Staying well hydrated is crucial for overall health and is essential for our survival. Nearly all the major systems in the body rely on water. Here are some quick facts:
All life began in water. A developing fetus is surrounded by water.
The human body is 50-70% water.
Lungs are 90% water, muscles are 85% water and blood is 92% water.
The brain is about 85% water.
Wow that's a lot of water! Now that we know these facts, what exactly does water do? Let’s find out.
Here is an overview of some of the major roles that water plays in the human body:
1. Regulates body temperature
Water can absorb a lot of heat before its temperature rises, so the human body uses it to regulate temperature. This trait allows the water in every cell to act as a buffer against sudden temperature changes. Blood, about 92% water, moves heat away from the extremities when it needs to conserve heat and towards the skin surface to release excess heat, and transports muscle heat away as needed. Water also helps expel excess heat from the body as water vapor from the lungs and sweat on the skin.
2. Lubricates joints
Water lubricates the articular cartilage in joints allowing them to slide and glide with minimal friction. When your body is dehydrated, movement of any joint becomes stiff, painful, and would eventually be impossible. Cartilage is about 80% water and does not have its own blood supply so if you damage it, it does not have the means to repair itself. It is critical that we continue to drink water as it encourage the growth of new cells in the cartilage tissues. It also stimulates the production of synovial fluid, and reduces inflammation around the joint.
Did you know that over 75% of the support your spine gives to your body comes from the small spinal discs sitting between all vertebrae? When there is not enough water floating in the body, these discs shrink and put too much pressure on certain joint areas.
3. Dissolves minerals and other nutrients, and transports them to cells.
Water assists in the biochemical breakdown of the food we eat. Proper digestion makes minerals and nutrients more accessible to the body. The chemical process of digestion starts with saliva, the basis of which is water. Digestion relies on the enzymes that are found in saliva to help initialize the breakdown of food and to dissolve minerals and other nutrients. Adequate water intake through the day guarantees there will be enough saliva produced to properly carry out this function. Ever notice how difficult eating is when your mouth is dry?
Water as a main constituent of blood contributes to the transport of these essential nutrients to the cells after they have been fully broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.
4. Prevents constipation
When your body is properly hydrated, less water will be withdrawn from the colon. This will keep your stool soft and easy to pass. Water is also necessary to help you digest soluble fiber. With the help of water, fiber dissolves easily and benefits your bowel health.
5. Moistens mucus membranes
You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas and can prevent painful cracked lips or scratchy eyes.
6. Keeps brain tissue healthy
Your brain is about 85% water and is very sensitive to fluctuations. Water gives the brain the electrical energy for all brain functions, including thought and memory processes. Just 2% below optimal hydration levels can cause an energy drop of up to 30% as well as cause you to suffer from fuzzy short-term memory, experience problems with focusing, and have trouble with math computations. On the flip-side, when your brain is well hydrated, you will be able to think faster, be more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all functions of water, but it should provide you with an appreciation of some of the amazing benefits it provides. Are you ensuring you are getting enough? To find out how much you should be drinking each day go here.