The Essential Nutrient

Written By: Kristy L. Harken, PT, DPT

As we approach the final months of summer, now seems like a good time for a reminder on the importance of hydration and water intake.  August and September can remain brutally hot and combined with the high humidity here in the Midwest, it makes being outdoors nearly unbearable.  Many people know that hydration is important, but very few can say why.  Read on for a brief overview of why we all need to intake water and how to apply this essential nutrient in your life. 

Water.  It provides no calories nor organic nutrients but it is vital for all known forms of life.  It is considered an essential nutrient because it is required in amounts that exceed what the body is capable of producing.  Independently, the body cannot generate enough water by metabolism nor obtain enough water by food ingestion to fulfill its needs. 

Composed of roughly 60% water, the body’s regulation of water balance is very precise; a loss of 1% of body water can be compensated for within 24 hours.  Both water intake and output are controlled to reach water balance and minor changes in plasma osmolarity can trigger homeostatic mechanisms.  Healthy adults are able to regulate water balance with precision, but young infants and the elderly are at greater risk of dehydration. 

If water had a job description, it might read something like this:

  1. Water in the body will be used as
    1. a building material.
      1. Present in each cell, various tissues and compartments to assist with growth and development in infants and children.
    1. a solvent.
      1. Assist with dissolving glucose and amino acids, among others.
    1. a reaction medium.
      1. Assist with weakening electrostatic forces and bonds between other molecules.
    1. a reactant and a reaction product.
      1. Assist with the breakdown of macronutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, etc. 
  2. Water in the body will assist with
    1. the transportation of nutrients to the cells.
    1. the transportation of wastes away from the cells.
  3. Water in the body will assist with maintenance
    1. of vascular volume.
    1. of blood circulation.
    1. of body temperature in warm or cold environments.
  4. Water in the body will act as
    1. a lubricant.
      1. In joints, saliva, the digestive track, and airways.
    1. a shock absorber.

Of course, this list is not all inclusive and if the length and complexity of it doesn’t justify the necessity of water in the body, I do not recommend you try your luck going without it!

It is normally assumed that the contribution of food to total water intake is 20-30%, while 70-80% is provided by beverages.  The adequate total water intake for sedentary adults, on average, is between 2 and 2.5 liters per day (70-80% of that needs to come from beverages).  One liter is just over 4 cups or almost 34 ounces. 

If you want to feel better, think clearer, and move easier, make sure to drink your water!

If you think your joints are hurting, your cognition is foggy, or you are feeling weak give the Goodcare AtHome Rehab team a call at 605-231-2490. Therapy combined with proper nutrition may help you to feel your best.

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