Water is the elixir of life and life cannot exist without water. Not a single life process can occur without water; the volume required may vary but a living system needs water to perform optimally. This is the reason that plants wilt when there is a dry spell and the reason death occurs in case of extreme dehydration.
When you’re traveling far, it is essential to ensure that water supply is adequate. Some places have water high in minerals i.e. hard water, that is often fit for drinking. Consumption of hard water is beneficial for health as it contains calcium and magnesium, but if the water is too hard, it may cause various diseases—specifically affecting the reproductive system.
Role of Water in Human Body
The human body is made up of 50-65% of water and a level below this is indicative of dehydration. Various organs of the body need water for numerous functions.
Water makes up 83% of the lungs, 79% of muscles and kidneys, 73% of brain and heart, 64% of the skin and 31% of the bones. None of the human organs will really function if the water supply to the body in the form of water and food is stopped.
Some of the vital role of water in the human body are listed here.
- It is needed by the brain to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters
- Water forms saliva for digestion
- It regulates body temperature through sweating and respiration
- Water is essential for the growth, reproduction, and survival of cells
- Water lubricates bone joints
- Delivery of oxygen throughout the body is ensured by water
- It acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord
- Body waste is flushed out because of water through urine
- Water ensures proper digestion of food as it converts food into components required for survival e.g. glucose through carbohydrates
Water, Age, and Gender
Percentage of water in the human body is dependent upon age and gender. A newborn’s body is made up of 78% water and there is a yearly drop of 1% in this rate to 65%.
There is a difference in the water percentage in the bodies of males and females. The reason behind this difference is the presence of more fat tissues in women than in men. Fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue and as such the percentage of water in women is actually much less, around 55%.
Keeping these facts into consideration, there are recommendations for water intake according to gender and age:
- Children between 4 to 8 years should drink around 5 cups of water or 40 ounces of water in a day
- From ages 9-13 years, the water intake should increase to 7-8 cups of water in a day or 54-64 ounces
- The water intake should be around 8-11 cups per day or 64-88 ounces for those who are in the 14-19 years’ age range
- For men who are 19 years of age or older, the water intake must be 131 ounces or 13 cups of water in a day
- Women who are 19 years or above should be consuming 95 ounces of water in a day or 9 cups
The recommended water intake changes slightly for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Pregnant women are advised to consume 10 glasses of water, with each glass being 8 ounces. For breastfeeding women, water intake should increase by 4 – the number of cups of water should be 13
Water and Environmental Conditions
In addition to the above recommendations, here is guidance of water intake based on activity and geographical location.
In the case of a hot climate, the water loss would be more to regulate body temperature, therefore, the water intake must be increased accordingly
An additional two cups of water should be added in case of exercise or consistent physical activity of one hour. The water intake must be increased if the activity lasts for more than an hour because every organ is using up the water and when it is performing more than usual activity, water is also being used up more than normal.
Those who live at a higher elevation or are traveling to an altitude greater than 8000 feet above sea level must also drink more water than the recommended intake for men, women, and children.
Beverages such as fizzy or sugary drinks or those with caffeine do more harm than good, as they are a cause of dehydration. Not following these recommendations can lead to minor or major health issues, from dizziness to breathing difficulties and dehydration.
Dehydration — How it Occurs
Dehydration is when the body does not have enough water to perform the necessary bodily functions and the body loses more water than it takes in. The water must be continuously replenished throughout the day to balance the loss of water.
Often, the water is used up for the various processes going on in the human body and some are lost through excretion and sweating. All are natural processes and rarely do they cause any health complications unless the water intake is very low.
Signs and Effects of Dehydration
The body gives signals of dehydration as a distress response that calls for immediate response to prevent any serious complication. When the mouth dries and there is a feeling of thirst, the body is dehydrated and water must be taken immediately.
Fatigue is another indication of dehydration and so is less frequent urination.
Lack of enough water impacts all the bodily functions and can lead to the following:
- Mood changes and confusion, because the brain’s neurotransmitters are unable to transfer signals optimally
- Constipation due to lack of water to digest food properly
- Overheating, because the body does not have enough water to regulate temperature
- Kidney stone formation due to lack of water to flush out the kidneys
- Muscular spasms, weakness or seizures because of electrolyte imbalance
Battle for Safe Water Continues…
Life without water is impossible; it is vital not only to focus on water intake but also to take care of precious water resources. There are certain areas in the world where the available water is not fit for human consumption. Bottled water has solved this problem to some extent, yet it is not an affordable and practical solution for all.
Work needs to be done to convert the available water resources into drinking water. Various methods — such as applying water softeners — involve converting seawater, that has high salt content, into drinking water. There is enough water in the world to fulfill the human needs, but measures are required to convert it into clean, drinking water and various companies are helping with that initiative.