Health benefits of drinking water

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Medically reviewed by Melissa Nieves, LND

You need water for virtually every process in your body. Water plays a role in maintaining normal temperature, lubricating joints, protecting the spinal cord, and eliminating waste products from the body.

Drinking enough water also prevents dehydration, a state you reach when you don’t have enough fluid in your body that can cause a variety of symptoms such as mood changes, kidney stones and constipation.

Some of your days water intake comes from the food you eat or other liquids you drink. But plain water offers all the benefits without the calories, sugar or other potential drawbacks of some of the other water sources.

Prevents headaches

Dehydration can cause headaches on its own. Dehydration can also lead to headaches by worsening underlying problems such as headache disorders, such as migraines, or conditions caused by the imbalance of bodily fluids.

A 2020 study of women aged 18 to 45 found that the more dehydrated the women were, the more severe their migraine symptoms were. Dehydration has also been associated with worsening headaches over a longer period of time and led to more frequent migraines.

Drinking water can stave off headaches caused by dehydration.

Related: Signs and symptoms of dehydration

Helps prevent chronic conditions and faster aging

Staying properly hydrated can slow the aging process, prevent chronic conditions, and even help you live longer. The authors of a 2023 study determined this after analyzing serum sodium levels in people. Blood sodium levels tend to rise when you’re not well hydrated. In the study, which looked at 15,752 people over the age of 25, people with higher serum sodium levels tended to have worse outcomes.

The study found that people aged 45 to 66 with higher serum sodium levels were more likely to have signs of aging more rapidly. Higher serum sodium levels were also associated with early death and the development of chronic conditions.

Higher serum sodium levels have been found to correlate with a higher risk of the following conditions:

Meanwhile, proper hydration was associated with a lower risk of several chronic conditions.

Decreased hydration is a major factor in elevating serum sodium. More research is needed to say for sure whether hydration, serum sodium, chronic conditions, aging and death are all directly related.

Helps manage weight

Drinking water can help overweight or obese people reach any weight goal set by a health care professional.

A 2019 review of studies found an average weight loss of 5% among people who increased their water intake. People in the six trials included in the review drank water before meals, replaced caloric drinks with water, or drank more water each day. The most effective method of weight loss was to replace calorie-containing drinks with water.

Once the recommended weight has been lost or if you are already within the recommended range, drinking water can help you maintain your weight.

Improve concentration

It can be difficult to concentrate when you’re dehydrated. You may have a headache or your brain may not be functioning at optimal levels. After all, your brain is up to 75% water.

A 2020 study of more than 2,500 adults over the age of 65 found an association between hydration and mental performance among women. In the study, women who were better hydrated tended to perform better on tests of attention and processing speed.

In a small 2020 study of Chinese young adults, going without water for 12 hours led to memory problems. Drinking 17 ounces (oz) of water was enough to improve memory.

It can improve mood

When young adults in the 2020 Chinese study didn’t drink water in 12 hours, they felt tired and angry. However, once they drank 17 ounces of water, their mood improved.

A 2018 study of 3,327 Iranian adults also found that drinking water was associated with a better mood. The researchers found that the more water people reported drinking, the less likely they were to report being depressed. People who drank 2 cups or less of plain water a day were twice as likely to be depressed as those who drank more than 5 cups a day.

Improve athletic performance

Adequate hydration is important for everyone, including athletes. Drinking water can help athletes with:

  • Performance

  • Post-exercise recovery

  • Injury prevention

Not drinking enough water has been shown to cause declines in stamina and strength. The amount you need varies based on your activity level. It’s generally recommended to be well hydrated before exercise, drink during prolonged exercise, and rehydrate after you’re done.

Water nutrition

In general, 8 ounces of plain bottled water contains:

The content of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, can vary by brand.

Risks of water

It’s hard to drink too much water, but it can happen. In rare cases, people can develop water intoxication, which is when you drink more water than your kidneys can process. Water intoxication is most frequently reported in connection with water drinking contests. The condition can cause seizures, delusions, coma, or death.

It’s also possible for your water to become contaminated and you’ll get sick after drinking contaminated water. The US Environmental Protection Agency regulates public water systems, so tap water is generally safe to drink. However, germs or chemicals can be found in tap water at levels high enough to make you sick. When this happens, your water company will notify you. The company will also send out an annual report on the safety of your water. If you have a private well, you need to check the water safety levels yourself.

Editor’s note: You can drink tap water, filtered water, or choose from several types of bottled water, including:

Some bottled waters may also be tap water or municipally treated water.

  • Artesian well water, which is water from a subsurface aquifer

  • Mineral water, which contains minerals and trace elements from the water source itself

  • Spring water, taken from a natural spring that arises from an underwater rock formation

  • Well water, collected from a hole dug in the ground to an underground spring

Tips for drinking water

Guidelines vary for the total amount of fluid to consume per day, ranging from 2 to 2.7 liters (L) of fluid per day for women and 2.5 to 3.7 liters per day for men. These amounts are for fluids of any type, including food fluids.

There are no current recommendations on how much plain water to drink per day. But know that you only get 20% of your daily water requirement through food, the other 80% would come from beverages, including plain water.

To get the water you need, try these tips:

  • Bring a bottle of water and refill it throughout the day.

  • Freeze some bottles of water so you have cold water throughout the day.

  • Swap sugary drinks for water.

  • Order water when dining out or serve it with home-cooked meals.

  • Add a lemon wedge to your water for more flavor.

Try never to get to the point where you feel thirsty. Pay attention to your body’s signals and drink some water if you feel thirsty. If you are someone who needs more water, perhaps because you live in a hot climate or take certain medications that require it, make sure you drink the amount you need to avoid dehydration.

A quick review

Everyone needs water to function properly. Water offers many health benefits, including the prevention of headaches and chronic conditions. Water can also improve mood, concentration and athletic performance. With 0 calories and no sugar, water can be a great substitute for other drinks. Swapping other drinks for water when you’re at home or eating out is one way to get more water. You can also carry a refillable water bottle so you can drink more water throughout the day and reap its many benefits.

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Read the original article in Salute.

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