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Anatomy 101

Thirsting for Answers    

Christine Palumbo, R.D.
We all know that we must drink water, but do you know why? Drinking water is one of the most effective ways to help ensure good health. Water maintains and regulates the body’s systems and acts as a preventive measure against common ailments. 

The body uses water along with food as fuel to keep it up and in good running order. Water lubricates joints and organs, maintains muscle tone, keeps skin soft, regulates body temperature, filters out impurities and keeps our minds alert. It also carries important nutrients such as calcium, sodium and potassium to cells. 

However, unlike food, the body does not have a reserve of water. Once the body runs out of its water supply, it cannot re-hydrate itself, and thirst is an imprecise sign of dehydration. When the body starts getting dehydrated, the signs are both physical and mental. 

The symptoms of dehydration range from light-headedness to headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Dehydration also increases muscle glycogen use, which leads to the onset of premature fatigue. Along the same lines, chronic fatigue syndrome may be an indication of dehydration. A slight water deficit of only one quart slows blood circulation and reduces concentration. This is why it is essential to keep the body in proper fluid balance.

"Drinking water is one of the most effective ways to help ensure good health." 

Keeping your body properly hydrated also has other health benefits. Drinking water is the best remedy for fluid retention. The body retains fluids when the supply is low. This shows up in swollen feet, hands and ankles. So when you’re properly hydrated, the body actually releases excess fluids. 

Michael Manning, M.D., of Allergy and Immunology Associates in Scottsdale, Arizona, believes water is essential when coping with allergies. It keeps the secretions thin, which allows them to flow easier through the sinus passages. 

Water also has been proven to have particular health benefits for women. Research conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle found that among women who drank more than five glasses of water a day, there were fewer cases of colon cancer. Their risk was about half of what it was for women who drank less than two glasses a day. Drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day has been proven to reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections in women. By increasing the amount of fluids excreted from the body, more bacteria is flushed that could lead to infection. 

So, drink at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. The benefits are immeasurable. 

Christine Palumbo, MBA, R.D. is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition consultant. She is an adjunct faculty member of Illinois Benedictine College.


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Revised: July 31, 2015.