As a feature of the MedCenter TMJ newsletter, we want to include a short and practical tip of the month for optimizing nutrition. An important element of healthy living is healthy eating. We have said before, we are what we eat. In the heat of this summer, it is important to remember, we are also what we drink!
Our bodies are made of more than 60% water. Our muscles are 75% water. The liquid we drink can hydrate and nourish, or it can dehydrate and malnourish. Our bodies can go a month or so without food, but only a week without water. Sufficient hydration is important to each aspect of our health. How much water is enough?
We often hear the general rule to drink about 8 glasses of water a day. The truth is that the need for water will vary greatly, depending on your age, weight, physical activity, and climate. The Institute of Medicine recommends a higher level of fluid intake, up to about 15 glasses a day for some men. In Houston, the weather can be hot and humid, leading to perspiration and the need for more water.
It is important to listen to our bodies. If we were to drink whenever we were thirsty, most of us would do just fine. The problem arises when we get so busy that we don’t stop and our body is not heard. When deadlines are approaching and tasks are stacked high, we get to the end of the day without even knowing our fluid balance is compromised. What’s worse, is we frequently replace water with coffee or soda. These are typically high in caffeine, a diuretic that can further dehydrate our system. The result may be fatigue, mood swings, jaw pain, dry skin or mouth, and headaches.
How do we know if we are drinking enough? One of the most effective ways to gauge your fluid intake is to note the color of your urine. Aim to drink enough water to cause your urine to be light yellow in color. This, along with listening to your thirst, will help prevent dehydration. Keep in mind that advanced age, physical exertion, illness, temperature, pregnancy, and breastfeeding also increase the need for more water.
Take water with you on the go. Make water accessible at work. Drink water before and after you exercise. Have water at home. Don’t forget to pause and listen to your body’s requests. This will go a long way in optimizing your health.
Nathan J. Pettit, DMD, MSD