Hydration, Dehydration and the Importance of Water

Hydration, Dehydration and the Importance of Water

Water is Essential for Cellular Homeostasis

Water is necessary for life and it’s also a human right to have clean water. Without water, people can only survive for days. The percentage of water present in infants, adults and the elderly is in the range of 75% to 55% respectively.  It is important to drink an adequate amount of water to maintain proper hydration in the body because it’s essential for cellular homeostasis. It is especially necessary to replenish water lost in the body if it’s hot outside, before, during, and after exercise so that dehydration doesn’t set in. Water intake or lack thereof can also have an effect on chronic diseases.

As water is imperative to the brain, nervous system, and other organs so that they function optimally, the kidneys are responsible for regulating fluid balance. In fact, the kidneys function more efficiently with an abundance of water unless there is something else going on like High Blood Pressure where the kidneys retain water. If the kidneys are deficient in water, more concentrated urine is created causing the kidneys to be under stress. Plus, the kidneys can be under stress when there is too much salt in the diet or toxic substances present and this is where water can help.

When exercising heavily, it’s necessary to supplement drinks with additional salt to replenish this mineral. A sports drink that has both water and salt can be taken to replenish the body but some experts disagree. In this document Water + Electrolytes: How They Prevent Dehydration, it indicates that sports drinks are loaded with sugar, flavored and colored with chemicals and sweetened with high fructose corn syrup which can cause fluctuations in blood sugar. Electrolytes, not sugar, support hydration at the cellular level so, with sports drinks, you max out on sugar before you’re adequately hydrated according to this article. There are pure electrolyte products on the market that can be added to water with no calories, flavorings, sweeteners, colors or sugars so people who are sensitive to the salt and sugar in sports drinks can use this option with water.

What are electrolytes? “Electrolytes are certain minerals (i.e., calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium ions) essential to human health…and cannot be substituted by any other nutrient in the diet.” Electrolytes are dissolved in the body fluids and they are important because they direct water and nutrients to the areas where it is needed the most, specifically, inside the cells where optimal fluid balance is maintained. Electrolytes are also necessary to help the muscles contract and relax, and responsible for influencing the nerve impulses from the nervous system to different parts of the body.

Hydration is essential to the body’s temperature control as well. Dehydration causes a loss of electrolytes and creates elevations in cortisol indicating that the body is under stress. A lack of water can also negatively influence cognition function that may be exasperated by hot temperatures and/or vigorous exercise.

Foods such as fruit and vegetables have high water content with some being higher in water than others. Other beverages like tea, coffee, and milk can be taken to fulfill the fluid intake requirements to avoid dehydration but water is the best fluid to hydrate the body because there is no caffeine.

Regarding how much water to take per day, the Mayo Clinic Staff states in the Healthy Lifestyle section on Nutrition and healthy eating, that, “It’s a simple question with no easy answers.” There have been recommendations throughout the years as a result of studies. Every single body has different needs. But one aspect is certain: water flushes toxins out of vital organs, replenishes the cells, and provides a moist environment for tissues.

People may not know they are dehydrated so here are some signs that dehydration is present in the body listed on the Mayo Clinic website. There is really no reliable measurement that gauges the body’s need for water but one sign is that clear or light-colored urine means that you’re well hydrated whereas a dark yellow or amber color means that you are not.

Runner’s World shares 8 Hydration Myths Busted in the Nutrition and Weight Loss section for Hydration and Dehydration.  The suggestion is, “Don’t get swept up in a tidal wave of hype.” This article written by Dimity McDowell lists 8 Hydration Myths and Truths because “there are still a number of other factors that play a role.” These factors include body size, exercise intensity, fitness level, age, humidity, and air temperature. “Paying attention to the whole picture is a better indicator” of how much water is needed for each person he suggests.



Abstract: Water, Hydration, and Health, available at the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Water + Electrolytes: How They Prevent Dehydration

Diseases and Conditions, Dehydration, Symptoms, by Mayo Clinic Staff

Nutrition and healthy eating

8 Hydration Myths Busted, Don’t get swept up in a tidal wave of hype, Runner’s World

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