How much and What Kind of Water is Best for Your Health?
Common wisdom says everyone needs eight 8oz servings of water per day. That’s half a gallon or almost 2 liters of water daily depending on your country of measure. How true is that?
It’s probably a pretty close median number, but in actuality, there are not any good studies which prove the theory. “The first recorded scientific endorsement of a water intake recommendation appeared as a brief footnote in 1945, when the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences published its Dietary Guidelines.”(1)
All of us are different. We all have different DNA and differing lifestyles. You may live in a hot climate where your need for water will be greater than someone who lives in a cooler climate. You may workout several hours per day and require more water than a sedentary individual.
A better approach to the question of how much is enough is to tune into your body’s water meter and pay attention to your thirst.
Thirst is the sign that you need hydration. Thirst can also be perceived as hunger. If you are trying to drop a few pounds, or even if you’re not, always have at least a half a glass of water when those hunger pangs hit to make sure that it’s true hunger and not thirst that’s calling.
Caveat – if you’re always thirsty and you’re drinking far more than the half-gallon or 2-liter median point without good cause (like exercising on a hot day) then be sure to check with your doctor. Excessive thirst can be a symptom of diabetes, a side effect of certain medications, or several other things that you will want to have checked by a professional.
While thirst is a good indicator of hydration levels you can also check your urine color. The darker your urine the more dehydrated you are. This chart put out by the U.S. Army Public Health Command shows the varying colors and whether that means you are hydrated or dehydrated. They also give some guidelines as to how much water to drink per hour in differing heat – combined with work – scenarios.
What about too much water?
Yes, it’s possible to drink too much water. Over-hydration or ‘water intoxication’ causes the electrolytes in your body to become too diluted and can cause nausea, vomiting, confusion, muscle spasms or more seriously seizures, and even coma.
Most often this is caused by some underlying medical condition like liver or kidney disease, but can also be caused by drinking too much water.
What Does Water Actually Do?
- Water is required to run the myriad of chemical reactions taking place within your body every hour of every day.
- Helps the skin regulates temperature
- Prevents constipation
- Flushes out waste products
- Nutrient transport
- Keeps joints and tissues hydrated
- And much more…
You are 60% water, your vital organs (brain, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys) are 65-85% water. Making sure you have an adequate intake of fluid to avoid dehydration is paramount to your health.
Water is lost through sweat, breathing, urine, and feces. Therefore we must always be replenishing this life-giving force through drinking water and consuming water-filled foods such as vegetables.
Is All Water Created Equal?
“Safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. Improved water supply and sanitation, and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.” (5) According to the World Health Organization.
Depending on where you live you may have access to relatively good drinking water or not-so-good drinking water.
Municipalities in the U.S. put out a report yearly as to the safety and contents of the water provided out of the tap. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group’s National Tap Water Database here to see how your tap water stacks up.
Even if your tap water is safe to drink there can be a myriad of chemicals in there that you don’t want to be putting into your body.
Tap water has been found to contain prescription drugs, chlorine, lead, mercury, PCB’s, dioxins, arsenic and fluoride among other things.
Wait? I thought that fluoride was a good thing? Nope, not so much. Fluoride in your dental products that are applied directly to your teeth are fine. Drinking fluoride brings health concerns, including being toxic to the pineal gland in your brain. You can read more about the issue of fluoride in our drinking water at the Fluoride Action Network
From easiest to hardest:
- Check the water report for your tap water and if it’s not terrible – just drink that.
- *My personal choice: Filter your tap water and use a stainless steel or glass water bottle. I use the ZeroWater Pitcher and like the fact that I have a water meter to test the amount of dissolved solids in my water.
- Buy bottled water. All bottled water is not created equal. In fact, some bottled water is just tap water bottled. If you are going to go this route research the water. This article in Thrillist reviews some of the more popular brands. One argument against bottled water is the waste and the cost. If you are going this route be sure to recycle your bottles.
- Reverse Osmosis Filtration. These filtration systems take out everything but also waste a lot of water and are slow. In addition, you will have to reintroduce some electrolytes to make the water more healthy.
- Whole house filtration systems. These are great but costly. If I was ever to build a new house this would be a must on my list.
Water is important to your health for a myriad of reasons. Survivalists know you can’t go more than a few days without it.
Following your thirst is probably the best way to ensure proper hydration. You can also double check yourself by the color of your urine.
A little research of the quality of water in your area will go a long way to help you determine what kind of water to drink. Using a quality water filter is the least expensive and easiest way to upgrade your drinking water.
Bottled water or water filtration systems are also available but will cost you more. Bottled water raises your carbon footprint and creates a lot of waste.
What kind of water do you drink? Do you have a favorite bottled water brand? Do you have a filtration system you like? Let’s continue the discussion below.
- Hydration 101: How Much Water Do You Really Need? by Chris Kresser
- Why does the human body need water? Specifically, what does the body use the water for? What happens when you don’t drink enough water?
- What Causes Excessive Thirst?
- Are You Hydrated? Take the Urine Color Test
- World Health Organization Drinking-water Fact Sheet
- What’s the Healthiest Water You Can Drink?
- 12 Toxins in Your Drinking Water
- The Most Popular Bottle Waters, Ranked