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Wonders of Water
Updated On: Jul 17, 2006
from IAFF

Water has been called a "miracle fluid" and for good reason. No other substance does so much for us at so little cost. Christine Palumbo, RD, a FoodFit nutritionist, explains.

Water Works

Water plays a role in nearly every body function. It regulates body temperature, assists in digestion, carries nutrients to body cells, and helps in elimination of waste products. It may also assist in weight control.

Benefits — Now and Later

People who up their intake report immediate benefits. According to Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, author of Power Eating, staying well hydrated prevents "fatigue, headache, burning dry eyes, burning in the stomach, dry mouth, loss of concentration, reduced mental and physical capacity, and poor heat acclimation."

But the benefits don't end there. Over time, well-hydrated people suffer less colon, urinary tract and breast cancer, kidney stones, constipation and mitral valve prolapse.

Eight Glasses a Day?

Just how much do you need? We've all heard eight glasses, but is that true for all? One simple rule of thumb is this: Divide your weight in pounds by two. That's the minimum number of ounces your body needs. If you exercise, you need more. Take your weight and multiply by 2/3 to get the number of ounces. Your specific needs may differ.

Dry environments, like airplanes and shopping malls, heated office buildings and hospitals all increase your need for water, as do hot, humid or cold weather.

Tracking Thirst

Don't rely on thirst to indicate your fluid needs. It's actually a symptom of dehydration. It's best to drink before you're thirsty. And waiting until you're thirsty is an especially bad idea when you're over fifty. That's because our thirst mechanism becomes blunted as we age. And everyone should have a water plan, just like a food plan.

Try these little rituals and see your water consumption rise:

  • Develop a "hydration" habit — a glass of water when you wake up, one at each meal and one an hour before bedtime.
  • Drink a glass every hour on the hour while working during the day.
  • Drink two glasses at each meal, one before and one after. You may find you don't eat as much!

One of the best indicators of adequate hydration is frequent urination and urine that's pale in color. However, taking vitamin supplements may color your urine. In that case, let volume guide you.

Water Robbers

All fluids are not created equal. That's because beverages containing caffeine or alcohol actually remove water from the body. The worst offender is alcohol.

IAFF Local 2180
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