Hydration And You

Written by Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

 

Most people know that it’s important to stay hydrated. Do you practice what you already know is important when it comes to hydration?

Water is essential to life, and all of the cells of your body simply swim in water. In fact, your body has many of the same characteristics as ocean water!

How Much Is Enough? 

There’s a very old adage that eight glasses of water is a good measure of how much to drink each day. However, the general rule these days is that you simply need to drink enough fluids (and/or get them from your food) that you urinate clear urine about every two hours. So instead of counting glasses of water, watch your urine! 

Balance! 

You see, the balance of fluids and electrolytes in your body is crucial for health—and ultimately for survival. Humans can only live approximately six or seven days without water, so you can see how important it is to hydrate regularly. Even a change of 4% in your fluid levels can cause symptoms and physiological changes.

Fluids in our bodies serve many purposes, including controlling  temperature, waste removal through the urinary system, lubrication of joints and tissues, controlling your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as maintaining the metabolism.

Where To Get Your Hydration

When it comes to hydrating your body, water can come from many sources. Beverages are, of course, a natural place to turn when it comes to hydration. However, watermelon and other fruits contain a great deal of water that directly impacts your fluid balance in a positive way. Salads and green leafy veggies contain water, and oranges are 90% water.

Some health professionals say that coffee and soda contain so much caffeine that they actually cause you to urinate too much, decreasing your hydration instead of increasing it. However, some argue that they still contribute to your overall hydration since the amount of fluids they contain far outweighs any diuretic properties they may have. 

How About Exercise? 

If you’re an athlete, you definitely need to drink more fluids than less active people. Some exercise experts say that if you’re doing serious training, you should weigh yourself before you work out and then weigh yourself afterwards. You then need to drink enough fluid to increase your weight back to your pre-workout level.

Think On This

For most of who us are not training for marathons, simple notions apply when thinking about hydration:

Skin Turgor

If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and it snaps back into position immediately, this measure of your “skin turgor” shows adequate hydration. If the pinched skin remains in a “tent” shape, you need to hydrate.

For the elderly, pinch the skin on their chest bone (sternum), since the skin on their hands tends to be very thin and papery.

For babies, watch the fontanel (soft spot) on their head. If they’re dehydrated, the soft spot will be sunken in. Babies’ mouths should be very moist, and they should urinate clear urine frequently. They should also shed a lot of tears when crying. A dehydrated baby will shed few—or no—tears.

It's Important!

Anyway, as you can see, hydration is important for young and old alike.

So, stay hydrated, watch your urine output and color, and make sure your mucous membranes are moist. Hydration is good for you and your diabetes, so make it a daily practice to remain hydrated every day!