Dawson is a senior studying kinesiology at the University of Central Missouri and aspires to work in college student affairs.
According to the Institute of Medicine, 75% of the American population does not meet the consumption of 10 daily cups of water. In fancy medical jargon, this means that a majority of Americans are functioning in a chronic state of dehydration. Sixty percent of our bodies are comprised of water, 75% in our muscles, and 85% in our brains (Ericson, John).
According to Grace Webb, Assistant Director for Clinical Nutrition at New York Hospital, “Water is necessary for the body to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. It’s also key to proper digestion; it detoxifies the liver and kidneys and carries waste away. If your urine becomes darkly colored like this, we’re dehydrated. The urine should be light, straw-colored.”
Dehydration can affect your musculoskeletal system too! Not drinking enough water can cause cramps—which are when the body does not have enough water and electrolytes (i.e., sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and chloride) to support muscle contractions. In addition, dehydration can lead to friction in the joints and cartilage wear (which can lead to cartilage and/or meniscus tears) (Havens, Kristen).
It's important to realize the role that water has in the prevention of acute heat-related injuries. Some might include heat cramps, syncope, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. If you experience these symptoms, or see someone experiencing such symptoms, take immediate action (Havens, Kristen):
- Stop exercising
- Get out of the heat—find some shade!
- If you have cramps, then gently stretch
- Replace your fluids with water or an electrolyte drink
- Loosen your clothing (if possible)
- Apply cool packs, or wet towels, to lower body temperature
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
To best help determine if you are dehydrated, we listed the symptoms of dehydration, which may include (Havens, Kristen):
- Dryness of the lips, mouth, or tongue
- Reduced energy or apathy
- Urine changes: infrequent urination, a small volume of urine, or dark urine
- A sudden decline in mood, strength, coordination, or the ability to make decisions
Water Intake Reccomendations
Biological gender, athletes, breastfeeding or pregnant women, and medical conditions/illnesses all are factors in water intake recommendations. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), suggests that most women meet their physiological hydration needs when intaking 78 ounces (or 2.3L) a day. While suggesting that men meet their hydration needs when intaking 112 ounces (or 3.3L) a day. In retrospect, a gallon is 3.8 liters (Healthline). Teenagers should be drinking roughly 64 ounces (or 1.89L) of water a day (Havens, Kristen).
Prolonged physical exercise decreases the amount of water that is in one's body. In estimation, athletes lose roughly 6-10% of their body weight through sweat during athletic activities. Just as little as 2% water loss can have an impact on athletic performance (Healthline).
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should increase their water intake. According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), water intake [for pregnancy] should be increased by 10 ounces (or 300mL) per day. On the other hand, for breastfeeding women, the water intake should be increased by 24 ounces (or 700mL) per day (Healthline).
Conditions such as congestive heart failure, end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and those undergoing dialysis are common medical conditions that require fluid restriction. Although, medical conditions that require additional fluids (or water intake), might include: urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation, and fevers (Healthline).
Benefits of Drinking Water
Some benefits of drinking a gallon of water per day may include (Healthline, Targonskaya, Anna, Men's Health):
- Enhanced exercise performance. Being adequately hydrated can enhance physical performance by preventing fatigue, controlling body temperature, and reducing oxidative stress during intense workouts.
- Build bigger muscles. Dehydration saps testosterone, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Scientists found that men who were dehydrated prior to a workout had lower T-levels, compared to when they had consumed plenty of water beforehand. A potential mechanism: The water-depleted lifters also had higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that may depress testosterone, says study author Dan Judelson, Ph.D.
- Beat fatigue. In a Tufts University study in the US, athletes who didn’t drink water during workouts felt angrier and more depressed later than those who did. Researchers say the dehydrated group’s “global negative mood”—including confusion, fatigue, and decreased vigor, none of which will help a career.
- Reduces blood pressure and improves circulation. Flushes the kidneys, bladder, and gut of toxins and bacteria; helps control cholesterol levels; and supplies nutrients and oxygen to your cells.
- Keeps you regular. Inadequate water intake has been associated with increased risk of constipation. When there is too little water in the colon, stools harden and become more difficult to pass.
- Weight management. Drinking enough water may affect weight loss by increasing satiety and enhancing metabolic rate. One study found that drinking about 17 ounces (0.5 liters) increased metabolism by 30%.
- Brain function. Maintaining adequate hydration helps your brain function at its best ability. Research demonstrates that even mild dehydration can impair brain function, memory, and cognition in adults.
- Prevents and treats headaches. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches and migraines. Depending on the type of headache, increasing water intake may help relieve headaches in those who are dehydrated.
- Promotes skin health. Increased water intake can help moisturize the skin and increase skin elasticity, keeping it hydrated and healthy. This may include getting rid of under-eye bags—lightening the area.
- Periods cramps. Lack of enough water in the body system can dispose women to physical and mental stress and improper functioning. The reduction in the amount of estrogen and progesterone can cause retention of water in the body. Drinking enough water can help to flush your system and keep you hydrated.
