Most of us don’t have trouble remembering to hydrate in the heat and humidity of the summer months. As we usher in the fall season and temperatures begin to drop, however, we often overlook the need to get enough fluids in our days. Keep in mind, it is just as important in October as it is in August to stay on top of our hydration. With 60 percent of our bodies composed of water, maintaining an optimal level of hydration can have significant impacts on our health.
Water plays a critical role in regulating many functions of our bodies. It helps normalize our body temperature and blood pressure, transport essential nutrients throughout our body and remove unnecessary waste. Water also aids in protecting our vital organs and lubricating our joints. When we neglect to replace our daily fluid loss from sweating, urination, and simply breathing, we can easily lose our hydration balance and ability to manage these important bodily functions.
Telltale signs of this imbalance or dehydration include dry lips, dry mouth, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. In more serious instances, fainting, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, and even kidney failure can occur. Certain individuals are at greater risk for dehydration including the very young and old, those with uncontrolled diabetes, kidney disease, and individuals taking medications that increase urination.
Water needs vary based on age, gender, and activity level but on average, women require nine cups of fluid per day and men 12.5 cups per day. These numbers do not include the additional fluid needs we meet through the foods we eat with particularly high-water content such as fruits and vegetables. When it comes to the beverages we choose, turn to unsweetened and decaffeinated drinks such as water over soda and energy drinks. Strawberries, watermelon, celery, and spinach are examples of produce especially rich in water.
Because we can become dehydrated before symptoms arise, it is important to drink early and often, not waiting for feelings of thirst to arise. We not only want to consume water with every meal but also take sips throughout the day. Keeping a refillable water bottle at arm’s reach while at work, home, or out and about can help us regularly achieve this goal. Do you get tired of just plain water? Enhance its flavor by infusing it with fresh citrus fruits, cucumber or even herbs like mint and basil.
How do you know if you are drinking enough? Do a urine check. If your urine is dark in color, strong in odor, or small in amount you likely need more fluids. Light yellow or clear urine is a sign that you are well hydrated. Making a habit of tuning into our body’s hydration signals and carefully replenishing it when out of balance will ensure that we are functioning at our highest and healthiest potential no matter the time of year.
Sarah Curran is a program associate is in the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Warren County in the Department of Family and Community Health Sciences.