How much water should I drink?

It’s no secret that water plays a vital role in maintaining good health. But, just how essential is water to the body? And more importantly, how much water do you need to stay healthy and hydrated?

The Health Benefits of Water

Water makes up over 60 percent of your body weight, and every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function properly.

“Water is essential for both keeping your body hydrated and helping your body to perform important functions daily. Drinking enough water ensures that your body has what it needs to clean out toxins in your system and maintain adequate blood pressure,” says Dr. Deborah Dergan, a family practice physician at University Health System.

Water also helps your body:

  • Maintain a normal temperature
  • Lubricate and cushion joints
  • Get rid of waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements
  • Boost skin health

When you don’t drink enough water it can lead to dehydration– a condition where the body doesn’t have enough water to carry out its normal functions.

The Dangers of Dehydration

Anyone can become dehydrated, but the condition can be more severe and can occur faster in the elderly and very young. Generally, dehydration occurs because you have not had enough water over a certain period to maintain the body’s need.

Other factors that can contribute to dehydration include:

  • Exercise­ – Any activity that causes you to sweat can result in the loss of too much fluid from your body.
  • Heat ­– If you live in a hotter climate (like San Antonio) it’s important to drink more water since you’re more likely to perspire.
  • Pregnancy/breast-feeding – Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more water to support the baby as well as lactation.
  • Illness – If you have a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, it’s important to drink more water to replace the loss of fluids from being sick.
  • Medications – Certain medications can cause frequent urination or sweating, which can lead to dehydration.

So, how do you know if you’re dehydrated?

Some common symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness
  • Dark-colored urine

Dehydration can make you feel ill and, if not treated properly and quickly, can sometimes even be life-threating.

Keep Healthy by Staying Hydrated

You’ve probably heard that you need at least 6-8 cups (48-64 oz) of water every day to stay hydrated, which is true in general for most people. However, water needs vary depending on the individual as well as certain other factors. If your fitness level is high or your job is physically demanding, for example, you need to consume more than the average recommendation of 6-8 cups per day. To avoid becoming dehydrated, it’s best to drink plenty of fluids–as much as 2-3 cups per hour–unless you are exercising or outside in the heat, then you’ll need to consume more.

“An easy way to determine if you need to drink more water is to look at the color of your urine,” Dr. Dergan says. “If you aren’t getting enough water, your urine will be very dark in color. When you are drinking plenty of water, your urine will be clear in appearance.”

Though water is the most important way to get your daily fluid intake, you can also get the fluids you need from juices, herbal teas, and even water-rich foods like watermelon and spinach.

It’s also important to remember that if you experience any severe signs of dehydration, including confusion, bloody or black stool, or extreme fatigue or sleepiness, seek medical help immediately to avoid severe complications or illness.

University Health System is dedicated to providing the best comprehensive medical care for all your health needs. For more information, contact us at 210-358-4000.