The Truth About Hydration

- By Ishrath Shaik

Have you ever heard that you should drink 8 glasses of water everyday? I surely have. Is this even true? Where did the 8 glasses even come from? As someone who drinks water all the time, and also has to use the bathroom all the time, I finally had the thought - Am I drinking too much water? Here is what I’ve found out, so you don’t have to.

About 60% of the body is made up of water. This is why it’s essential to prevent dehydration, as even a 5% drop in water can cause dizziness, fainting, and mental confusion. 10% of water loss can cause physical and mental deterioration, and a loss of 15-25% leads to death. Scary, right? I was too. Should you be drinking 8 glasses of water everyday? The idea that you should drink 8 glasses of water came from a notice from the Food and Nutrition board of the United States, which stated “A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters (approximately 8 glasses) daily in most instances.” What everyone forgot about was the next line, “Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” This removes the idea that we should be drinking 8 glasses.

In fact, drinking too much water, though rare, is also dangerous. Water intoxication, or hyponatremia (dilution of the sodium levels in your body) can cause headaches, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, seizures, and in extreme cases, coma.

So, if you don’t need 8 glasses, how much do you need? Well, it depends. If you exercise, you should probably drink water after, if you’re in a hot area, you should drink more water in general, and if you’re sick, you need more fluid intake. A good rule of thumb, is to drink water after every meal, with medicine, after exercising, and when you’re thirsty. The problem is that these factors are constantly changing and are hard to keep a track on. But don’t worry. The human body has already taken care of that.

When there is less water, the body releases a hormone called vasopressin (also known as antidiuretic hormone), that acts on the kidneys that causes them to reabsorb water, instead of excreting it as urine. When that isn’t enough, the body will alert you to drink water. How? By thirst and hunger. To make sure you are hydrated, drink water whenever you are thirsty until the thirst is quenched. Sometimes, the body is confused by hunger and thirst, so drink water if you’re hungry too, if that doesn’t help, eat. Another way to tell is by the color of your urine. If it is a pale yellow color, you’re most likely hydrated, but if your urine is a dark shade of yellow, you should probably be drinking more water. Also, make sure you’re eating a balanced diet so that you’re getting your water content from there.

In conclusion, know that your body is already helping you stay hydrated when you have to, and drinking 8 glasses of water everyday may actually be unnecessary. There may be exceptions to this case, and if you think you are one, follow the advice of your doctor.

About the Author

Ishrath is a medical student. She believes in life long learning and constantly strives to try to make small changes in this big, big world. Her life mantra is "compassion at all times, especially in times of trouble, with yourself and the the people around, ultimately leads to be being content".