How much water have you had today? I ask my daughter this question every evening at dinner time. Though it is an important habit, it is one that takes practice to develop even for adults. Though it may seem simple, drinking more water can help our bodies increase shock absorbing capabilities, reduce pain, reduce inflammation and more.
Water is an important element in our bodies. It is about 90% of our blood, 75% of our muscles, 60% of our cartilage and 25% of our bones. This is a substance that must be consumed through food and drink, in order for our bodies to function optimally. Drinking adequate water can boost your immune system and improve your mood as well as cushion your joints to reduce pressure from walking and standing.
What kinds of things do our bodies use water for?
Our bodies are made of about 60 - 70% water which we use for all bodily functions including flushing toxins, digesting food and cushioning our joints. Daily requirements for water consumption are different throughout the day and depend on factors such as sweating and other bodily functions.
So, how much water do we need every day?
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) a total of 13 cups (about 3 liters) of fluid is recommended for men each day. They suggest 9 cups (a little over 2 liters) of fluid each day for most women. And even more (13 cups) for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
In addition, Most people do require more water depending on varying conditions such as hot weather, sweating and health. You are at a higher risk for dehydration when you are sick, so try to consume more water, soups, and sports drinks to replenish nutrients that may be lost.
What if I don’t drink enough water?
Our bodies are resilient. They can adapt to less water over time by allowing your brain to believe your symptoms are normal. For example, someone who doesn’t drink enough water on a daily basis may believe themselves to be “headache prone”. They may be surprised to learn they’re simply not drinking enough water leading to dehydration that results in headaches. Many headache sufferers see improvements when they increase their intake of water on a regular basis.
Dehydration can also lead to decreased concentration and increased irritability. Because 90% of our blood is made of water, not having enough causes low plasma volume which leads to intracranial pressure which causes headaches. Those who consume enough water upon the onset of a headache see a reduction in pain within a few hours.
A headache is an immediate result of dehydration which can be a relatively quick fix. In the long term, dehydration can lead to increased joint pain. As we said earlier, cartilage is about 60% water. Without enough water, cartilage becomes less spongy and does not compress and decompress as fluidly. This can cause the exaggeration of pain that occurs and builds up over time. There is no quick fix for dehydrated joints. The thing is, water is not the thing that reduces pain, our bodies are. Water does help reduce pain in the long run but must be consumed consistently to maintain results.
If you have pain such as muscle, headache or joint pain, it’s important to begin drinking more water as soon as possible. While a headache and muscular dehydration can be remedied in a few hours, correcting the pliability of cartilage takes consistency over a longer period of time.
So, how can I start drinking more water?
Make drinking more water a habit by setting attainable goals and sticking to them. Take small steps towards your goals of drinking more water. Start by drinking a cup of water in the morning as soon as you wake up. This will also improve digestion. Add a cup of water to your day by sneaking water in with your regular activities. Drink a cup of water before and after doing anything strenuous such as walking or going to physical therapy. This will help your muscles perform better and easier.
Establish a baseline that feels reasonably attainable. Next, decide on a timeframe in which you will reach your goal. For example, you may decide to raise your water by one cup every three days. Write these markers down in a journal or calendar.
You can also use a marker or sticker to mark your accomplishments on a calendar. This works well for adults as well as teens and children. Write down your goals and celebrate victories, however small.
Writing your goals down allows you to see how reaching small, attainable goals leads to larger victories. Think about how wonderful it will be to look back, in a few weeks from now, when you are drinking 3 additional cups of water than today! How much better will you feel upon reaching your water intake goals?
*For extra credit, write down how your body feels as you progress.
Daily water consumption helps the body reduce pain by increasing blood volume and circulation which helps tissues recover more efficiently. Water also helps flush out waste from your body which reduces inflammation in the body and gives your immune system an edge on fighting against disease and chronic health conditions.
Regular water consumption is necessary for ongoing pain reduction. This habit can boost your immune system and improve your mood as well as cushion your joints to reduce pressure from walking and standing when incorporated into your daily routine.
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