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Dehydrated, Hydrated, Waterlogged: How Much Water is Too Much?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008 by: Peggy Gannon
Tags: hydration, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Do you remember when you first heard the term, "personal hydration"? Me neither and it wasn't a concept I grew up with. Only in recent years has the need for adequate water intake been recognized. Controversy swirls around bottled water: is it green? Is it tap? Does it have a carbon footprint? These are all valid concerns for a different (and much longer) article. Today we are simply concerned with how much water is enough; and how much is too much.

Water truly is the stuff of life. Our body is 70% water, our brain is 85% water, blood is 90% water and the liver (which filters out toxins) is 96% water. We can endure for weeks without food but only three days without water. Chronic dehydration can mimic symptoms of disease, such as headache, dizziness, fatigue, irritability and depression.

Oddly, our level of thirst is not a reliable indicator of our need for water. For some people a headache is the first sign that the body needs more water. Water loss occurs all day long through respiration, perspiration, urination and elimination. Experts agree that 64 oz. a day is the minimum intake to meet our most basic requirements, such as skin hydration, temperature control, digestion and waste disposal. That's eight 8-oz glasses. And I do mean glass. Storing your water in something other than plastic means that you will not be picking up traces of chemicals (like phthalates) that leach from plastic containers.

Having established the importance of adequate water, is it possible to drink too much of such a good thing? Although it's unlikely, the answer is "yes!"

The opposite of dehydration is a condition known as hyponatremia. No, it doesn't mean "drowning"; it actually means "low sodium" and is sometimes referred to as water intoxication. Drinking too much water in too short a time overwhelms the kidneys and can cause a sudden drop in blood sodium levels. Sodium is one of the body's electrolytes (the others are potassium, chloride and bicarbonate). A drop in sodium leads to water entering the brain, causing it to swell. Results include lethargy, disorientation, confusion, seizures, coma and death.

Hyponatremia typically occurs in hot weather when people engage in strenuous activities, sweat a great deal, and then drink gallons of plain water. The answer for people like marathon runners who sweat profusely is a sports drink that will replace the lost electrolytes. An alternative is a quart of water to which you add a half teaspoon each of salt and baking soda. Hyponatremia will not happen to people who spread their normal intake of water over the course of a day.

For those who want to be really precise about personal hydration, there are resources on line that will factor your weight, level of physical activity, and ambient climate and calculate a specific recommendation. Go here: (http://tinyurl.com/2awg72) .

Does personal hydration have to be water? Not necessarily. Tea (especially herbal teas), broth, fruit and vegetable juices all count toward your daily fluid intake, but the emphasis should be on pure water. Coffee and alcohol are diuretics and are better avoided. If plain water fails to excite you, try a splash of lime or lemon, or a few drops of mint extract, to give it a bit of zing. But please, no sodas. We all know why.

About the author

Peggy Gannon lives on a 50-acre farm, where she is owned by three parrots and a few cats. She taught at Unity College in Maine for 18 years, and has in the same lifetime been a small farmer, public relations director, commercial horticulturist, and mental health professional. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of literary and other small magazines. She has pursued a lifelong interest in health and nutrition and is a vocal advocate of local and organic foods. When not writing, she keeps busy gardening, traveling to exotic and arcane locales, and periodically emptying the bag on the vacuum in deep space.

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