Tap the power of water: stay hydrated

Just in time for a safe, fun-in-the-sun Fourth of July holiday, Rachel Doggett, PA-C, offers some hows, whys and more about the importance of staying hydrated. She is a physician assistant in the DMU Family Medicine Clinic and a graduate of the University’s physician assistant program.

Why do our bodies need hydration? Why is drinking water good for our health?

Rachel Doggett, Des Moines University Clinic
Rachel Doggett, PA-C

There are several reasons why it is important to drink water and stay hydrated. In general, the body’s organs run best when well-hydrated. Filtering water through the kidneys is the best way in which to get toxins out of the body. Good water intake can help prevent infections, like urinary tract infections. It can also help to prevent kidney stones, dehydration, and constipation.

Adequate hydration can help with mood and can prevent headaches. Water is very important when exercising, sick with vomiting or diarrhea, and when in the heat because the body needs fluids replenished. The body loses hydration with sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting. Adequate hydration can also help maintain a healthy blood pressure and pulse.

Is water the best way to stay hydrated?

What about sports drinks, juice, soda, or iced tea? Water is the best fluid in most situations. There are times, however, when the body loses electrolytes or carbohydrates too quickly in which a sports drink may be helpful. These times include very intense exercise/long exercise or with a stomach illness that results in serious vomiting and diarrhea. Your clinician can run a blood test to check electrolytes and dehydration and can advise you if a sports drink or something like it is necessary.

It’s not typically a good idea to use juice or soda for hydration. Although this can add to your water intake, most of these beverages have too much sugar. In some cases, drinks high in sugar and caffeine can make you urinate more and can actually make dehydration worse.

There also are several foods, like watermelon for example, that have a high water content and can help raise fluids in the body if consumed.

How much water should we consume daily?

The amount of water needed daily can vary greatly from person to person depending on their health status and concurrent medical conditions. A generally healthy, normally hydrated individual can sometimes get away with drinking when thirsty. Unless your health care provider has advised you specifically, a good goal could be six to eight 8-ounce glasses daily.

For kids, we generally recommend they drink as many ounces as they weigh in kilograms daily. A simple calculation is to half the child’s weight in pounds; that’s the number of ounces of water generally advised. This would help a lot in preventing urinary tract infections and constipation. If your child is urinating infrequently, is not sweating, has dark urine, or doesn’t show tears when crying, that is a sign of dehydration.

Is it possible to drink too much water?

Although fairly rare, it is possible to drink too much water. This happens if your kidneys can’t work fast enough to get rid of the extra fluids. This can cause an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. First signs that this is happening are confusion and change in mental status. This person needs to go to the hospital right away, as this is very serious.

Always talk to your provider about water intake if you are diagnosed with a new medical condition, as some illnesses may require more or less water consumption.

The expert family medicine providers at the Des Moines University Clinic can help you and your loved ones stay healthy all year round. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit the DMU Clinic website or call 515-271-1710.

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