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How much water do we really need to be healthy?

Posted May 19 2009 9:23am
How much water do we really need to be healthy? The answer: It depends. The amount of water a person needs is dependent on many factors, such as where they live, how active they are, and overall health. So, the question may not be, "Am I drinking the right number of glasses?" but, "Is my body getting enough fluids?"

Water accounts for about 60% of our body weight, and every system in our body depends on it. For example, water flushes toxins out of our organs, hydrates our skin, and carries nutrients to our cells. But as we live through our day, we lose water through natural processes like breath and perspiration. What happens to our bodies when this water is not replaced?

Dehydration happens when the body does not have enough water to function correctly. Dehydration can manifest in many ways, but include sluggish body function and lack of energy. Who wants that.

To figure out how much water your body needs, here are some guidelines based on the information provided on the Mayo Clinic website:

1. Replacement approach.
The average urine output for adults is about 1.5 liters a day. You lose close to an additional liter of water a day through breathing, sweating, and bowel movements. Food usually accounts for 20 percent of your total fluid intake, so if you consume 2 liters of water or other beverages a day (a little more than 8 cups) along with your normal diet, you will typically replace the lost fluids.

2. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Another approach to water intake is the "8 x 8 rule"—drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day (about 1.9 liters). Though the approach isn't supported by scientific evidence, many people use this basic rule as a guideline for how much water and other fluids to drink.

3. Dietary recommendations.
The Institute of Medicine advises that men consume roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day and women consume 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.

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