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How Much Water Do You Need To Drink, Really?

My oldest son drinks next to nothing. I swear, he’s a camel. I have to beg him to drink anything, and he’s always been like that. My second son, at 16 months, drinks water like it’s his job. And you know what? They’re both equally healthy.

So how much water do you need to drink, really? From the way some people talk about drinking water, you’d think you’re headed for imminent multi-organ failure if you’re getting less than 8 glasses a day. And then there’s the other camp, the people who like to refer to the 8-glasses-a-day guideline as a “myth”.

Hm. Where does the truth lie, here?

A recent article in the New York Times reviewed some new research showing that regular water intake benefits the kidneys and prevents kidney disease long-term. Swinging the pendulum back to the drink-8-glasses-for-optimum-health philosophy.

What’s my take? I personally think we should all be drinking plenty of water, all day long. Note the word “plenty”…it’s pretty vague. Which is intentional. I think we’re all different; our systems are individual. And we all vary in our eating habits, too–ie. how much fluid we take in through food (fruits are super high in water content, as an example, which is how I think my first son gets away with his water-shunning ways: he’s a fruit-aholic). I think the most important thing is making a habit of drinking water, and paying attention to your body and the symptoms related to inadequate water consumption.

And, for the record, I’m not talking about full-on dehydration, here. It’s not a black-and-white thing of either hydrated or dehydrated. It’s where you are on the spectrum. You may not be dehydrated enough to warrant IV fluids, but still not getting quite enough water on a daily basis. And suffering some pretty subtle symptoms as a result.

So how do you know if you’re not really getting enough fluids? Ask yourself:

How often am I peeing through the day? This is a good gauge of fluid intake. If you can go hours and hours without hitting the restroom, you’re probably not drinking enough.

Do I feel tired, without a good reason? Fatigue is the scourge of modern life, and there are many, many causes for it…but one of them is inadequate fluid intake. Worth considering.

Do I get frequent headaches? Again, headaches are multifactorial. But even mild dehydration can contribute.

Am I suffering constipation from time to time? Probably not a question you need to actually ask yourself, but still…it helps to know that a big cause for periodic constipation is inadequate water intake. Bump up your water quotient and see if that helps keep ya regular.

Is my skin looking dull and dry? No surprises here, a dry body on the inside can look dry on the outside. Water plumps up those tissues and gives a more vibrant appearance.

Drink up, darlings.

Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

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