Water and Body Temperature Regulation

Water and Body Temperature Regulation

The variability of human body temperature depends on many aspects

Normal body temperature in humans, also referred to as normothermia or euthermia, maintains its normal range by thermoregulation where the central nervous system plays a role in the lowering or raising of body temperature. The variability of human body temperature depends on one’s gender, age, time of day, level of exertion, whether you have an illness or not, menstruation in females, pregnancy, the state of consciousness (whether a person is awake, sleeping, or sedated), and the emotional state.

Water is the most important element that you can ingest into the human body due its multipurpose properties especially with respect to body temperature regulation. Water not only absorbs and transfers heat very well, but also it stabilizes body temperature whether it is from external or internal sources. Water is needed during summer and winter because not having enough fluids can lead to a drop in body temperature. If you’re outside for too long in the winter, you can become dehydrated as a result of hypothermia so a hot outdoor temperature is not the only external condition that can cause dehydration.                                  

One of the most protective qualities of water is that it can absorb heat before a rise in temperature. Since blood is made up primarily of water, the water in every cell of the body acts as a protective barrier against fluctuations in temperatures. Water essentially helps to regulate heat in the body by moving it to vital organs and away from the extremities when it needs to maintain heat. Concurrently, if the body gets too hot, excess heat in the body is released as sweat leaves the body therefore, cooling the body. Water then actually has a dual purpose when maintaining body temperature.

The normal temperature in the body is considered to be in the range of 36.5–37.5 °C (97.7–99.5 °F). According to this article How Does Water Stabilize Temperature? on the website Sciencing, since the body is made up of 60-75% water and the brain up to 70% water, body homeostasis and balance is dependent on keeping the body temperature within a particular range meaning that wild swings in temperature would throw the body off balance.

 

Hydration is very important for body temperature

The body can use up many liters of water per day in stressful high temperature environments in order to maintain balance. When the body sweats during high temperatures, water ingestion must occur in order for that liquid to be replaced. Additionally, when the body sweats, the excretion of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride and calcium leave the body. It’s important to replace these elements to avoid depletion within the body. Dehydration, even if it’s mild, can lead to fatigue and low energy levels.

The amount of water that people should take depends on how thirsty they are because some people may need 8 glasses of water per day but other people may need more or less depending on their body weight, whether they are doing exercise, and the temperature fluctuations internally and externally.

Dehydration prevention must be kept in check to maintain homeostasis in the body. Drinking a glass of water or a low calorie or calorie-free drink during a meal is recommended. Always drink water before, during and after exercise as well as when you’re feeling hungry since thirst sometimes can be confused with hunger.

In this excellent blog, Polar.com, the discussion of How Much Water Should I Drink/Thermoregulation and Hydration, Benjamin Garcia, a sports scientist, marathon runner, and Ironman participant, discusses hydration and how much water you should drink daily. He describes the steps one should take when considering the effects of dehydration including: optimizing hydration pre-exercise; optimizing hydration during exercise; and optimizing hydration post-exercise.

Garcia’s description about Thermoregulation is especially revealing as he describes what happens to an individual’s metabolic rate and heat production during intense physical activity. As a way of the body maintaining a state of homeostasis, the body relies on four physical processes for heat loss to occur: radiation; conduction; convection; and evaporation. Although the first three aspects of the process help with heat loss, it’s evaporation or sweating that guards against overheating which in turn, controls the increase in body temperature.

 

When to Drink Water

Factors that influence water needs according to the Mayo Clinic are: exercise; environment; overall health; and pregnancy or breast-feeding. Before, during, and after exercise, it’s important to drink water to cover the loss of fluid, especially if the workout lasts more than one hour. Environment is another factor to consider since humidity will make your body temperature fluctuate due to the amount of sweat that leaves your body and dehydration can also occur at higher altitudes. Overall health is another factor because when you’re sick and you have a fever, vomiting, bladder infections or diarrhea, more water is needed to replace the fluids in your body that have been expelled. Also, when a woman is pregnant or breast-feeding, additional fluids are needed to keep hydrated.

In the Mayo Clinic article, Water: How much should you drink every day? it suggests your fluid intake is enough when you are rarely thirsty or your urine is colorless or a light yellow color. Water is the best beverage of choice due it not having calories, sugar, or caffeine. Every day you lose water by breathing, perspiring, urination, and bowel movements. The body needs to function properly and does not do so when it’s dehydrated so one of the solutions is to replenish the body with water, beverages, and food that contains water.

In a climate that is temperate, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests that a reasonable daily fluid intake for men is about 15.5 cups or 3.7 liters of fluids whereas for women, it’s 11.5 cups or 2.7 liters of fluids ingested a day. These recommendations for fluid intake includes water, other beverages, and water in food. In the Mayo Clinic article, it suggests about 20 percent of daily fluid ingestion comes from food and the rest is derived from beverages.

All of the components in your body – every cell, tissue and organ – needs water for it to work properly and adequately. Ponder this the next time you reach for a glass of water. Not only does water rid the body of waste through urination, bowel movements, and perspiration, but also it keeps your body temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, and protects the more sensitive tissues. Without water, the body cannot survive.

 

LINKS AND REFERENCES

Sciencing
How Does Water Stabilize Temperature?

Mayo Clinic
Water: How much should you drink every day?

Polar.com
How Much Water Should I Drink/Thermoregulation and Hydration

Healthway.com
The Importance of Staying Hydrated Through Winter


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