When you think about your health, it's easy to overlook something as simple and basic as water, but it is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Water is necessary for all body functions. It dissolves vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and transports them to where you need them. It helps form the structure of your cells, tissues and organs. It regulates your body's temperature, cushions your joints and spinal column, and lubricates your digestive tract. Inadequate hydration can result in any or all of these utterly needed actions being slowed up or inefficient, and can lead to headache, fatigue, elevated heart rate, and lack of mental acuity, as well as general aches and pains.
If the body is not well hydrated, it will take water from the joints and muscles, and use it to maintain essential processes. When we feel tired and achy we tend to think that we need rest and an anti-inflammatory, when it is likely that all we really need is more water.
If you are thirsty, you are probably at least ten percent dehydrated already, so don't wait until that happens to drink some water.
Thirst, especially as we get older, may not be a reliable gauge of your body's need, and you could be low without realizing it. Sip water throughout the day. Most people require about 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, and if it's very hot, or you are exercising, even more. Don't include beverages containing caffeine such as coffee, tea, or cola in your calculations, as these are diuretic and can cause you to lose water at a faster rate, as can alcohol. More water is indicated if you consume a lot of these drinks, or are excercising and sweating hard. If you eat a lot of soups or juicy fruits and vegetables, you may need a little less.
A good rule of thumb is that you should feel the need to void your bladder every hour or so. Going all day without urinating is not good for you, and not just because of the pressure. Concentrated urine is corrosive to the bladder, so it's best to keep the urine as diluted as possible and to keep the bladder empty. Sports drinks are not a good alternative to water. They are designed to replace electrolytes and salts in your bloodstream when engaged in very heavy exercise during very hot weather, and are in addition very sugary. Used in excess when not needed, they can alter your blood chemistry.
Distilled or filtered bottled water is OK. Spring or well water is good too, if they are from a source that has been tested to insure that there is no contamination. When it is filtered, tap water is just fine, and there is less concern about all those plastic bottles going into our landfills, or the petrochemicals used to manufacture the bottles leaching into the water. Glass or stainless steel is probably the safest way to carry water, though not nearly as convenient. If you use bottled water, try to keep the bottles cool, as leaching occurs faster at higher temperatures, and keep the bottles in a cooler if you keep water in your car for any length of time. Most household filtration systems will produce clean, tasty water, especially those with an activated charcoal stage, and is ounce for ounce the cheapest way to go.
Remember: Adequate hydration helps all of your body systems to work more efficiently, and is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health. Drink up!