Water for Wellness
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Water for Wellness

By Diane Hillard-Sembell, MD, Orthopedic Group

What better way to end one year and start another than to focus on our own health and wellness?  In a previous article, I shared my vision as a leader for Springfield Clinic health, wellness and prevention. We discussed the perils of added sugars and processed foods, and I challenged you to “get off the unhealthy carbs and get off the couch” for at least 30 days! Hopefully, those challenges are becoming lifestyle changes. This month, let’s focus on the importance of adequate hydration, not only around the holidays but also for wellness.

Water makes up about 70 percent of our bodies and plays an essential role in every function: keeping our internal thermostat regulated, maintaining circulation, aiding digestive and urinary function, adding to our skin vitality, providing adequate joint lubrication—and the list goes on and on. During our daily activities of breathing, sweating and physical exercise, we can lose up to 3 pints of water or more. Dehydration occurs when our water intake does not balance out what our body is losing. Even mild dehydration can impair cognitive performance including mental tests and thinking tasks and has been shown to greatly reduce physical performance and athletic ability. Signs of dehydration may include thirst, fatigue, chronic headaches and frequent muscle cramps, as well as confusing hunger with thirst. Research has revealed that an added benefit of staying well hydrated alone without any other dietary changes may aid in fat loss, accounting for five pounds body weight loss over a year.

How much water is enough? The old teaching of “eight 8-ounce glasses a day” may be adequate for some, but this amount varies a great deal based on body size, and most people, particularly very active individuals, require much more. One rule of thumb for minimum water consumption is to divide your weight (pounds) in half and then drink that number of ounces each day. To know that your body is getting enough water, check the color of your urine: dark urine is a sign of dehydration, while clear, light-colored urine implies adequate hydration.

The best way to ensure hydration for health is to make water your primary beverage. Drinking a 20-ounce glass first thing in the morning will replenish losses from the night before and will start your day off right!  Have a glass of water with every meal, keep a water bottle at work and fill a pitcher with water at the beginning of every day with a goal to finish it by the evening. Add fruit, cucumbers, mint or anything to add a little splash of taste if it will help you consume the desired amount! Lemons are rich in Vitamin C and add a powerful healing touch with antibiotic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and will help to cleanse and detoxify the body.

This month’s 30-day challenge:  Consume one gallon of water per day, or at MINIMUM consume (in ounces) one-half of your weight (in pounds). You will feel rejuvenated, energetic, and even get that added extra exercise boost from trips to the bathroom?

Diane Hillard-Sembell, MD, is an orthopedic knee and sports medicine specialist with Springfield Clinic’s Orthopedic Group and has a personal interest in healthy living. She invites topics or questions for her monthly health, wellness & prevention posts to her email at dhillardsembell@springfieldclinic.com.

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