of physically feeling good and on top of their game and potentially avoiding the chronic health consequences previously mentioned.

—Q. Any other benefits? Is it good for our skin, our mental focus, immune system, anything like that?

—A. Adequate hydration is the easiest thing all of us can do to have vibrant and healthy skin.

—Q. I've heard that we should have a glass of water right before we eat — to help us digest our food and make us feel full, while meeting our daily water quota. But then I have heard that we shouldn't have all that water with meals. What's your opinion?

—A. I don't have a strong opinion about that.

If you are starting your meal from a point of healthy hydration, I think it is unlikely that there is any extra digestive benefit to drinking water ritually right before eating.

The idea of, on the other hand, avoiding water during food consumption makes no scientific sense either and I am not aware of any potential benefit to either strategy.

Drink up the water!

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