Adequate hydration on a day to day basis, and even more so in exercise conditions, is paramount. It is a key component of body function that is overlooked by many and results in decreased functionality and performance. The rigors and hustle bustle of life in the 21st century can result in simple, yet essential health practices ceasing. Unfortunately, water consumption is pushed to the back burner in many cases and this can lead the body into a state of vulnerability. During the course of this article I will discuss the functions of body water, water balance, the impact of dehydration on bodily function and performance, and water toxicity.
The human body is composed of almost two thirds water and is a nutrient that we cannot survive without. One could survive weeks without food but only a few days without water. Water gives the body form and structure and serves as a medium for transport and reactions within the body. Its carries food through the digestive system, brings nutrients to cells and tissues, and carries wastes out of the body in the urine and feces. Water also acts as an important protector for vital organs such as the heart, lungs, and intestines. It also plays an integral role as a shock absorber (fetus protection by amniotic fluid), lubricator (synovial fluid in joints) and cleanser (saliva in the mouth). Water also plays a key role for the body to remain in homeostasis. It serves as a balance maintainer of acid-base levels and thermoregulation.
I think you would agree that water plays a very important role in the human body. Therefore, I think you would also agree that the maintenance of water balance within the body is crucial. Water balance is determined simply by input versus output. Water in versus water out. Water in comes from three sources: a) liquids, b) foods, and c) metabolic processes, for example the breakdown of food for energy. Water out occurs in one of four ways: a) in urine, b) through the skin, c) as water vapor in expired air, and d) in feces. As you can see there are many ways one can gain or lose water. As a result, it is of optimal importance that water balance is maintained to prevent disruption in body processes and functions.
Like I mentioned earlier, many people put water consumption to the back burner for various reasons and this can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can occur for many reasons, some of which include; burns, fever, extreme heat, exertion without fluid replenishment, vomiting, and diarrhea. Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, headache, dry mucous membranes, and dark colored urine with a strong odor. Coma and death can result if there is a water loss of 20 percent of body weight. Seniors and infants are more vulnerable to dehydration than others. In seniors thirst diminishes with age coupled with the fact that many seniors take medications that are diuretics. Infants need copious amounts of fluid relative to their size due to rapid water loss through their skin.
The opposite extreme of dehydration is over hydration, or water toxicity. Also known as hyponatremia or low blood sodium, over hydration results in the dilution of body fluids to the point where it becomes deadly. It can occur for various reasons. Some of those who suffer are people with untreated glandular disorders, people with excessive compulsions, along with those who have hypothyroidism and adrenal problems. Some symptoms of water toxicity include nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, and diminished reflexes.
It goes without saying that water is a very vital nutrient to our bodies. However, the key, similar to many things in life, is to find the correct balance. In general, too much and too little have adverse consequences, and the same applies to water. A good rule of thumb for water consumption is to aim to drink at least half your bodyweight in ounces per day. Therefore, if you weigh 150 lbs you should be consuming at least 75 ounces of water daily.
See you all next week.
Chris Kendrick, CSCS
DiVerge Fitness?Move Yourself!