Why Do We Need to Drink So Much Water?

The Health Reasons Behind the Recommendations

Musunuru Likhitha, MDLikhitha Musunuru, MD, RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group, explains the importance of staying hydrated.

What does drinking water do for the body?

Hydration does much more in the body than many people realize. It regulates body temperature, helps with digestion, delivers nutrients to cells, cushions our organs and joints and helps us get rid of waste through perspiration, urination and bowel movements. If you aren’t well hydrated, you may have digestion issues—cramps, abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting—and a change in blood pressure or heart rate.

How much fluid do we need daily?

One cup is equal to eight ounces. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend at least 15.5 cups of fluids a day for men and 11.5 cups daily for women. However, you may need more fluid at times when it’s very hot or humid, when you’re exercising and if you’re losing fluid because of a fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more fluid. Older adults need to be especially aware of how much they’re drinking because our sense of thirst declines as we age. Some conditions, such as congestive heart failure and kidney disease, may cause the body to retain too much water, so your doctor may actually advise that you decrease your fluid intake.

What are some ways to remind yourself to drink more water?

Don’t rely on thirst, because that happens when you’re already past the point where you should have had more fluids. Set reminders on your phone. Have a glass of water as soon as you wake up and every time you eat. Dilute your morning orange juice with water. Have a water bottle with you throughout the day. For some people, drinking out of a straw helps them consume more fluid.

Does all of the fluid we drink have to be water?

Plain water is the best kind of hydration, but other beverages, such as milk or seltzer, can add to your hydration goals. Caffeinated beverages have a diuretic (creating more urine) effect, and so does alcohol, so you lose a bit of hydration there. Fruits and vegetables contribute to hydration as well. Try watermelon, cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries and oranges. What if someone doesn’t really like water? If the tap water in your area doesn’t taste good, use a filtration process, or buy spring or filtered water by the gallon. Try adding your own fruits or herbs, rather than buying flavored water, which tends to have added sugars or artificial sweeteners that could cause gastrointestinal distress. Blueberries and basil are a good combination, as are cucumbers with fresh mint leaves. For a fun summer drink, take frozen fruit and put it in the blender with an equal amount of water. You’ll get good hydration from that.

Beyond Water: Ways to Increase Fluid Intake

Decaf Coffee or Tea, Soup, Seltzer (Flavor It Yourself With Fruit), Low-fat or No-fat Milk

High Water Content Fruits and Veggies:

Watermelon, Strawberries, Oranges, Peaches, Zucchini, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Celery, Tomatoes

Drink caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, which have a dehydrating effect, only in moderation.

Likhitha Musunuru, MD, Family Medicine/ Occupational Medicine, RWJBarnabas Health Primary Care, is located at 10 NJ-31 N, Pennington, NJ. To schedule an appointment call 609-303-3064.

RWJBarnabas Health Medical Group has primary care locations in Hamilton, Lawrenceville, Mercerville and Robbinsville, NJ. For more information please call 888-724-7123 or visit rwjbh.org/medicalgroup.