NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Why So Much Water?

Why So Much Water?


            Most people take drinking water for granted, but keeping hydrated has a huge impact on overall health. Despite how crucial water is, a significant number of people fail to consume the recommended levels of fluids each day.

            Over two-thirds of the human body is made up of water. This includes 95% of the brain. Water helps many different parts of the body perform their jobs correctly and efficiently. It helps regulate body temperature, allows transportation of oxygen and nutrients, removes waste, and protects joints and organs. Although the body contains a large amount of water, it also loses water throughout the day. This happens through breathing, sweat, and urination. As the body loses water, it needs to be consistently replenished in order to avoid becoming dehydrated.

            The amount of water needed by each person in your family varies considerably. In general, the amount of water to drink every day can be calculated based on weight. When calculating how much water to drink, divide your weight in pounds in half. This number represents how many ounces of water you should drink in that day. For example, if your child weighs 40 pounds, he or she should drink 20 ounces of water per day.

            Depending on the weather and levels of exercise, you may need to adjust the number of ounces of water. Some water can also be taken into the body through foods you eat. With a healthy and well-balanced diet, about 20% of water consumption is from food.

            When to drink water:

  • With every snack or meal.
  • When your child comes home from school.
  • After your child comes in from playing outside.
  • Throughout the day -- keep a bottle of water in the car, at your desk, and in your child's backpack.

            Although some of the water required by the body is obtained through foods with a high water content - soups, tomatoes, oranges - the majority is gained through drinking water and other beverages.

            Drinking water, be it from the tap or a bottle, is the best source of fluid for the body. Beverages such as milk and juices are also decent sources of fluid, but beverages containing alcohol and caffeine, such as soft drinks, coffee, and beer, are not ideal because they often contain empty calories.

            Water also helps dissolve minerals and nutrients so that they are more accessible to the body, as well as helping transport waste products out of the body. It is these two functions that make water so vital to the kidneys. How does not drinking enough affect the kidneys? Every day, the kidneys filter around 120-150 quarts of fluid. Of these, approximately 1-2 quarts are removed from the body in the form of urine, and 198 are recovered by the bloodstream. Water is essential for the kidneys to function.  If the kidneys do not function properly, waste products and excess fluid can build up inside the body.

            Of course, it is not just the kidneys that are affected by a lack of water; below is a small sample of the other negative consequences dehydration can bring:

  • Blood is more than 90 percent water, therefore, if water is in short supply, blood can become thicker and increase blood pressure.
  • When dehydrated, airways are restricted by the body in an effort to minimize water loss, potentially making asthma and allergies worse.
  • The skin can become more vulnerable to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
  • The bowel needs water to function correctly. If dehydrated, digestive problems and constipation can become an issue. Dehydration can lead to an overly acidic stomach which makes heartburn more common and can encourage the development of stomach ulcers.
  • Cartilage, found in joints and the disks of the spine, contain around 80 percent water. If dehydration is ongoing, joints can become less good at shock absorption, which leads to joint pain.
  • Dehydration can affect brain structure and function. If dehydration is prolonged, cognitive ability is impaired.
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