Last week we discussed some of the results of our loosely based internet meta analysis of the top 10 health benefits of water. We started the conversation with numbers 10 through 6 and this week we shall be revealing the final five health benefits of water.
First, a little bit about our research. Since we all know that you can’t post anything on the internet that is not true (just ask this girl) we did a broad based search through the internet on the topic health benefits of water. We cataloged our findings and compiled a list of the internet’s most common health benefits of water. From there we devised our top 10 list based on the frequency that websites cited each as a benefit (10 being the 10th most frequent health benefit to the number one website reference to the health benefit of water). We attempted to stay towards the more reliable and dependable websites like WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, CNN Health, as well as resources and magazines like Bodybuilding.com, Woman’s Health Magazine, Men’s Health, and Livestrong.com to name a few. Hope you enjoy!
5. Kidney Health:
One of the health benefits of water is in aiding our kidney function. Our kidneys are primarily responsible for filtering our blood of impurities, excessive water, and waste products out in our urine. Additionally, they are vital in balancing our pH, salt, and potassium levels as well as producing hormones that regulate blood pressure and red blood cell production. If you’re not getting enough water intake the kidney’s will hold onto as much fluid as possible for normal bodily function which can increase the concentration levels of our salts, potassium, impurities, and waste products. Higher levels of any of these can throw off our normal resting pH and can result in negative changes to our blood pressure and hormone regulation. However, some research has shown that drinking moderate amounts of water (3 liters or 12 8 oz glasses/day) improves urine volume which has been an indicator of kidney health as increased urine volume has been linked to a decreased chance of chronic kidney disease.
4. Improves Focus:
As noted previously our brain is approximately 73% water and that water helps with the production of the neurotransmitters and hormones necessary for our brain to carry out our daily tasks. In fact, some studies have indicated that if you are 1% dehydrated you can have a 5% decrease in brain function and at 2% dehydration you can suffer short term memory issues, difficulty focusing, and have problems completing math computations. Additionally, there has been anecdotal evidence that people with brain challenges (ADD, Autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety attacks, depression) drink almost no water a day which according to Dr. Corinne Allen, founder of the Advanced Learning and Development Institute, can enhance brain dysfunction. She recommends drinking 12-16 oz of water first thing in the Am after waking to start the day off right but feels that a goal people should strive for is to drink half their body weight in ounces of water (For example a 180lb person should strive to drink 90 ounces (or almost 3 liters) of water a day). Thankfully , she recommends that people slowly achieve this goal over the course of 3-6 months.
3. Prevents Fatigue:
One of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. Here again studies have shown that a loss of 1-2% of body weight in water can increase dehydration levels to the point of creating lethargy, fatigue, and decrease performance. Even slight dehydration can create a decrease in blood volume which can increase your fatigue by reducing blood flow to the brain and other organs. However, there is some research out that indicates even that mid morning or post lunch tiredness could be attributed to not enough water. In these situations people who had enough sleep and were eating a ‘proper’ diet but were still suffering from day time tiredness could report a decrease in both frequency and intensity of fatigue by drinking more water.
2. Aids Digestion:
Water is the basic component of saliva, which is the body’s first technique in breaking down food. When chewing, enzymes in saliva begin to break down food into the minerals and nutrients that are easier to digest and easier to swallow. Additionally, water is necessary to break down soluble fiber which assists in making well formed soft healthy stool that is easy to pass while preventing constipation. Something to note: Almost every article regarding water and digestion we’ve read also mentioned adding greater amounts of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Both of which are natural sources of water.
1. Aids in Weight Loss:
The number one health benefit of water is in it’s ability to aid in weight loss. There are a few ways that water will actually help in dropping pounds. The first is that people who drank water 30 minutes prior to eating felt more full and consumed roughly 75 calories less per meal than those that did not. At one meal 75 calories might not seem like much but over the course of the year thats 82,125 calories saved just from a simple glass of water 30 minutes prior to every meal.
Second, research has shown that a 1% drop in hydration levels has been enough to slow metabolism in certain individuals. Similarly, it has been demonstrated that drinking cold water will actually increase/boost a person’s metabolism. One study determined that 10 minutes after drinking 17 ounces of water both men and women recorded a 30% boost in metabolism for 30-40 minutes. The authors of the study estimated that drinking 1.5 liters of water/day would increase the caloric expenditure by 17,400 calories over a 1 year period.
Third, drinking more water for most typically occurs at the expense of drinking other beverages. For most Americans that means getting rid of high caloric drinks like soda, juice, sugar with coffee and cream, and the like. However, if you think water has no taste add a lemon! A. it adds flavor and B. it contains pectin which can reduce food cravings.
Finally, as advanced as our bodies are sometimes they send us mixed signals. For example, unless we are dehydrated our body typically alerts us to being thirsty by…….giving us hunger pains. Since most people associate hunger pain with being hungry they will tend to overeat throughout the day. But, a better practice would be to drink a glass of water and then wait 30 minutes. If your hunger pain has not been relieved then eat (preferably fruits and veggies high in water content) but if the hunger pains leave you just saved yourself a bunch of unnecessary calories.
Hopefully, somewhere in these top ten health benefits of water there will be one that resonates with you. One that will make you grab a tall glass of high quality H2O more frequently throughout the day…..there really isn’t a reason we shouldn’t.
Just a reminder….
How Much is Enough?
Keep in mind that typically when we discuss the health benefits of water with people they inevitably ask how they will know if they are well hydrated or not. We tell them the easiest indicator we have to determine our hydration level is our urine. When you are well hydrated your pee should be almost clear with a tinge of yellow in it and there should be little to no smell.
However, when you go to the bathroom if your pee is a dark yellow and if it smells heavily of urine than chances are that you are dehydrated. In fact, in the absence of a vitamin pill the darker the color or the smellier it is the more dehydrated you are. At 1% dehydration our pee will be yellow, at 5% dehydration levels our pee will be chardonnay colored, and over 5% dehydration our pee could look orange in color.
How Much is Too Much?
The other question we tend to field about the health benefits of water is how much is too much. Infrequently people have drank so much water that they have put themselves into hyponatremia, a state of abnormally low sodium in your body. Sodium is an important electrolyte responsible for a number of basic functions including heart pumping. In normal healthy adults sodium blood levels are 136-to-145 milliequivalents/liter and anything under 135 miliequivalents/liter is considered hyponatremia.
Typically endurance athletes and the elderly are the most susceptible to this condition; endurance athletes as the tend to over hydrate in an effort to replenish fluids lost in long races and the elderly as they tend to not be as efficient in maintaining their electrolyte balances. However, for most of us it will be very challenging to enter into this state, especially with the moderate increase in our water consumption that has been attributed to the many health benefits of water.