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Thirsty? Just drink water

Feb. 16, 2001

Adding fluid to diet key to a healthier life, nutritionists say



Thirst is an immediate sign of dehydration, but most people may not know that muscle cramps, fatigue, headaches and weakness are also indicators of needing more water in their daily lives.

While many people know that they should drink several glasses of water a day, most do not accomplish this nutritional guideline, officials say.

Alcohol and caffeinated beverages contribute to dehydration, as does exercise, diarrhea, fever, high elevations, humidity and extreme heat.

'Most people don't drink enough water everyday, even though they know that they should be drinking at least eight to 10 glasses everyday,' said Andrea King, student outreach coordinator for health education and wellness. 'I always encourage students in my nutrition and aerobics classes to drink enough water throughout the day.'

King said people can use easy ways to incorporate water into their daily lives.

'Many people do not know that you get some water from foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and from beverages like milk and orange juice,' King said. 'Although this is not a replacement for the recommended 8 to 10 glasses, it will help people to stay more hydrated and healthy.'

Van Davis, fitness coordinator for the department of campus recreation, said that she carries a water bottle everywhere she goes so that she can meet the eight to 10 glass recommendation.

'I am refilling it constantly so that I do not have to keep buying new bottles of water,' Davis said. 'Water is the key to everything and is the basis of function of the body. A person can go weeks without food, but only a couple of days without water.'

Davis said that other signs of dehydration include bad breath, a pasty mouth, dry skin, intestinal cramping and the most obvious sign -- dark colored and/or foul-smelling urine.

'You're getting enough water if your urine is clear or very light yellow and does not have an odor,' Davis said. 'Otherwise you need to start drinking more water immediately.'

Davis said that many people who exercise regularly believe they need a sports drink to replenish their body, when in fact they really just need water.

'Unless you are doing a high endurance activity that is over an hour long, such as marathon training, you really only need water,' Davis said. 'For daily, casual exercise that lasts less than an hour, like working out on a treadmill, you just need water. Otherwise, with a sports drink, you are merely putting back in the calories that you just burnt off.'

Davis said that people should drink water before, during and after their workout to keep their bodies well hydrated and in the best condition.

'If you exercise while dehydrated, your workout will suffer because you won't be able to perform at your best level,' Davis said.

Emily Tackett, a Grandview senior, says that she drinks at least two 16-ounce bottles of water during her workouts.

'Being a nutrition science major has really influenced me in drinking lots of water everyday,' Tackett said. 'I know what dehydration can do to the body so that keeps me motivated in drinking plenty throughout the day.'

According to the American Dietetic Association's Web site, drinking plenty of water provides many health benefits such as:

Improved weight control. Many people eat, rather than drink, when they feel thirsty. Drinking water helps curb your appetite and your thirst.

Better bladder and bowel functioning. Fluids speed the elimination of feces from the colon and urine from the bladder, helping to prevent and treat constipation and urinary tract infections.

Reduced cancer risk. Fluids may cut the risk of cancer by flushing out or diluting carcinogens in the bladder and colon.

Less chance of kidney stones. Drinking plenty of water helps prevent kidney stones from developing or recurring.

Better respiratory health. Dehydration dries the mucus membranes, thereby possibly increasing a person's susceptibility to colds and other respiratory infections. It also decreases the lung function of asthmatic individuals.

A healthy mouth. Drinking water increases saliva, which neutralizes cavity-causing acids in the mouth, washes away food particles and inhibits gum disease and other oral problems.

For more information contact the ADA Web site at

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