Water is one of the most essential nutrients on the planet. Without water, life, simply, cannot exist. It’s the principal chemical component of our body and, around two-thirds of the human body weight, somewhere between 55% and 75%, is composed of water.
Staying well-hydrated is of utmost importance as water is needed by every system in the body to function properly. Water not only protects organs and tissues but also nourishes the cells with nutrients and oxygen. It regulates and maintain healthy body temperature, assists in digestion, cleanses the body via removal of harmful toxins and waste material, lubricates the joints and bones, and, most importantly, protects the body from various acute and chronic diseases such as bowel diseases, urinary tract infections, kidney stones and cancers such as colorectal carcinoma.
Our bodies naturally maintain a balance of fluid by various mechanisms that includes thirst mechanism and urine output. Dehydration takes place when your body loses more fluid than the total intake via excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, etc. Warning signs of mild to moderate dehydration include weakness and dizziness while severe dehydration can result in a life-threatening situation such as seizures and requires urgent medical attention.
Factors Affecting Water Intake
Since water is known to be vital for life and for preventing dehydration, it is really important to understand how much water do we need to consume. Over the years, multiple studies were conducted but health experts now believe that no set amount is right for everyone.
As with most things, the right amount is affected by various factors and varies from person to person. It is different for adults, children, and infants. Other factors include the following:
Taking temperature and environment into consideration, more water intake is needed if the place of residence is hot, humid, or dry. Therefore, more water is needed in summers as compared to cooler ones since raised temperatures cause increased water excretion via perspiration.
Likewise, water needs also depend on our lifestyle and our activity. An active person will need more water as compared to someone with a sedentary lifestyle. Someone who is always on the run should ensure that they stay hydrated at all times.
- Health Condition.
Another important factor affecting water consumption is our health. A person who’s down with an infection or a fever, or suffering from any condition that causes fluid loss from the body such as vomiting or diarrhea, will need to drink more water to balance and cover the loss to avoid being dehydrated.
Young, Healthy Adults: the adequate intake recommendation for total water is around 2.7 liters for females and around 3.7 liters for males. This, of course, varies with the situation, for example, some sources suggest that the total fluid requirement may reach up to 6 liters if the person is living in a hot, humid place and following an active lifestyle.
Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women: a pregnant woman needs an extra 0.3 liters and a nursing mother needs an additional 0.7 to 1.1 liters.
Elderly: older people are more disease prone so their water input and output are to be strictly monitored. Even so, as per a few studies, the estimated amount of water needs for older people is almost the same as the younger ones. A notable point here is that these recommendations include the total water intake from all sources such as food and beverages and not just plain water.
Infants: plain water is not recommended for children up until the age of 6 months, so the fluid comprises either breast or bottled milk. From 6 months onwards, as they are weaned off and started on solids, babies need less fluid from breast milk and formula. Hence, an average intake recommendation for healthy babies is 0.5ml-1.2ml per day.
Young children: they are more susceptible to dehydration as compared to adults. They are physically active with an unstable body temperature control mechanism. Also, they have a higher surface-to-body ratio than adults which means children have more skin surface area in relation to body weight making it easier to lose more fluid. Based on recommendations from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the amount of fluid a normal healthy child should take on top of the water provided by food in their diet is 0.7- 1.2 liters per day for younger children and around 1.5 – 2 L for older kids. However, in both young and older children, the fluid requirement should be increased in case of any sickness such as fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Staying hydrated is important for a healthy mind and body. Being attentive to the amount of water you drink each day is important for optimal health. Hence people of all age groups should consume an adequate amount of water along with taking foods with high water content. Parents should encourage their children to drink water frequently.