When it comes to water, things are a little bit deep and wavy. So let's break it down. Drinking too much water is known as water intoxication or water poisoning, and it can dilute the electrolytes in your blood, especially sodium. When sodium levels fall below 135 mmol/L, it is called hyponatremia. Sodium helps balance fluids between the inside and outside of cells. When sodium levels drop due to excess water consumption, fluids shifts from the outside to the inside of cells, causing them to swell. When this happens to brain cells, it can produce dangerous and potentially life-threatening effects (Arlene Semeco, MS).
In addition, water intoxication can lead to sporadic gastrointestinal illness. Research by the National Food Agency in Sweden states that "drinking water in high-income countries contributes to endemic levels of GI and there are public health benefits for further improvements of drinking water safety" (Bylund, John, et al.). Another study by the National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Ministry of Social Empowerment and Welfare, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, and the Division of Pathobiology in Sri Lanka, all states that the effect of chemical contaminations in drinking water on human being is found to be chronic rather than acute and hence can be defined "consumption of contaminated drinking water could be a silent killer." Further in the study, by an animal trial, the World Health Organization (WHO) investigated the synergic effect(s) of heavy metals, aluminum, arsenic, fluoride and hardness in drinking water on kidney tissues of mice. Their investigation strongly suggests existing of a synergic effect especially among Cd, F, and hardness of water which could lead to severe kidney damage in mice, even at WHO maximum recommendation levels (Wasana, Hewa M S, et al).
In further studies, Department of Public Health, Department of Groundwater and Quaternary Geology Mapping, National Centre for Register-Based Research, Centre for Integrated Register-based Research in Denmark, states that nitrate in drinking water may increase risk of colorectal cancer due to endogenous transformation into carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. In their conclusion, they found that their results add to the existing evidence suggesting increased colorectal cancer risk at drinking water nitrate concentrations below the current drinking water standard [50mg/L] (Schullehner, Jörg, et al).
According to a study conducted by the University at Albany, State University of New York, high-level arsenic exposure is associated with reproductive toxicity in experimental and observational studies. In their conclusion, the researchers found that low-level arsenic contamination in residential drinking water sources may further impair fecundity among women with longer waiting times (Susko, Michele L, et al).
According to the Voice Institute of New York, at the cellular level, tissue-bound pepsin is fundamental to the pathophysiologic mechanism of reflux disease, and although the thresholds for laryngeal damage in laryngopharyngeal reflux and for esophageal damage in gastroesophageal reflux disease differ, both forms of damage are due to pepsin, which requires acid for its activation.
In their conclusion, the Voice Institute of New York found that, unlike conventional drinking water, pH 8.8 alkaline water instantly denatures pepsin, rendering it permanently inactive. In addition, it has good acid-buffering capacity. Thus, the consumption of alkaline water may have therapeutic benefits for patients with reflux disease (Koufman, Jamie A, and Nikki Johnston).
- Arlene Semeco, MS. “Water Intoxication - When You Drink Too Much Water.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 31 July 2017.
- Bylund, John, et al. “Measuring Sporadic Gastrointestinal Illness Associated with Drinking Water - an Overview of Methodologies.” Journal of Water and Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2017.
- “Drink Your Way To Bigger Muscles And Better Sex.” Men's Health Singapore, 24 Feb. 2011.
- “Drinking a Gallon of Water per Day: Good or Bad?” Healthline, Healthline Media.
- Ericson, John. “75% Of Americans May Suffer From Chronic Dehydration, According to Doctors.” Medical Daily, 4 July 2013.
- Havens, Kristen. “Hydration: Why It Matters for Preventing Injuries.” Hydration: Why It Matters for Preventing Injuries.
- Koufman, Jamie A, and Nikki Johnston. “Potential Benefits of PH 8.8 Alkaline Drinking Water as an Adjunct in the Treatment of Reflux Disease.” The Annals of Otology, Rhinology, and Laryngology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2012.
- Schullehner, Jörg, et al. “Nitrate in Drinking Water and Colorectal Cancer Risk: A Nationwide Population-Based Cohort Study.” International Journal of Cancer, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 July 2018.
- Susko, Michele L, et al. “Low-Level Arsenic Exposure via Drinking Water Consumption and Female Fecundity - A Preliminary Investigation.” Environmental Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2017.
- Targonskaya, Anna. “How to Reduce Period Cramps: 9 Proven Tips That Are Worth Trying.” Flo.health - #1 Mobile Product for Women's Health, 19 Nov. 2018.
- Wasana, Hewa M S, et al. “WHO Water Quality Standards Vs Synergic Effect(s) of Fluoride, Heavy Metals and Hardness in Drinking Water on Kidney Tissues.” Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 14 Feb. 2017.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Dawson Davis
Lorna Lamon on July 19, 2019:
I certainly don't drink a gallon of water per day, however, the benefits of keeping yourself hydrated cannot be underestimated, and in particular if you are exercising or playing sport.